CLOQUET — At the Polar League Conference track and field championships two weeks ago in Two Harbors, Floodwood coach Matt Larva told senior Neva Polo before her last long jump attempt that the conference record in the event was 16 feet, 6 inches.

Keep in mind that Polo was still jumping in the 14-foot range at the time, but her jumps coach, Colton Vetsch, gave her some simple advice.

“Just jump farther,” he said.

“OK,” Polo said.

Boy, did she ever. Polo tied the conference record set in 2019 by Cromwell-Wright’s Shaily Hakamaki. If only coaching was so easy.

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Polo has used that meet as a springboard to where she’s at now. At the Section 7A championships Thursday at Bromberg Field, Polo went 4-for-4, winning the 100 and 300 hurdles, the triple jump, and yes, the long jump.

“At the beginning of the year I didn’t think I could win the long jump,” Polo said. “The long jump came out of nowhere. I just decided I wanted to jump farther. I just got that mentality.”

Polo set a school record in the long jump with a mark of 16-8 at subsections last week. She went 16-3.5 on a Thursday that saw temperatures climb into the upper 80s in the afternoon. While Polo isn’t tall, saying “she can get away with 5-8” on a good day, she’s a tiger in the way she attacks the hurdles and jumps. She’s the proverbial gamer. After the 300 hurdles — an exhausting race — she was asked why she wasn’t going to get her medal.

“I have to long jump,” she said, barely audible between heavy breaths as she made a beeline to the pit.

Polo is going to compete in track and field at Hillsdale College, an NCAA Division II program in Hillsdale in southern Michigan. She’s a great story, coming from a small program in a small town.

While not big on numbers, the Polar Bears have some talent. Junior Kaden McNiff qualified for the state meet by winning the triple jump and finishing second to Moose Lake-Willow River’s Carter Johnson in the long jump.

“A lot of teams come in big buses,” one area track coach said. “They come in a car.”

Polo single-handedly placed the Polar Bears fifth in the girls team standings with 40 points. Esko edged Proctor to win its first section title since 2012, 93.4 points to 90, while Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin edged Esko 82-78.5 to take the boys team title.

“Neva is one I’ll miss very much,” Larva said. “She’s just so fun to coach.”

Two years ago, Polo qualified for the state meet in the 100 hurdles and triple jump but didn’t place. There’s no doubt about her goals this year.

“I want a ribbon. I want a medal,” Polo said. “They’re huge, and I want one. I want to place in the top nine and stand on that podium.”

Proctor’s Morgan Binsfield glances back to check the distance to Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Liz Nelson (left) and Kate Nelson in the 1,600-meter race during the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. Binsfield won the event. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Proctor’s Morgan Binsfield glances back to check the distance to Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Liz Nelson (left) and Kate Nelson in the 1,600-meter race during the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. Binsfield won the event. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Best of the rest

There were so many great performances Thursday, where do you start?

Proctor senior Morgan Binsfield had a hand in four wins: the 800, 1,600, high jump and as part of the Rails’ winning 1,600 relay after a fun duel with South Ridge, believed to be the Panthers' first loss of the season.

Binsfield is looking at running track and cross country either at Missouri-Kansas City or South Carolina-Aiken. She admits she has the bad habit of looking back down the stretch.

“I try not to do that, but I could feel another runner behind me, and I just wanted to know where she was,” Binsfield said. “And I trust my kick.”

Proctor’s 400 relay consisted of Binsfield, Hope Carlson, Makenna Kleiman and the anchor, senior Courtney Werner. Werner and Kleiman also finished 1-2 in the 400 open with both setting PRs in 58.77 and 1:02.30, respectively.

Werner and Kleiman also teamed with Kelsey Tangen and Jaime Haugen on the Rails’ state-qualifying 800 relay.

Werner, a North Dakota track recruit, is the twin brother of another good track athlete, John Werner. Kleiman, meanwhile, is a snocross racer in her first year out for track.

“Makenna and I are really good friends, and she decided to come to a practice, and we’ve been training together ever since,” Werner said.

Kleiman keeps getting faster. She got second in the 400 running on the inside lane, when the top seeds are always in the middle. That’s how much she’s improving.

“I should have gone out for track earlier, but oh well,” Kleiman said, shrugging her shoulders.

“I was so happy for her,” Binsfield said of watching Kleiman pull off the stunner in the 400.

Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke leads GNK’s Geno Uhrbom in the boy’s 1,600-meter race at the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. The pair finished the race one-two. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke leads GNK’s Geno Uhrbom in the boy’s 1,600-meter race at the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. The pair finished the race one-two. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Stocke sets record

Rock Ridge sophomore Cameron Stocke won the 800 in 1:55.38, breaking the section record of 1:57.27 set by Crosby-Ironton’s Sam Anderson in 2002, prompting one onlooker to remark, “He’s a machine.”

