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Prep girls track and field: Cloquet's Jameson jumps her way to three titles at Section 7AA meet

Talented junior shows off her versatility in leading the Lumberjacks.

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Cloquet's Olivia Jameson clears the bar in the high jump event at the Section 7AA girls track and field meet in Cloquet on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

CLOQUET — Cloquet junior Olivia Jameson had already won the Section 7AA girls high jump title by three inches Wednesday with a leap of 5-foot-5 when she was asked what she wanted to go for next.

“5-7,” she said to jumps coach Michelle Wick.

Wick told Jameson she could go for 5-6.5 and still break the Lumberjacks’ school record, a mark which she shares with Ky Mathes at 5-6, but half-inch marks aren’t her style.

“I’m going for it,” Jameson said.

Jameson didn’t get the 5-7, just missing on her second attempt, but she will get another shot at it at next week’s state meet at St. Michael-Albertville after a dominating performance Wednesday at the Section 7AA girls track and field championships.

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Besides breezing to the high jump title, Jameson cruised past Hermantown’s Elise Harriman to win the 100 hurdles, won the triple jump by more than a foot with a mark of 35-5 and just missed qualifying for the state meet as part of the Lumberjacks’ third-place 800-meter relay.

Jameson made the state meet in the 100 hurdles and high jump as a freshman in 2019, getting eighth in the high jump, only to not compete last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was asked about her goals for next week.

“Probably get better than eighth,” she said, laughing. “This spring has been so much fun. We really missed last year, so we’re enjoying this.”

Jameson holds the Lumberjacks’ triple jump record at 36-8 and is also a standout in soccer. She’s the type of athlete who could do any number of events in track and field — very smooth in her movements and disciplined and consistent in her form — but you’re only allowed to do so many.

Lumberjacks coach Tim Prosen was asked if there was anything Jameson can’t do.

“Hockey,” he said, before thinking about it some more. “Maybe.”

Of the three events Jameson is doing next week, the 100 hurdles, high jump and triple jump, Jameson was asked what is her best.

“It’s pretty close,” she said. “I feel like it goes back and forth. I might have a good day in one and a bad day in another. There’s not really one that stands out.”

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Could have fooled us.

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Duluth East’s Alexandra Niska breaks into a smile after winning the 400-meter dash at the Section 7AA girls track and field meet in Cloquet on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

East’s Niska breaks 41-year-old school record

Duluth East senior Alexandra Niska first tried the 400 meters two years ago as a sophomore, competing in it four times.

After last season was wiped out by COVID, it was hard to know just how good she could be in it. After Wednesday, it’s safe to say she found her event.

Niska won the 400 in 57.97 seconds, breaking Minnesota Duluth Hall of Famer Julie (Hay) Klun’s 1980 school record.

A competitor like Klun would appreciate somebody like Niska. She’s not just fast. She’s tough. Niska was sporting a bandage on her right calf and marks on her left leg Wednesday after catching a spike and taking a tumble two weeks ago at a meet at Duluth Denfeld.

“I didn’t feel it at that time because I had so much adrenaline, but I had to take a few days off from practice. I was pretty sore,” Niska said. “I was worried, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from doing this. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. I’ve been waiting two years for this.”

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It’s hard to say Niska is 100 percent when she’s visibly nursing some injuries, but man, on the track, it’s hard to tell. She also edged teammate Bianca Lott to win the 100 in 12.81 seconds and took second in the 200.

“I’m feeling good,” Niska said.

Niska will run track at North Dakota State — the same school as her mentor, Denfeld grad Paige Stratioti — and said the best is yet to come.

“I’m not done yet,” she said.

  • Among East’s other top performers, Crystal Kaczmarczyk and Anna-Britta Helmer just missed qualifying for the state meet in the 1,600, finishing third and fourth, respectively, while teammate Cora Nephew finished second by .35 to Forest Lake’s Norah Hushagen in the 3,200. Nephew’s mark of 11:28.42 broke her personal record by 40 seconds.

