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Prep girls track and field: Hermantown's Gamradt loves mechanics of high jumping

Clint Austin / Ellie Gamradt of Hermantown clears the bar while competing in the high jump during a track meet Tuesday in Superior. Gamradt cleared 5-foot-3 to set a track record. 1 / 2
Clint Austin / Ashlee Siegle of Duluth Marshall and Brita Birkeland of Hermantown run together while competing in the 1,600 meters Tuesday in Superior. 2 / 2


Hermantown high jumper Ellie Gamradt never cleared more than 5 feet before last year, but she was clearing a school-record 5-foot-6 by the end of the year, good for sixth place at the Class AA state meet.

Gamradt doesn't attribute the improvement to a sudden growth spurt or increased Wheaties intake, but to her analytical approach to the event.

"I fixed my approach and my takeoff, so when I was in the air, I'd be in the right spot," Gamradt said. "Before, I think I had the right height, but I was just missing it."

Now a senior, Gamradt doesn't have a set goal for where she places this year. She knows she can't control how high others jump, but she can control how high she jumps.

"I just want to improve, so above what I had last year," Gamradt said.

Kevin Leonard, who has been coaching track and field for 37 years, described Gamradt as a throwback. She also competes in other jumping events and relays for the Hawks.

"One of the wonderful things about Ellie is that she is a true three-sport athlete," Leonard said. "It's becoming rare these days, with way too much specialization."

And Gamradt isn't just a three-sport athlete, she's a three-sport star.

Gamradt puts her 6-foot-2 frame and 23-inch vertical jump to good use. She earned second-team All-Lake Superior Conference honors in volleyball and first-team honors in basketball.

Gamradt will compete in track at Southeast Missouri State, an NCAA Division I program in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Why Southeast Missouri State?

Again, Gamradt crunched the numbers and broke it down to a science. Between her 29 ACT score and track scholarship, tuition was free.

"It was a good deal," she said, laughing.

Gamradt plans on majoring in biomedical sciences, hoping to become a cardiologist.

The Redhawks likely see great potential once Gamradt focuses on one sport. They also want her to try the javelin, and it's not unprecedented. Former Greenway star Seri Geisler had never thrown the javelin before college but has won back-to-back NAIA national titles for Valley City (N.D.) State.

"They say volleyball players are good with the arm strength," Gamradt said.

Gamradt will take the same approach to the javelin as she does to the high jump. There's a science to it.

"I like the mechanics of it," Gamradt said. "Everything has to be in line. As you increase your height, everything has to be spot on."

Gamradt cleared a track record 5-foot-3 Tuesday in Superior and is ahead of last year's pace, when she started out only clearing 5 feet.

• Hermantown returns sophomore state qualifier Brita Birkeland, who broke a 30-year-old school record in the 800 meters last year in 2 minutes, 17.15 seconds. She is also a member of the Hawks' school-record 3,200 relay. Birkeland missed basketball this winter due to a concussion and is still getting back into track shape. Senior captains Alexys Lewis and Emily Eng will be strong contributors in the sprints and throwing events, respectively.

Best of the rest

Duluth Marshall returns junior state qualifier Ashlee Siegle, who already has clocked a 5:33 mile. "That's far ahead of where she was last year, so she has pretty high hopes," Hilltoppers coach John Vallez said. Marshall also returns junior Samantha Mark, a state qualifier in the 100 and 200.

Duluth Denfeld returns senior captain Rachel Yagoda, who missed her junior year due to injury. She missed qualifying for state in the 400 as a sophomore by .01. The Hunters also return a strong distance crew that includes sophomore Kiah Moeller, senior captain Katherine Skwira-Brown and junior Riley Pohl, and sprinters Najae Swanigan, Lana Mitchell, Kyra Word, Megan Fournier and sisters Sadee and Anne Kidd.

