The Pequot Lakes Patriots' boys and girls track and field teams proved that they're among the top teams in the state the past two seasons. The boys won the Class A title and the girls placed third last year and both teams were state runners-up in 2017.
Now, they're working hard this spring to stay near the top.
Graduate Reid Pierzinski single-handedly scored all the points for his team as the Patriots finished first at the Class A meet, marking the first time it has happened in the history of the MSHSL state boys' meet.
Pierzinski is no longer on the roster, but the Patriots remain competitive with 18 letterwinners across four grades. Those athletes include: seniors Nick Barth, Jayden Benzick, Joe Keiffer, Evan Mykkanen; juniors Brooks Anderson, Jacob Faacks, Robbie Hendrickson, Max Johnson and Russell Pierzinski; sophomores Caleb Davis, Isaac Geroy, Gary Gitchell, Logan Haberman, Logan Hill, Ethan Johnson, Carter Sjoblad and Trevor Slaybaugh; and ninth grader Dustin Rinio.
Non-letterwinners are Sean Ryan Kamlee, James Brennan, Zach Jorgens, Bryce Fabian, Tyler Hidde, Jim Johanneck, Bode Magnuson, Bawsin Ackerman, Jesse Clausen, Vinnie Sposito, Karter Lee and Caleb Hill.
"We have a lot of experience with our top three grades," said Dave Guenther, who is starting his 39th season as the Patriots' track coach. "We have a nice balance of talented athletes in all of the events, which helps our team performance."
Last spring, the Patriot boys were third in Section 6A and fourth in the Mid-State Conference meet as Carter Sjoblad was an all-conference performer.
The Patriot girls have graduated key athletes, but they do return 15 letterwinners from a squad that won the Mid-State Conference and Section 6A titles and finished fifth at Coaches Association's Class AA True Team state meet.
Returning letterwinners include: seniors Desera Engholm, Britt Kratochvil and Nicole Young; juniors Cassidy Chaney, Mirjana Ganley. Whitney Fink, Kenzie Lampi; sophomores Lydia Hubbard, Sheena James, Annika Olson and Ella Pfeiffer; and freshmen Carly Chaney, Ellie Flaws and Sydnie Wgeishofski; and eighth grader Sophia Nordby.
Last year, Cassidy Chaney, Carly Chaney, Ganley, Hubbard, Kratochvil, Flaws and Lampi were all-conference athletes.
Others who could contribute are Isabel Cid-Rodriguez, Kylee Jordan, Riley Fogarty, Isabelle Johnston, Riya Johnston, Brittany Joyce, Julia Keiffer, Megan Muller, Sonja Palmer, Kelsey Polchow, Trinity Bailes, Joselyn Rinio, Lauren Hollingsworth and Calia Chaney.
"It looks to be another competitive year with a fun group of returning athletes who have competed at a high level," said head coach Jamie Wagner. "We also have talented newcomers who can contribute in a big way. We lost a number of seniors with big meet experience that will be difficult to replace, but we are excited about the state of our program.
"We believe we can be in the conversation when it comes to conference, true team and section competition."
Jeff Brever, Kathy Allen, Bud Bjornarra, Vanessa Lane and Pat Pfeiffer are assistant coaches for the Pequot Lakes boys and girls.