PREP GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD / SEASON PREVIEW
Cloquet senior Kendra Kelley had just finished anchoring the Lumberjacks' dominating 400-meter relay on Tuesday when she had to cut a conversation short.
"Sorry, got to go," she said.
Kelley barely had time to catch her breath as less than 10 minutes later she won the individual 400 in a minute flat. While certainly not her best time, consider the circumstances.
"I just try to keep the adrenaline going and apply it to my next one," she said. "This definitely felt more like a workout meet. I'm used to it. We go through some pretty tough workouts."
Later, Kelley capped off the day by running on Cloquet's winning 1,600 relay.
"That's just who she is," Lumberjacks coach Tim Prosen said. "She hammers everything she has, every week. She's not feeling well, but you're not going to tell her no. She's incredibly driven, and I'm going to miss her, but she is leaving behind an example and legacy."
Kelley might be the fastest girl to ever come out of the Northland. She is Minnesota's defending Class AA girls champion in the 200. How rare is that? You'd have to search the archives, but it just doesn't happen very often. Perhaps the closest thing to compare would be Duluth Central's Paige Stratioti winning the large-school 400 title in 2011 in a blistering 54.77 seconds.
While Stratioti was a monster in the 400, her prep times are no match for Kelley in the shorter sprints. Going back to 1990, Silver Bay senior Patty Wilson won the Class A 100 (12.29), 200 (25.62) and finished fourth in the 400 (59.49).
Kelley has school records in the 100 (12.14), 200 (24.60), 400 (58.37), long jump (19 feet) and was part of the Lumberjacks' school-record 1,600 relay (4:03.40). Kelley also took second in the Class AA 100 last season but admits the 200 is her favorite. At 5-foot-3, she bolts down the track, her stride frequency faster than everyone else's.
Prosen, a 15-year coaching veteran, calls Kelley "the real deal."
"She the best female athlete I've ever coached, and I've had some good ones," Prosen said, mentioning sprinter Jes Vork and mid-distance runner Kayla Baker, now competing for the Minnesota Gophers. "You don't get many of those in your career."
Kelley is a three-sport athlete who is also a two-time News Tribune All-Area girls soccer player of the year. That speed comes in handy in all her sports. And so does her work ethic.
Next fall Kelley will compete at Stratioti's old college, North Dakota State. Until then, she wants to defend her 200 title, make the top three in the 100, and there's a good chance she'll try to get the Lumberjacks' 1,600 relay to state.
"I just try to give it all I have every single day," Kelley said. "Some days I have more, some days I have less. That's just all part of the process. I love the 4-by-4. A 400 is a little long for me, but I love the adrenaline I get pushing with my teammates, and I have a good time doing it."
Best of the rest
Cloquet also returns seniors Kelly Lorenz and Payten Schneberger from that school-record 1,600 relay, as well as Kendra's sister, Katelyn Kelley, a sophomore.
"We really promote three-sport athletes here," Prosen said in between a busy Tuesday serving as an official timer for a quad they hosted. "If they're going to be good in track, they'll probably be good in soccer, or basketball, or football or cross country. You name it."
Lorenz also hurdles and will run for Concordia-Moorhead next year. Makayla Suominen, known as a top swimmer, is now throwing for the Lumberjacks, while Schneberger is a good vaulter. Maddie Dostal leads in the throwing events, Lauren Cawcutt, Harmony Tracy, Elise Pickar, Charlotte Ripp are good in the distance events and Olivia Jameson is strong in the high jump and triple jump. Prosen said the Lumberjacks have athletes "popping out of the woodwork."
"I knew they'd be good, but they've surprised me," he said. "They're more than good. People who say kids don't work hard these days, I say you need to come to Cloquet."
Duluth Marshall returns senior state-qualifying 1,600 runner Ashlee Siegle.
Superior senior Marcia Mogensen finishes in the top three any time she runs the sprints but her long jump might be her best event, with the Spartans' school record of just over 17 feet within reach. Sophomore Adrianne Krueger is Superior's lone returning Lake Superior Conference champion in the 100 hurdles. Jennifer Nummi and Shannon McCoshen are dependable distance runners and senior leaders, while junior Hannah Craker is the top 400 runner.
