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Prep track and field preview: Cloquet's Erickson making his mark

Cloquet senior thrower Evan Erickson joked with teammate Dylan Lauer in practice last week when Lauer proposed a bet. "If you can throw (a shot put) over 53 feet, I'll take my shirt off and run around the track,'" Lauer said. Erickson promptly la...

Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Cloquet thrower Evan Erickson practices with the discus outside the school Wednesday afternoon in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Cloquet thrower Evan Erickson practices with the discus outside the school Wednesday afternoon in Cloquet.

Cloquet senior thrower Evan Erickson joked with teammate Dylan Lauer in practice last week when Lauer proposed a bet.

"If you can throw (a shot put) over 53 feet, I'll take my shirt off and run around the track,'" Lauer said.

Erickson promptly launched one 55 feet.

"We never shook on it," Lauer said.

Lame excuse, but perhaps saved the world the sight of a weightman cruising shirtless around the track.

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Erickson's official best is 50 feet, 10 1/2 inches, but don't expect that mark to last long. The captain is one of a handful of Lumberjacks taking aim at school records this spring. The problem is the weather. Cloquet has only participated in one meet.

"They're excited to go," Cloquet track coach Tim Prosen said. "They're incredibly motivated. I just want to turn them loose."

Erickson, who finished fourth in the discus at the Class AA state meet last June after finishing third the year before, already has the school record in that event with a mark of 168-8. Now he is eying Nick Nemmers' school record of 57-11 in the shot. Erickson works with Cloquet alum Andy Elias, who coached former Wisconsin-Superior national qualifier Thomas Udenberg.

Erickson is a North Dakota track recruit who overcame a knee injury playing football last fall. He didn't go out for hockey this winter to focus on getting stronger. He packed on 30 pounds of muscle through Impact Sports Training in Duluth and is 6-foot-4, 270 pounds.

Erickson can bench 275 pounds, squat 405 and power clean 315.

"I want to win state, and to do that, I'm going to work harder than everyone else," Erickson said.

Besides Erickson, the Cloquet girls return sprinters Kendra and Katelyn Kelley, Alaska-Fairbanks' Nordic skiing recruit Anja Maijala and 400 runner Erin Turner. The boys return Conner Denman, Isaac Boedigheimer, Parker Sinkkonen, Derrick Moe, John Waltjer, Otto Cockburn-Barnes and Nathan Hammond.

Denman has a shot at the 800 school record, Maijala and Boedigheimer could threaten the 3,200 marks and the boys' 1,600 and 3,200 relays also could fall.

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Kendra Kelley took sixth in the Class AA 200 last June in a school-record 25.48. She works with Jeff Leno and Dale Flankey and already has long jumped 17-1 this year after being in the 15s last year. Already a captain, the sophomore is going after Jes Vork's 100 (12:34) and 400 (58.92) records.

"Kendra is just fast out of the gate, but at the same time, she works harder than anyone else," Prosen said. "She has a passion for it."

Cloquet, one of the smallest schools in Class AA, might not have the quantity of most big schools but certainly has the quality.

"I don't think they want to go Class A," Prosen said. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."

Best of the rest

Duluth Denfeld returns senior captains Aaron Goman and Noah Jackson in the sprints, and Alex Wilcox in the throwing events. Sophomores Wryott Gerson (sprints, long jump), Connor Feyen (hurdles, triple jump, pole vault) and newcomer Julian Beckrich (sprints) have looked strong early.

Duluth East returns senior Andrew Arthur, who ran 1:59 in the 800 last year and missed going to state by a mere two-hundredths of a second

Duluth Marshall has the Northland’s top returning sprinter in junior Jonathan Burt, who was second in the 200, seventh in the 100 and eighth in the 400 at the Class A state meet.

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Esko returns sprinter Dawsen Cossalter, who has clocked 10.9 in the 100 and 22.4 in the 200 this spring, as well as distance runners Josh Kemp and Sam Rengo and pole vaulters Devan Arntson and Tate Olsen. Hurdler Ava Gonsorowski, a senior who has made the state track meet every year since eighth grade, returns for the girls.

Hermantown returns senior captain Kiersten Olson (hurdles) and junior Ellie Gamradt (high jump).

Proctor is headed by a strong senior class led by state-qualifier Dakota Ellis-Ciacco. Junior Annika Voss, a state-qualifier in the 1,600, is back from the Rails' two-time section championship girls team, as is Morgan Binsfield. Her sister, sophomore Sydney Binsfield, won the 3,200 in 12:08 last week at the Lake Superior Conference indoor meet, while senior Annika Culver finished second in three events (60 hurdles, long and triple jump).

Two Harbors has senior Ian Johnson - fifth in the 2016 Class A 110 hurdles - and distance runners Jake Paron, Brandon Dugger, Sam Libby and Noah Smith. Senior high jumper Christian Beamer has already jumped 6 feet, compared to 5-8 last year. Senior sprinter Karly Fleischer, distance runners Mary Libby, Sydney Haugan, Emily Seipke and Autumn Smith and junior hurdlers Brianna Hiukka and Katarina Hanson all return.

