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Prep boys track: Ierino leaps into history books for East at 7AA meet

Section 7AA boys meet from Cloquet.

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D. Matthew Ierino of Duluth East competes in the triple jump during the Section 7AA Track Championships Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Cloquet High School. Ierino broke the school record with a personal best jump of 43 feet 5 inches. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

CLOQUET — After Duluth East senior David Ierino’s third attempt in the triple jump Saturday at the Section 7AA boys track and field championships at Bromberg Field, coach Shonda Peller approached him.

“That’s the jump we’ve been waiting for, but you’re in third right now,” Peller said. “All you need to get into second is a couple more inches. Do you think you can do that?”

Ierino responded, “Why not go for first?”

Ierino didn’t just get first on his fourth and final jump, he broke Jack Thompson’s school record with a mark of 43 feet, 5 inches, to edge Forest Lake’s Nicholas Bartlett by an inch, setting off a tidal wave of emotion and hugs, tears of joy, all around.

The top two individuals and relays qualify for next week’s state meet at St. Michael-Albertville.

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D. Matthew Ierino of Duluth East celebrates with coach Shonda Peller after breaking the school record in the triple jump during the Section 7AA Track Championships Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Cloquet High School. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

“I broke down (crying) before they even finished measuring,” Ierino said. “I knew … I just knew I did it. I turned around and the tears started welling up and I said, ‘Peller, that’s a school record. I beat it, I finally beat it.’”

Peller, who now lives in Florida, was quick to credit East jumps coach Tim Visina. Peller said she had to come back for the occasion, to give the colorful Ierino a little added encouragement.

“I couldn’t leave him hanging,” Peller said, laughing. “It’s a group effort with Ierino.”

Ierino’s best jump two years ago was 42-10, but then COVID-19 put everything on hold last spring. Ierino said he had a difficult time getting “in the zone” this spring. Even on his record-setting leap, he started a little more than a foot behind the board. If — or when — he sticks it, though, look out.

“This has been two years in the making,” Ierino said. “I’ve been in the gym four to five days a week with my trainer, Paige Stratioti, and this has been a goal we’ve had. I knew I had the record. I felt it.”

Weston performs double duty

Grand Rapids junior Jackson Weston swept the throwing events with a pair of personal records, 51-9.5 in the shot put and 142-2 in the discus.

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Weston would like to break the Thunderhawks’ school record of 57-5 in the shot pot, set by Wayne Jacobson in 1968. While five feet might seem like a lot to overcome, Weston is confident he’ll break it, if not this year, next year.

“I threw so much better in warmups,” Weston said.

Weston uses the spin technique for throwing the shot put, something he just started this season, rather than the glide. He wanted to implement the spin technique last year but the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the season.

“Technique is very important,” he said.

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Jackson Weston (News Tribune)

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Weston is well put-together but not as bulky as some of the athletes you see in the throwing events. He also plays on the offensive and defensive lines for the Grand Rapids football team.

Weston certainly isn’t afraid to mix it up with the big boys.

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“It’s fun hitting people — when they allow you to,” Weston said, smiling.

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Issac Fink of Denfeld competes in the 3200 meter run during the Section 7AA Track Championships Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Cloquet High School.(Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Best of the rest

Duluth Denfeld senior Isaac Fink finished second in the 3,200 to qualify for his first state track and field meet.

Fink’s time of 9:53.21 took 19 seconds off his PR from two years ago. His best mark this spring was 10:15 before Saturday. The Augustana University (S.D.) recruit is a three-time state qualifier in cross country and also qualified once in Nordic skiing.

“I’m really excited,” Fink said. “I’m just so happy that it’s happening.”

Fink drew a laugh when he was asked what his goal was for state.

“My goal was just to get there,” he said.

  • Denfeld junior Blake Eaton broke his own section records in setting new marks in the 100, 200 and 800 wheelchair races.

Eaton has worked hard to improve from where he was two years ago.
Eaton was born with the rare malformation medial spinal aplasia and doesn’t have the use of his legs. When he was about two, he could at least stand, but then doctors fused his back. He has quite the following, as evidenced by people cheering him on as he made his way around the track.

“It’s a lot of work, but I’m growing and getting stronger,” Eaton said. “I didn’t think I would do as well at state as I did two years ago (including a Class AA record in the 200 wheelchair), so hopefully I do as well this year.”

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Blake Eaton of Denfeld competes in the 100 meter wheelchair dash during the Section 7AA Track Championships Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Cloquet High School.(Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The 800, in particular, looked absolutely grueling on a sunny 75-degree day with a breeze in the upper teens.

“That was tough,” Eaton said. “I tried to come out harder than normal on the first lap. I kind of hit the wall on the second lap, but I was going for it.”