Proctor returns seniors Ariel Carlson and Kaley Towers and sophomore Courtney Werner from its state-qualifying 1,600 relay. Werner qualified individually in the 400, while senior Sydney Binsfield competed in the 3,200. Sophomores Morgan Binsfield and Jaime Haugen were part of the Rails' state-qualifying 3,200 relay.
Hermantown graduated high jumper Ellie Gamradt - now competing at Southeast Missouri State - but returns All-LSC performers Brita Birkeland, Allison Anderson, Maiah Christianson, Macie Sisson, Addie Peterson, Macy Sieger, Kellyn Biondi and Camryn Slattengren, with Birkeland, Sisson and Samantha Lewis serving as captains. Led by Birkeland, the Hawks are strong in the 800/3,200 relay.
Two Harbors has three sets of siblings who were all part of the Agates' boys and girls state-qualifying 3,200 relays: Isaac and Grace Swanson, Noah and Autumn Smith and Wyatt and Sydney Haugan. The girls team is looking to three-peat as Polar League Conference champions. Junior Mary Libby also returns from the 3,200 relay, which placed eighth in Class A and set a school record (9:45.57). Senior Sami Szendrey and junior Elise Poe-Johnson return from the Agates' state-qualifying 800 relay. Coach Ryan McIntyre was named the Class A girls coach of the year last season.
Northwestern has an elite athlete in Abby Nelson, who has already cleared 11-2 in the pole vault.
Barnum returns sprinter Reese Miletich, who qualified for the state meet last year as an eighth-grader, and junior state-qualifying discus thrower Alexis Bonneville.
Cromwell-Wright junior Shaily Hakamaki is the returning Section 7A champion in the long and triple jumps. The three-time state qualifier finished sixth in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump at last year's state meet. Junior Anja Schoenberg has qualified for the state meet in seventh through 10th grades in the sprints.
South Ridge returns sophomore Elle Ridge in the throwing events and eighth-grader Jillian Sajdak and senior Taina Koivisto in the distance events. Seniors Mikayla Mellesmoen and Sophie Lenz and sophomore Joey Lakoskey are all back from the Panthers' state-qualifying 400 relay.
Eveleth-Gilbert returns Natalie Fultz and Silver Bay Alexxa DeQuevedo, who finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Class A 300 hurdles.
Grand Rapids is led by captains Andrea Markovich, Meara Beighley and Lucia Wyland. Beighley, a senior, is one of the area's top hurdlers. She'll compete at the University of Sioux Falls. Kate Jamtgaard, only in eighth grade, was last year's top seed in the Section 7AA 400 and is also one of the area's top 200 runners. Avery Beyer (Gustavus) and Lucia Wyland lead the distance events while Tiegan Krueger-Barth, Kristen Ketola, Andrea Markovich (Gustavus) and Emma Peterson leading the sprints and relays. With a host of young talent, the Thunderhawks expect to be competitive for years to come.
Hibbing returns senior McKenzie Maki and Elizabeth Tuomi, junior Kourtney Manning and sophomore Ayva Burkes from the Bluejackets' Class AA state-qualifying 1,600 relay.
Mesabi East is loaded with talent, and there's no one better than junior Ava Hill, the two-time defending Class A 800 champion who helped the Giants finish fourth in the team standings. Sophomores Hannah Hannuksela and Kiarra Moehlenbrock are also back from Mesabi East's state runner-up 800 relay and 1,600 relays. Hannuksela, sophomore Lexi Highland, freshman Kora Forsline and eighth-grader Elli Theel also return from the Giants' state-qualifying 400 relay, while Bella Thomas is back after qualifying for the state meet in the 1,600 as a seventh-grader.
Ely returns junior state-qualifying long jumper Brielle Kallberg, while Deer River-Northland has senior state-qualifying sprinter Hope Schjenken.
International Falls continues its tradition of being strong in the throwing events with senior state shot put qualifier Taylor Busch.