Prep girls track & field season preview: Proctor coach conflicted in the hurdle events
As Jim Savre watched the 300-meter hurdles unfold during last year’s Lake Superior Conference track and field meet, the Proctor girls coach was justifiably conflicted as the top two runners pulled away from their competitors and headed for the finish line.
The leader, then-junior Megan Sundstrom, was one of Savre’s best athletes and a heavy favorite entering the race. Behind Sundstrom, though, was Savre’s own flesh and blood — his daughter, Britta, then a sophomore at Hermantown. Sundstrom ultimately won with a time of 48.46 seconds, while Britta Savre was second at 50.13.
So who did dad want to win that afternoon? Before Jim Savre could answer that question Thursday, Sundstrom bailed.“Oh, I’m going to back away from this one!” the senior quipped.Truth be told, the Rails coach got the best of both worlds: His star pupil won a conference crown and his daughter exceeded expectations while nabbing All-LSC honors with her second-place finish.The best part? He didn’t have to choose sides.“I sort of knew Megan had the best time and I expected her to win it,” Jim Savre said. “The beauty of track is you’re always trying to do your best, so a person can go out and finish fifth but have their best race ever, and you’re proud of them.“Britta went out and one of her goals was to be all-conference and finish top two. She knew Megan was there, but Britta went out and ran really hard, ran her best time ever and got second in the conference. I was absolutely delighted.”Sundstrom went on to qualify for the Class A state meet in three events — 100 and 300 hurdles and the triple jump. She hopes to repeat that trifecta this spring and perhaps even add to it if Proctor’s veteran-laden 800 relay qualifies. According to her coach, Sundstrom has a chance to graduate with three school records.Incidentally, Sundstrom and Britta Savre compete in all of the same events. And they both play soccer and basketball, meaning they see plenty of each other during the school year. The result is a healthy rivalry.“I’m really competitive, but I know that she’s faster than me, so she’s the one person that I’m OK getting second to,” the Hermantown junior said. “She definitely pushes me.”Sundstrom described a similar level of respect for her opponent, and said she fully understands her coach’s dilemma when Proctor and Hermantown are involved in the same meet. Sundstrom’s solution is to focus on the clock, not the opposition.“I’m sure as a coach he would want his athlete to win, but as a father he’d want his daughter to win,” she said. “I don’t really focus on that; I just focus on running and getting the best time. At the end of the race, whoever wins, they had the best race.”All of it portends one more tough spring for Jim Savre, who will have to watch his athlete and his daughter spend the next month going head-to-head in numerous events.“I sincerely want everybody to do well,” he said. “We’re all out there running our hearts out and doing our best, and that’s what matters.”
- Aside from Sundstrom, Proctor’s Kelly Kruger just missed going to state in three events last season. The junior is among the area’s best in the 200. Brianna Westendorf is a pillar of the Rails’ solid mid-distance relays.
Around the Northland
- As in years past, Cloquet is blessed with ample speed, including Minnesota Duluth-bound Maija Doran and Kaitlyn Knutson, who will run collegiately at Wisconsin-Superior. Freshman Anja Maijala was second last weekend in the Fitger’s 5K women’s race. In the field events, the Lumberjacks will rely on Michaela Sunnarborg and Emily Connor in the shot put and Rachael Macaulay in the pole vault.
- Depth could be a problem for Hermantown, which will try to defend its LSC title with a host of new faces. Key returners include Savre, all-conference thrower Ashley Michelson, speedster Lyla Abukhodair, who was part of last year’s record-setting conference 1,600 relay team, and Shania Bolen, defending LSC champion in the long and triple jumps.
- Hurdler Lucy Robb is among Duluth East’s best bets, and the Greyhounds also should excel in the sprints.
- International Falls has plenty of state meet experience thanks to Breanna Shofner, who is a three-time qualifier (100, 200 and 400 relay), Savanah Olson, another three-time state participant (discus and shot), and Hailey Fentem, who has qualified twice (100 hurdles and high jump). The Broncos won nine of the 13 meets they entered last year, including the Section 7A meet. They also ended Grand Rapids’ lengthy run of Iron Range Conference titles — the Thunderhawks had won the conference every year since 2003.
- Erika Shady returns for Esko after competing at last year’s state meet in the 200, pole vault and 400 and 800 relays. Kailee Kiminski, who made it to the state meet in the 800, plus the 1,600 and 3,200 relays, also is back. Hailey Salo and Kaylee Smalley are other key contributors.
- At Cromwell, senior Allie Cahoon is gunning for her third state meet. After qualifying in the 800 as a freshman, she advanced last year in the 400 and as an anchor for the Cardinals’ 3,200 relay.
- Sophomore Emily Tromp, a standout in the 400, leads a young Hibbing team.
- Abby Hawkinson, Kendra Mickelson, Korinna Mickelson and Amy Gelhar — all of whom contributed to the Mercuries’ 23-5 basketball team this winter — should help McGregor be competitive in the sprint relays.
- Superior’s Lauren Magnuson has been in the dominant in the sprints so far.