  • Duluth East senior Mattie Thompson showed he is more than just a basketball player, finishing second in the high jump with a mark of 6-4. The 6-foot-7 Thompson has a top mark of 6-6 and also ran on the Greyhounds’ 1,600 relay. The Minnesota Duluth basketball recruit has the ability to run the 400 in under 54 seconds, so the Bulldogs are getting quite the athlete.

“Obviously basketball is really more important to me, but track became pretty important to me as I progressed,” Thompson said. “Stamina-wise, explosiveness-wise, jumping-wise, all that is incorporated out here.”
Thompson missed qualifying for the state meet by one spot in the high jump his sophomore year.

“My junior year, I was thinking that was going to be the year, but obviously, that didn’t happen,” Thompson said. “Last year was kind of a bummer, but I’m just really excited I get to go my senior year.”

  • Cloquet got a victory from Nathan Genereau in the 300 hurdles and two thirds from fellow senior Dylan Heehn in the 100 and 200 to finish fourth in the team standings with 71 points, followed by East and Grand Rapids with 55 points apiece. Forest Lake took the boys team title with 114 points. Next year Minnesota moves to three classes in track and field.

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Dylan Heehn (center) of Cloquet competes against Cole Brisbois of Forest Lake and Matthew Beaudry of Elk River in the 100 meter dash during the Section 7AA Track Championships Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Cloquet High School.(Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Track and Field

Section 7AA

Boys Championships

At Cloquet

Saturday’s Results

Teams

1. Forest Lake, 114; 2. Andover, 106; 3. Cambridge-Isanti, 82; 4. Cloquet, 71; 5. (tie) Duluth East and Grand Rapids 55; 7. Big Lake, 40; 8. Chisago Lakes, 34; 9. St. Francis, 31; 10. Elk River, 30; 11. North Branch, 19; 12. Princeton, 17; 13. Duluth Denfeld, 16; 14. Hermantown, 13; 15. Hibbing, 12; 16. Zimmerman, 10.

Individuals (State Qualifiers)

100 — 1. Cole Brisbois, FL, 11.10 seconds; 2. Matthew Beaudry, ER, 11.21; 100 wheelchair — 1. Blake Eaton, DD, 19.71 (Section 7AA meet record); 200 — 1. Caden Wheeler, And., 22.70; 2. Cole Brisbois, FL, 22.72; 200 wheelchair — 1. Eaton, DD, 38.83 (Section 7AA meet record); 400 — 1. Alexander Croston, SF, 50.34; 2. Zachary Johnson, And., 51.04; 800 — 1. Cameron Heppner, And., 2:00.27; 2. Christian Noble, BL, 2:01.92; 800 wheelchair — 1. Eaton, DD, 2:43.57 (Section 7AA meet record); 1,600 — 1. Gabriel Birkmeier, And., 4:30.32; 2. Daniel Vanacker, FL, 4:32.05; 3,200 — 1. Vanacker, FL, 9:52.24; 2. Isaac Fink, DD, 9:53.21; 110 hurdles — 1. Harrison Toussaint, NB, 15.40; 2. Augustus Giddings, And., 15.41; 300 hurdles — 1. Nathan Genereau, Cloq., 40.94; 2. Giddings, And., 41.16; 400 relay — 1. FL (Riley Larson, Cole Brisbois, Jake Deeb, Gavin Rustad), 44.04; 2. And. (Weston Knox, Wheeler, Oberhiri Eyafe, Aghogho Eyafe), 44.12; 800 relay — 1. And. (Johnson, Wheeler, Benjamin Audette, Knox), 1:31.37; 2. CI (Samuel Mechah, Andre Hall, Alex Thompson, Gaven Ziebarth), 1:33.49; 1,600 relay — 1. And. (Knox, Heppner, Gabriel Birkmeier, Johnson), 3:27.29; 2. FL (Reid Olson, Augustus Herman, Keagan Zeidler, Drew Sampson), 3:31.77; 3,200 relay — 1. And. (Logan Meinert, Calvin Fiala, Heppner, Birkmeier), 8:06.31; 2. Grand Rapids (Sam Stertz, Ian Andersen, Derek Erdman, Hanson), 8:13.86; high jump — 1. Jacob Ziebarth, CI, 6 feet, 8 inches; 2. Mattie Thompson, DE, 6-4; pole vault — 1. Ethan Hintermeister, CI, 14-0; 2. Blake Johnson, FL, 13-8; long jump — 1. Jack Iverson, BL, 20-11.75; 2. Everett Appleby, CL, 20-.75; triple jump — 1. David Ierino, DE, 43-5; 2. Nicholas Bartlett, FL, 43-4; shot put — 1. Jackson Weston, GR, 51-9.5; 2. Andrew Koehler, CL, 51-6; discus — 1. Weston, GR, 142-2; 2. Koehler, CL, 130-7.

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 jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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