Soggy day, shattered records

GRAND RAPIDS -- Fans anticipating a showdown between Duluth Central and Duluth East in the grand finale of the Section 7AA Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Noble Hall Field may have been disappointed to see that the Trojans didn't fie...

GRAND RAPIDS -- Fans anticipating a showdown between Duluth Central and Duluth East in the grand finale of the Section 7AA Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Noble Hall Field may have been disappointed to see that the Trojans didn't field their "A" team for the 1,600-meter relay.

To East, the move was no surprise, with most of the Greyhounds knowing earlier in the week that Central instead planned to use its top sprinters in the 800-meter relay.

That made for a melodramatic finish to the section meet, but it didn't overshadow outstanding performances, most notably by Central senior Chris Anderson and Grand Rapids senior Jessica Butler on a soggy day that started with rain but later proved ideal for running. Five section records were set, with a sixth section mark set by Grand Rapids' Jessica Cagle in the discus on Wednesday.

The top two individuals and top relay teams, as well as provisional qualifiers, advance to the state meet June 8-9 at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Anderson, who lost in the 100 meters to defending state champion Garrett Cora of Duluth East earlier this spring in a meet at Public Schools Stadium, had the edge on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder edged Cora to the line in the 100 meters, finishing in 10.97 seconds to Cora's 11.05. Anderson was more dominating in the 200, galloping with his long stride to a blistering 21.95, with Cora taking second in 22.33.


Anderson also anchored Central's 800-meter relay, which took second to Forest Lake by .26. The Trojans advanced to state in 2006 in the 1,600 meters but felt stronger at the shorter distance this year.

"This year we kind of knew we didn't have the personnel for the 1,600, but we kind of let the media play it up as the big showdown. We were still trying to decide between the two, but we pretty much knew we weren't going to do it," Anderson said. "I still think we would have been right up there in the 4-by-4, but we just felt a little stronger in the 4-by-2.

"The decision didn't backfire. It came down to us and Forest Lake, and it was close. I felt like if I had 10 more meters, I would have got it."

Anderson is probably right. He showed Saturday that it doesn't take him long to close a gap, and that speed will serve him well as the senior receiver will attend North Dakota on a football scholarship this fall -- not bad for someone who missed most of his senior year of football with a knee injury.

Like Central's relay, East's 1,600 relay didn't quite work out as well as the Greyhounds hoped, with Elk River dominating in 3 minutes, 26.48 seconds to East's 3:29.86.

Cora is leaning toward attending Augustana on a track scholarship. He will have one more shot in his friendly rivalry with Anderson, only this time it will be at the state meet, where Cora will make his third appearance.

"It's a great rivalry, and it will be fun to see him again down at state. Chris is just a good athlete," Cora said.



Butler dominated in the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran a leg of Grand Rapids' winning 1,600 relay to help the Thunderhawks win the girls team title with 144 points, while Elk River was a distant second with 116 points. Forest Lake easily won the boys team title with 141 points.

The 5-foot-7 Butler also got a second on Wednesday in the high jump to go with her three firsts. This will be her fourth appearance at the state tournament, but first in the hurdles after coach Kevin Johnson suggested she try it this year.

Butler is going to North Dakota on a track scholarship, where the decathlon might be in her future.

"This year I just wanted to try some more events before I headed off to college," Butler said. "I like to do a lot of different things and not just jumping, so the decathlon might be something I want to try. I hope so. It sounds like fun."

Fun for Butler, but not for those trying to catch her.

* Cloquet sophomore Jes Vork helped get the record-setting day started with a section mark of 12.34 in the 100 meters. She later added a second in the 200 and a third in a loaded 400 field, while teammate Becca Sorenson suffered her first loss in the 1,600 meters this season but still qualified for the state tournament with a second-place finish.

"It was a nice day," Vork said, smiling. "I was hoping for sunshine, but this worked."

* Grand Rapids' Pat Richie was the first person across the line in the boys 1,600, but the sophomore was disqualified for interfering with Scott Behling of Duluth East down the final straightaway. Behling officially finished first in 4:35.96, with Zach Waldoch of Forest Lake coming in second at 4:39.94.


Wisconsin state track meet

The Northwestern girls track and field team took third place in the 1,600 relay and sixth in the 800 relay Saturday at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state meet in La Crosse, Wis.

Kristina Anderson, Laura Johnson, Nicole Hughes and Alex Baillie finished the 1,600 relay with a time of 4 minutes, 2.77 seconds and the 800 relay with a time of 1:47.00.

Kels Moreland took fourth place in the boys 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:23.00.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
What To Read Next
Get Local