Stocke missed breaking the 1,600 record by a half second, winning in 4:17.56. Ely’s Larry Berkner holds the record with a converted time of 4:17.0 from 1975 as races were in yards then.

Stocke took off like a bullet in the 800.

“I know I generally run better with a faster start,” Stocke said, adding that most records are set with a fast lap first, then a negative split after that.

Those are Stocke’s first section wins. He has been in the shadows of perennial state champ Geno Uhrbom, but Stocke’s duel with GNK senior never materialized Thursday as Uhrbom, who won the 3,200, was conserving energy for the Titans’ 1,600 relay.

Running the anchor leg in the 1,600 relay, Uhrbom got the baton and it was like he was shot out of a cannon, bursting past Proctor’s Evan Bowen on the backstretch.

“It was so close, and as soon as I got the baton, I was like — go!” Uhrbom said. “I was going to try to full-on sprint the entire thing. I tried kicking it at the end, but after the mile and two mile earlier in the day, I just didn’t have it.”

Uhrbom was asked what his split was. He smiled and said, “Probably pretty fast.”

Bowen reeled Uhrbom in and pulled back in front as the team of Zach Schnabel, Caleb Mattison, John Werner and Bowen won in 3:31.28, with GNK second in 3:31.93. Bowen, visibly spent afterward, ran the split of his life at 51 seconds.

“He passed me on the backstretch — I took that personal,” Bowen said, drawing a laugh from his teammates, parents and fans.

Other double winners Thursday included Two Harbors junior Matson Granmo (100, 200), Mesabi East senior and Minnesota Duluth football recruit Gavin Skelton (110 and 300 hurdles) and Esko senior Gage Stankiewicz (shot put, discus). Stankiewicz, 6-foot-4.5 and 255 pounds, has been sick the last few days, but he proved that even a sick Stankiewicz is better than most.

“I know I could have done better today, but it was hot and I had a really bad fever last night,” he said. “But I’ll be ready for state.”

Esko’s Zoie Johnson puts the shot during the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. She won the event. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Esko’s Zoie Johnson puts the shot during the Section 7A track and field meet in Cloquet on Thursday, June 10, 2021. She won the event. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Track and Field

Section 7A Championship

At Cloquet

Thursday’s Results

Boys

Teams

1. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 82; 2. Esko, 78.5; 3. Moose Lake-Willow River, 70; 4. Rock Ridge, 68.75; 5. Proctor, 50; 6. Mesabi East, 41; 7. South Ridge, 39; 8. Crosby-Ironton, 38; 9. Barnum, 32; 10. Two Harbors, 31; 11. International Falls, 29.75; 12. Mcgregor, 24; 13. Duluth Marshall, 19; 14. Floodwood, 18; 15. (tie) Bigfork and Carlton, 11; 17. Silver Bay, 10; 18. (tie) Aitkin, Ely and Cromwell-Wright, 8; 21. Wrenshall, 7; 22. Deer River/Northland, 6; 23. (tie) Lakeview Christian Academy and Mountain Iron-Buhl, 5; 25. Chisholm, 1.

Individuals (State Qualifiers)

100 — 1. Matson Granmo, TH, 11.60 seconds; 2. Kaden Robbins, MLWR, 11.72; 200 — 1. Granmo, TH, 23.90; 2. Robbins, MLWR, 23.92; 400 — 1. Taevon Wells, GNK, 52.00; 2. Evan Bowen, Proc., 52.61; 800 — 1. Cameron Stocke, RR, 1:55.38 (Section 7A meet record); 2. Isaac Swanson, TH, 1:58.63; 1,600 — 1. Stocke, RR, 4:17.56; 2. Geno Uhrbom, GNK, 4:31.70; 3,200 — 1. Uhrbom, GNK, 10:12.50; 2. Noah Foster, CW, 10:26.69; 110 hurdles — 1. Gavin Skelton, ME, 16.76; 2. Jajuan Hall, GNK, 16.77; 300 hurdles — 1. Skelton, ME, 41.70; 2. Tony Cummins, SR, 42.06; 400 relay — 1. SR (Isaiah Foster, Weston Stroschein, Cummins, Tyler Anderson), 44.91; 800 relay — 1. MLWR (Jackson Thompson, Grant Pettit, Jaxsyn Schmidt, Robbins), 1:34.37; 2. RR (Ethan Zlimen, Karson Sortedahl, Jake Burress, Josh Creer-Oberstar), 1:34.38; 1,600 relay — 1. Proctor (Zach Schnabel, Caleb Mattison, John Werner, Evan Bowen), 3:31.28; 2. GNK (Isaiah Austad, Bodie Jorgenson, Wells, Uhrbom), 3:31.93; 3,200 relay — 1. MLWR (Maverick Koecher, Joseph Mikrot, Zach Youngs, Sam Stadin), 8:20.85; 2. GNK (Weston Marx, Benjamin Plackner, Daniel Olson, Michael Butterfield), 8:26.78; high jump — 1. Creer-Oberstar, RR, 6-4; 2. Carter Zezulka, Esko, 5-11; pole vault — 1. Jackson Thompson, MLWR, 13-0; 2. Nick Nierenhausen, CI, 12-6; long jump — 1. Carter Johnson, MLWR, 20-4.5; 2. Kaden McNiff, Flood., 20-1; triple jump — 1. McNiff, Flood., 42-9.75; 2. Harrison Nistler, McG., 40-3.25; shot put — 1. Gage Stankiewicz, 49-5.5; 2. Cody Jantzen, IF, 47-8; discus — 1. Stankiewicz, Esko, 166-4; 2. Deekon Anvid, SR, 162-4.

