June 10, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
All the hard work, long hours and buckets of sweat put into this season track and field season paid off for six North Branch boys last week, as each one of them punch their tickets to the state meet at Hamline University this Friday and Saturday.
The penultimate section meet started out on a beautiful Wednesday day, with a slight breeze blowing in, but no glaring, humid sun smiling down on the athletes.
Two Vikings earned their way to the state meet on the first day, as most of the races were just qualifying for the section final on Saturday. However, Zack Smith and Joe Klun got their field events out of the way on Wednesday, and both ended up with seeds to the state tourney.
Smith was locked in a battle with two fellow juniors in the pole vault. Forest Lake's Tyler Massey and Tyler Colling were both pushing Smith to higher limits, and it worked out well for all three of them. All three attempted 13'11", which was season bests for both Smith and Colling. All three juniors promptly cleared the bar and moved the stakes higher, to 14'3".
Although all three had already qualified for state with their height, Smith and Massey cleared the lofty 14'3" goal, while Colling finally ran out of steam before clearing the 14' foot mark.
Neither Massey or Smith could clear the next level, but the trio will be back at it in the vaulting pit this week, pushing each other to even higher limits perhaps. Smith's 14'3" is a new North Branch school record.
Klun, on the other hand, edged out Zach Roy of Andover to earn his way down to Hamline. Billy Phousonghouang of Duluth Denfeld was the runaway winner of the triple jump with a leap of 42'9", but Klun and Roy were battling for the second state berth from the section.
Klun bested Roy by just over two inches. Klun went 41'7" while Roy went 41'5". As a senior, Klun earned his first trip to the state meet this year.
Charlie Fernow used a career best throw to almost upset his way to the state tourney. Seeded eighth heading into the shot put event, Fernow threw a career-best 50'6" while six of the seeds in front of him stumbled. The winner was never in doubt as sophomore Tom Anderson of Andover threw 55'8", and no one was close to him at all. But, Fernow's state plans were foiled when Duluth Denfeld junior Cortez Ham dug deep to throw his career best of 51'3". That distance stuck in second place, and Fernow closed out his North Branch career just a hair away from Hamline.
With a multitude of athletes competing in the finals, plus the long jump and relays to be ran on Saturday, North Branch still had plenty of state tourney hopes by Saturday.
The first three state entries went to familiar face Brian Grand. Grand ran a 14.85 to win the 110 meter hurdles, a 39.27 to win the 300 meter hurdles and jumped 20'7" to finish in second in the long jump.
Grand, along with three other teammates, missed another opportunity to go to state in the 4x200 meter relay. With two bad handoffs of the three, and one particularily tough one that happened outside of the handoff box and got the team disqualified. Even with the flawed handoffs, North Branch nearly won the race.
Although things seemed dreary for Justin Murray and Ken Broden, the two seniors on the relay team who hadn't qualified for state yet, they quickly perked up for both competitors.
Broden blazed through a 50.94 400 meter dash, good for second all time in North Branch history, and second in the section meet, which qualified Broden for the state tournament.
Murray got his redemption in the last event of the meet, the 4x400 meter relay. With every other event wrapped up, and only one more spot to be claimed in the state tournament, Murray, Klun, Tony Ceroll and Broden combined for a school record 3:28.75 in the relay event, and the time bested second place Grand Rapids by just under one second. The North Branch foursome finished in 3:28.75 while the Thunderhawk quartet came in at 3:29.63.
"We've had a great track season, and we're not done yet," Head Coach Brian Hasleiet said after his boys' impressive performance.
Near misses in the state meet for both North Branch and Chisago Lakes boys were aplenty.
In the 100 and 200 meter dashes, CL junior Cory Lushanko wasn't far off of Hamline. He finished third in the 100 meter and fourth in the 200 meter.
Murray almost made it in the 300 meter hurdles, finishing in fourth place, just over a second out of the qualifying time.
CL senior Riley Myers finished fourth in the high jump, only three inches out of second place and a trip to the state tourney.
Junior Viking Ben Besch cleared 13'6" in the pole vault, but with the stiff competition, that placed him in fifth place.
Sophomore Wildcat Trevor Thurnbeck finishing in third place in the long jump, just four inches behind Grand, who finished in second place in the event.
North Branch senior John Morrison, who went to state in the discus throw last year, was unseated by three underclassmen as he finished in fourth place with a throw of 138'4".
The Viking boys as a team finished with 93 points, which put them in second place behind Forest Lake, who won the meet with 136 points. Andover finished third with 78 points.
Chisago Lakes finished in eighth place out of the 15 teams with 34 points.
Although no girls from either North Branch or Chisago Lakes were able to qualify for the state meet, there was plenty of close calls throughout the first and second day.
In the 400 meter dash, North Branch's Mari Gozzi finishing in 1:01.47, which put her in sixth place overall.
Mary Cross and Kaylee Ryan, both of Chisago Lakes, then posted back-to-back sixth place finishes in the 1,600 meter run and 3,200 meter run.
Freshman Viking Sheralynn Linkert wasn't far off of the state time when she finished in fifth place in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 47.32 seconds.
In the high jump, Viking freshman Gina Amundson tied for seventh place with three other girls by clearing 4'10".
The closest call for state on the girls side came from North Branch junior Teagan Anderson. Anderson cleared 9'11" in the pole vault, but she finished third, bested by two seniors, Taylor Brett of Forest Lake and Nicole Vincent of St. Francis.
Chisago Lakes sophomore Zoe Hansen cracked the top eight in the triple jump, finished in eighth place with a leap of 33'5".
North Branch's Katie Helbig placed fourth on the first day in the discus event, throwing the disc 107'.
As a team, North Branch finished in seventh place in the 15-team meet with 34.75 points. Chisago Lakes finishing in 14th place with 11 points. Elk River won the girls half of the meet with 110 points.
To the right, Chisago Lakes' Cory Lushanko flies through the 100 meter dash. Lushanko finished third in the event, just missing out on state, and fourth in the 200 meter dash.
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