Northwestern expects big things from junior Donny Pooler after a 12th-place state cross country finish. Sophomore Abby Nelson hails from a long line of pole vaulters and took fifth in the event at state last year.

Ashland has a strong pipeline, with Maury and Walker Miller returning. Older brother, Bryce, runs for Missouri-Kansas City and was 10th in the 3,000 steeplechase at the Olympic Trials last summer. The girls return NCAA Division II commits Aneesa Tucker (Bemidji State) and Amy Wallis (Winona State).

Moose Lake-Willow River returns two-time defending Section 7A shot put champion Sam Coil, third at state last season. He recently threw 54-7, breaking the Rebels' school record by nearly 2 feet. MLWR also has senior sprinter Bryceton Butkiewicz and junior Ethan Olson, a state qualifier who holds school records in the 1,600 (4:32.74) and 3,200 (9:53.24). With 45 boys out, the Rebels have the numbers to capture a fourth straight section True Team title. Sophomore Kennedy Bryant, a three-time state qualifier, returns to lead the girls. She has the school record in the triple jump at 35-3.5.

South Ridge, a coop with Cherry, North Woods and Northeast Range, brings back senior sprinter David Hardy, junior junior Nick Carlson, senior state qualifier RyAnna Anvid in the shot and disc, sophomore distance runner Taina Koivisto and sophomore sprinter Sophie Lenz.

Cromwell-Wright returns senior distance runner Wyatt Susa. The girls graduated Andrea Hakamaki, who finished seventh in Class A in the 400 in a school-record 58.79 and was a key part of two state-qualifying relays. Back are senior Kaylee Besch, junior Teana Hakamaki and freshmen Anja Schoenberg and Shaily Hakamaki, who has broken the school triple jump record and will soon break the long jump mark.

Cook County has an up-and-coming sprinter in eighth-grader Zoe Nonemacher, while junior Maya McHugh looks strong in the 800.

Grand Rapids has more than 100 boys out, with senior Alex Margo back after taking seventh in the Class AA 110 hurdles. Alex Boyd, a Minnesota-Morris recruit, is back in the shot and disc and senior Brett Rodenberg in the long and triple jump. The girls return junior thrower Annie Falardeau, sophomore hurdler Meara Beighley and senior captain Maddy Illikainen (disc).

Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin has a strong distance group, with Dylan Carlson and Geno Urbom leading the boys and Ellyssa Peterson fronting the girls, as well as hurdlers Daya Davidson and Bailey Hubbard.

Eveleth-Gilbert returns its state-qualifying 800 relay of seniors Jake and Josh Weston, Spencer Garland and Kelly Hakala, along with senior Evan Hendrickson, a state qualifier in the shot and discus. The girls return state qualifiers Maddi Jankila in the high jump and Jankila, Eryn Craven, Briona Currie and McKenzie Perushek in the 800 relay.

Hibbing brings back seniors Tristden Vlatkovich (sprints) and Parker Rhodes (throws) and junior Joe Flaten, who missed state by one scratch in the pole vault last year. North Dakota recruit Autumn Stokes leads the girls after placing fifth in Class AA in the triple jump last June and has already jumped 35-11 this year. Ariel Jacobson and Natalie Hertling return, while sophomore McKenzie Maki, who moved to Hibbing from Bemidji, looks strong in the high jump,.

Virginia returns Lucas Amundson, Ricky Benda and Dylan Potocnik in the sprints and relays, Taylor Greenwalt in the disc and shot and Sterling Boyd in the 800 and 1,600. The girls have Skyler Webb (sprints, relays), Peyton Wercinski (sprints/relays); Molly Vagle (sprints/relays), Christine Hafdahl (distance, pole vault) and Alex Wercinski (distance).

Mountain Iron-Buhl has more than doubled its participation numbers from last year. The Rangers return sprinters Jericho Peterson and Dillon Drake. The girls are young but have talent, with up-and-comers in seventh-grader Brooke Niska (400 to 1,600) and freshman McKinley Kvas (shot put).

Mesabi East returns Sam Hunt in the sprints and long jump. The girls have a strong core, with Ava Hill - fourth in Class A in the 800 - as well as sprinter and long jumper Hope Howell, and distance runner Anna Greenley.

Ely returns Josh Heiman, who was fourth in the Class A triple jump and ninth in the long jump in June. He's also one of the top sprinters in the area. Standout distance runner Teddy Pierce is questionable with a hip stress fracture. Ely girls return state Nordic champ Erin Bianco as well as fellow senior Caroline Homer and juniors Ryne Prigge and Emma Terwilliger from the Timberwolves state-qualifying 3,200 relay, Nordic and cross country teams.

International Falls returns junior Emma Gilbert, second in the Class A shot put. Last Thursday at the Broncos' first outdoor meet, she threw 43-5 to tie her school record. Seniors Lexi Edwards (pole vault), Lexi Erickson (high jump) and Valandre Butler (sprints, jumps) and sophomore Grace Gilbert (sprints) are also back.

Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Cloquet sprinter Kendra Kelley practices starts at the school Wednesday afternoon in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Cloquet sprinter Kendra Kelley practices starts at the school Wednesday afternoon in Cloquet.

Related Topics: CLOQUET
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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