Track and Field Roundup
After committing to play Division I football at the University of North Dakota next fall, Willow River High School senior Jake Disterhaupt admitted he was hesitant about returning for track.
"My dad's a track guy, though," said Disterhaupt of his father, Mark, who set the 400-meter dash school record at Moose Lake in 1982 and held it for 30 years. "My family insisted that I should go run."
Disterhaupt, a 6-foot-1, 202-pound football running back and basketball guard known for his breakaway speed, was on both of Moose Lake-Willow River's state 800-meter and 1,600-meter relay teams a year ago. He and fellow seniors Ben Moonen, Michael Pender and Isaac Coil all return to a pair of the fastest relays in program history, and are determined to add to last season's sprint toward State.
"Moose Lake is usually a football town, but I think we put ourselves on there for track," said Moonen, the kicker and safety on the football team each fall. "Going to State was so enjoyable with these guys. We want to get back again and bring as many people as we can."
Moonen, a two-time 800-meter run state qualifier and anchor of the 1,600-meter relay team, is confident he and his teammates can return, but they'll have to do so without Josh Cisar, who graduated.
"Josh handed off to me -- his times were phenomenal," said Moonen of Cisar, who broke Mark Disterhaupt's 400-meter school record last spring and finished runner-up at State. "An individual like that is tough to replace, but we'll just have to run even faster."
Third-year Coach Tony Andres said the girls are getting faster, too. He said returning runners Holly Mattison, Hannah Race, Haley Johnson, Mackenzi Louzek and Nicole Tekippe, aided by newcomers Shaelyn Halverson and Taylor Miller add up to a team with balance and versatility.
Andres noted not many come more versatile than his senior boys: Moonen runs distance, Disterhaupt sprints and Pender hurdles -- all at State last year -- while Coil can also be a multipurpose threat.
"Those four guys bring a lot to the table -- they all just work really hard," said Andres. "And I'm more of a team-guy myself anyway."
"People look at track as an individual sport," added Disterhaupt, "but we're it in for each other. We enjoy each other's company."
Joined with several cooperative schools, South Ridge has high numbers, much like nearby Cloquet and Esko. Panthers Coach Jeremy Paulson, now in his ninth season, noted Gracelynn Otis, Emma Blom, and Cherry's Breena Alfredson will head the girls and Bill Redding, Colton Peterson and North Woods' Noah Squires will pace the boys.
"We have about 80 kids," said Polson, whose team doesn't have a track -- although the new baseball and softball complex is opening this spring -- at the Culver-based school. "But we have a solid group."
Cromwell-Wright is grouped with Barnum, Carlton and Wrenshall as a smaller Polar League program. Coach Dave Foster, in his 13th year, said he has 45 athletes, including veteran boys Nick Koenig and Mitch Talley, as well as Allie Cahoon and upstart Andrea Hakamaki.
"I looked out and saw a 4-foot snow drift," said Foster. "We get outside, but I can't say I remember the snow being around this long."