June 3, 2015 at 3:12 p.m.

Vikings boys track miss section championship by one point

Vikings boys track miss section championship by one point
Vikings boys track miss section championship by one point

They already won the True Team section championship and the Mississippi 8 Conference championship, they just needed the Section 7AA championship for the trifecta. But, Elk River blocked them by the slimmest of margins and sent them to a second place finish.

It was still a great meet for the Vikings, and as individuals, seven will be making the trip to Hamline University for the state tournament, and they’ll be joined by two girls.

The multi-event qualifiers for the boys were Arik Steele and Connor Martineau. Steele defended his section hurdling championships, winning both events and heading into the state tournament as one of the favorites to earn a championship in the 110 high hurdles. Steele is the sixth seed in the 110 and the 13th seed in the 300, but he turns on the jets when it comes to the state tournament and will be near the top after the meet is over.

He also qualified as part of the 4x200 relay team, a quartet that is going to the state meet for the second year in a row. Steele is joined by two runners who were there last year, Max Southbloom and Matt Marrin, and the newcomer Kennedy Ashley. The foursome finished in second place in section and are seeded 13th in the state tournament.

Martineau had himself a heck of a section meet. The senior won the high jump and the long jump, and in fact is the top seed in the state in the high jump. He leapt 6’7”, which is in rare air for the event. Last year’s state champion won with a jump of 6’6”. If Martineau can clear the height again, he has a good shot at winning a state title.

In the long jump, he won the meet by eight inches  with a distance of 22’6” and is tied for the fourth seed in the state.

In the triple jump, Jack Klun finished second in the section, and that propelled him to his first career state tournament berth as a senior. His seed mark in the state tournament is 42’8”.

Michael Hensch is another first time state tournament entrant, and it’s in his first season in the sport. Hensch won the shot put event by a wide margin, chucking the shot 53’6”, which was nearly three feet farther than Evan Erickson of Cloquet. Hensch is seeded sixth in the state in the shot put event.

As a team, the Vikes tallied 93 points while Elk River had 94. “We had lots of PR’s for the two day meet and we were very happy with the athletes that qualified for the state meet,” Head Coach Tom Kingsland said. “Falling short by one point in the team race was a bit hard to take.  Now we are focused on the last meet of the year and looking to put some North Branch Boys on the podium at the State meet at Hamline University.”

Hensch and Klun’s field events will be on Friday, June 5 at 9 a.m. and the track prelims will all be on that same day running on a schedule.  Steele will run the 110 hurdles at 9:52 a.m., the 4x200 will be on the track and 10:40, and then Steele will be back on the track for the 300 hurdles at 11:44. Finals for the track events are on Saturday, June 6. Martineau’s long jump and high jump events will both take place on Saturday. The senior will be a busy man and will have to be moving between the two events as they go on at the same time.

Girls
The girls team got two state entrants from their team, and both should threaten the top spots in their respective events.

Rhianna Rinke is making her third consecutive appearance, which is incredible as a 10th grader.

The diminutive distance runner had a great section meet, besting her area rival, Emma Benner of Forest Lake, in the 1,600 meter run.

Rinke out kicked Benner at the end of the mile race, and finished with a personal best and section record 5:00.94 to win the event.
Benner came in with a time of 5:02.78. 

“I asked her what got into her and she said, ‘Norm it’s my birthday!’ So we are going to have a week long birthday for her, keeping the  mojo going into the state meet this weekend,” Head Coach Norm Nagel said.

The time puts the birthday girl in the top five seed times in the Class AA state meet.

In the 3,200, Benner got her revenge, winning the event with a 10:59.44. Rinke still qualified for the state tournament though, when she came in second with a time of 11:21.44.

In the pole vault, Mikayla Johnson will be looking for another high podium finish this year. She won her third straight Section 7AA with a meet-record jump of 11’6”, which puts her as the fifth seed at state after finishing third last year. Hoever, she wasn’t pushed terribly high in sections, as second place was a foot lower than her, so her jumps will go up a notch as the competition does.

“Overall, the girls contributed to a great day of track and field for North Branch,” Nagel said. “We were going into the meet a little banged up and our underclassmen really performed well. With the weather conditions being more favorable than last years, the girls came home with a lot of PRs.”

As a team, the Vikings finished in 10th place with 39.5 points. Forest Lake won the meet with 106.5, clobbering the field as second place Andover finishing with 66 points.

Rinke will open both days with her runs. Her 3,200 meter run will be at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 5, while the 1,600 meter run will be at the same time on Saturday, June 6. Johnson’s pole vaulting will also begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Nagel took a moment to thank all the parents and fans that came and supported the team throughout the year. “It’s been nice to see a lot of fans cheering for our teams,” he said.

The team cheering may be done for the year, but there is still plenty of individuals ready to carry the North Branch banner on to state.


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