Worth the wait

The Section 7AA meet was all but over, with individual awards already handed out in all but one event.

That’s when Hibbing junior Julia Gherardi started warming up.

Gherardi broke the Section 7AA meet record with a pole vault of 12-7, topping her own school record by one inch. Since it was the last event, a crowd gathered around to watch, the largest crowd Gherardi had ever vaulted in front of, and she didn’t disappoint.

After missing twice at 12-7, she moved the standard back two inches. It paid off as Gherardi cleared the bar as the crowd erupted in cheers.

“It was really fun having everybody watching me,” Gherardi said. “A little added pressure can be motivating.”

After that, Gherardi made three attempts at 13 feet. She wasn’t far off, prompting one fan to yell, “Almost Julia — next week!”

Track and Field
Section 7AA
Girls Championships
At Cloquet
Wednesday’s Results

Teams

1. Forest Lake, 95; 2. Cambridge-Isanti, 92.5; 3. Elk River, 78; 4. Duluth East, 69; 5. Cloquet, 68.5; 6. North Branch, 51; 7. Andover, 49; 8. Hermantown, 37; 9. Hibbing, 31; 10. Chisago Lakes, 29; 11. Grand Rapids, 28; 11. Princeton, 28; 13. Zimmerman, 19; 14. Duluth Denfeld, 12; 14. Big Lake, 12; 16. St. Francis, 3.

Individuals (State Qualifiers)

100-meters — 1. Alexandra Niska, DE, 12.81 seconds; 2. Bianca Lott, DE, 12.91; 200 — 1. Anika Larson, CI, 25.99; 2. Niska, DE, 26.25; 400 — 1. Niska, DE, 57.97; 2. Aiyana Knight, CI, 58.26; 800 — 1. Ella Niznik, FL, 2:21.32; 2. Hailee Zimpel, Zim., 2:21.57; 1,600 — 1. Norah Hushagen, FL, 5:22.29; 2. Julia Babineau, And., 5:22.80; 3,200 — 1. Hushagen, FL, 11:28.07; 2. Cora Nephew, DE, 11:28.42; 100 hurdles — 1. Olivia Jameson, Cloq., 15.84; 2. Elise Harriman, Herm., 16.38; 300 hurdles — 1. Claire Beckman, And., 46.17; 2. Allison Anderson, Herm., 48.19; 400 relay — 1. CI (Larissa Block, Laci Leverty, Anika Larson, Kaylee Clement), 50.63; 2. Prin. (Lillian Koenig, Tyah Rothschadl, Alexis Nordstrom, Kaitlyn Sautter), 51.47; 800 relay — 1. CI (Block, Clement, Larson, Knight), 1:46.45; 2. NB (Ella Dick, Dakota Esget, Paige Bauer, Lilly Johnson), 1:48.82; 1,600 relay — 1. FL (Amelea Hauer, Ellie Hanowski, Annabelle Stang, Ella Niznik), 4:05.55; 2. And. (Brekkyn Lammert, Michelle Dyrdahl, Olivia Knoepfle, Beckman), 4:08.94; 3,200 relay — 1. FL (Hauer, Hanowski, Jordan Parent, Niznik), 9:36.93; 2. And. (Lammert, Dyrdahl, Babineau, Beckman), 9:47.25; high jump — 1. Jameson, Cloq., 5-5; 2. Ada Schlenker, CI, 5-2; pole vault — 1. Julia Gherardi, Hib., 12-7 (Section 7AA record); 2. Paige Bauer, NB, 11-0; long jump — 1. Bauer, NB, 17-2.25; 2. Adaeze Udalla, ER, 16-1.25; triple jump — 1. Jameson, 35-5; 2. Emily Jones, CI, 34-2.5; shot put — 1. Merica Beighley, GR, 34-10.25; 2. Johanna Langbehn, ER, 34-8.5; discus — 1. Andi Mehrer, ER, 115-4; 2. Langbehn, EL, 115-2.

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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