Girls

Teams

1. Esko, 93.4; 2. Proctor, 90; 3. Mesabi East, 71; 4. Rock Ridge, 48; 5. Floodwood, 40; 6. International Falls INFA 39.9; 7. Two Harbors, 32; 8. Crosby-Ironton, 31; 9. (tie) Mountain Iron-Buhl and Duluth Marshall, 27; 11. Deer River/Northland, 24.7; 12. Barnum, 24; 12. South Ridge, 24; 14. (tie) Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin and Moose Lake-Willow River, 22; 16. Ely, 20; 17. Cromwell-Wright, 17; 18. Aitkin, 15; 19. Silver Bay, 12; 20. Mcgregor, 10; 21. Lakeview Christian Academy, 6; 22. Chisholm, 3; 23. Wrenshall, 2.

Individuals (State Qualifiers)

100 — 1. Emily Rengo, Esko, 13.07; 2. Elli Theel, ME, 13.21; 200 — 1. Ava Fink, RR, 26.87; 2. Kaitlyn McConnell, Esko, 26.89; 400 — 1. Courtney Werner, Proc., 58.77; 2. Makenna Kleiman, Proc., 1:02.30; 800 — 1. Morgan Binsfield, Proc., 2:26.55; 2. Ingrid Hexum, ESKO, 2:27.34; 1,600 — 1. Binsfield, Proc., 5:23.96; 2. Kate Nelson, MIB, 5:24.80; 3,200 — 1. Lizzy Harnell, Proc., 12:13.53; 2. Liz Nelson, MIB,12:29.53; 100 hurdles — 1. Neva Polo, Flood., 16.34; 2. Gwendolyn Lilly, ESKO, 16.86; 300 hurdles — 1. Polo, Flood, 47.10; 2. Merlea Mrozik, DM, 47.80; 400 relay — 1. ME (Hannah Hannuksela, Kora Forsline, Kailey Fossell, Elli Theel), 51.44; 2. Esko (Rengo, McConnell, Allison Thornton, Gwendolyn Lilly), 52.21; 800 relay — 1. ME (Kiarra Moehlenbrock, Hannuksela, Lindsey Baribeau, K. Forsline), 1:48.12; 2. Proc. (Kelsey Tangen, Jaime Haugen, Kleiman, Werner), 1:48.81; 1,600 relay — 1. Proc. (Hope Carlson, Binsfield, Kleiman, Werner), 4:09.85; 2. SR (Kenna Ridge, Jaden Ellefson, Jillian Sajdak, Ana Ridge), 4:12.51; 3,200 relay — 1. TH (Cedar Gordon, Grace Swanson, Lamar Gordon, Autumn Smith), 10:10.38; 2. ME (Aaliyah Sahr, Olivia Forsline, Lydia Skelton, Aubree Skelton), 10:14.13; high jump — 1. Binsfield, Proc., 4-11; 2. Allison Thornton, Esko, 4-10; pole vault — 1. Hayley Jones, CI, 8-6; 2. Skyla Thompson, MLWR, 8-6; long jump — 1. Polo, Flood., 16-3.5; 2. Brooke Doran, Barn., 15-10.5; triple jump — 1. Polo, Flood., 33-11.5; 2. Elli Jankila, RR, 33-.25; shot put — 1. Zoie Johnson, Esko, 37-0; 2. Emmalee Oviatt, GNK, 36-.5; discus — 1. Elle Ridge, SR, 118-11; 2. Johnson, Esko, 116-2.

This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. June 14 to correct the title of the Girls Team results. It was originally posted at 9:54 p.m. June 10. The News Tribune regrets the error.