Duluth East is led by senior captain Izzy Sutherland and junior captain Molly Weberg, a successful cross-country runner who competes in hurdles, pole vault and mid-distance races in the spring. Junior Maddie Smith is back in the hurdles and long jump and senior Kelly Canavan in the distance events.

Proctor returns senior Annika Voss, who competed at state in the 1,600 as a sophomore but battled injuries last year. She came back strong to win the first 800 of the year at the 13-team St. Scholastica indoor meet last month and leads younger runners who have a shot at qualifying for state in the 3,200 and 1,600 relays.

Cloquet has one of the state's best sprinters in junior Kendra Kelley, who finished third in Class AA in the 100 (12.22 seconds) and 200 (24.83). All four members of the Lumberjacks' state-qualifying 1,600 relay also return, including Kelley, meaning Cloquet should again have the strongest team in the LSC.

Superior returns long jumper Marcia Mogenson, who is already jumping in the range of 16 feet.

Two Harbors is the defending Polar League champions. The Agates return Sydney Haugan, Autumn Smith and Mary Libby to a young and deep distance group. Sami Szendrey, Elise Poe- Johnson and Viviane Mickelson are the top returning sprinters, while senior Brianna Hiukka leads in hurdles.

International Falls returns defending Class A shot put champion Emma Gilbert, a North Dakota recruit. Jena Sullivan and Taylor Busch are also back in the shot and discus, as well as versatile senior Bailey Milette and junior sprinter Grace Gilbert.

South Ridge has two athletes who finished fourth in Section 7A, freshman Elle Ridge in the discus and senior Lily Hall in the 300 hurdles.

Moose Lake-Willow River returns junior Kennedy Bryant, who has qualified for the state meet four straight years in the long jump while setting a school record in the the triple jump (36-2) last year. Juniors Ellie Anderson and Kennedy Janke lead the way in the throwing events while junior Coriella Sheetz and freshman Kelli Granquist lead the distance group.

Cromwell-Wright returns sophomore Anja Johnson, a three-year state participant, and sophomore Shaily Hakamaki, a two-year state participant who will compete in the distance events. Hakamaki went to state last year in the triple jump and 1,600 relay.

Grand Rapids has senior shot putter Annie Falardeau, a Hamline Elite Meet qualifier, as well hurdlers Meara Beighley and Emily Saumer and distance runner Emma Stertz.

Virginia returns 800 state qualifier Alex Wercinski, a freshman.

Deer River-Northland returns 200 and 400 state qualifier Hope Schjenken, a junior.

Ashland junior Bailey Nuutinen has the Oredockers' outdoor school record in the pole vault at 9-6 and just raised her indoor record to 10-0.

Northwestern has Katie Lundeen in the throwing events, Abby Nelson in the jumps, who posted a school-record 11-1 in the pole vault, and Journey Amundson in the triple jump.

Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin has two of the top sprinters in Section 7A in seniors Daya Davidson and Bailey Hubbard.

Mesabi East has new co-coaches in former assistants Steve Ekman and Kari Hunt after Rose Antilla retired after 12 years. Anttila left the program in good shape, with sophomore Ava Hill, the defending Class A 800-meter champion, leading the way. Also back are senior Hope Howell, eighth at the state meet in the triple jump, and the Giants' 800 and 1,600 state-qualifying relays, which finished seventh and third, respectively.

Silver Bay returns senior sprinter Jocelyn Russell, a state qualifier in the 100, junior Alexxa DeQuevedo, a state qualifier in the 100 hurdles, and its entire state-qualifying 800 relay.

Eveleth-Gilbert returns Natalie Fultz, who won the Section 7A 300 hurdles as a freshman last year, and members of its state-qualifying 400 and 3,200 relays, including senior Madilyn Jankila, the defending Section 7A high jump champion.

Ely returns a strong distance group, including seniors Emma Terwilliger and Ryne Prigge from the Timberwolves' state-qualifying 3,200 relay.