Track and Field Roundup
CLOQUET—Growing up, good friends Anja Maijala and Kelly Lorenz would go to figure skating lessons together, learning how to be exact with every move they performed.
Performing now as Cloquet varsity track and field teammates, the same rule applies, as the pair of teenage distance runners have been an exact model of success in a Lumberjacks’ program that isn’t afraid to start building young.
Maijala, a freshman who turned 15 years old on the first day of track practice in March, is a one- and two-mile run extraordinaire, both individually and in relays. Lorenz, meanwhile, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, won the one-mile event Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She also triple jumps, high jumps and runs in relays.
The two are just a small part of what 10th-year Cloquet Coach Tim Prosen said were 140-plus track athletes in grades 9-12 on top of about 30 more from the middle school.
“These young kids are quickly stepping up,” Prosen said late Monday after practice. “Sprinters, runners, throwers — they’ve very legitimate and are holding their own just fine.”
Freshman Isaac Boedigheimer, a state cross country qualifier last fall, is one of the finest runners around. He, along with classmates Conner Denman and John Waltjer, help propel a youth-loaded boys distance team, as well as sturdy-armed freshman shot put and discus thrower, Evan Erickson.
“We have a strong younger class,” Boedigheimer said. “We’re very confident and are going to work hard to build a big brick wall for when the seniors leave. We’ve had success, but we want Cloquet to be that much better in the future.”
Maijala is looking to better herself in the near future, too. Already a state cross country entrant in the fall and Nordic ski state participant over winter, the 5-foot-4 distance runner is seeking the ultra-rare state three-peat perhaps come June.
But for Maijala, already in her second season as the girls’ distance team captain, pushing others to success means most.
“I just want people to have fun with the sport,” said Maijala, whose father, Arne, was a five-time state track participant for the former Cloquet-Esko cooperative program in the years past. “I want to get everyone excited about track.”
That surely is the case with Lorenz, who admitted there are afternoons where Anja Maijala will begin practice if the coaches are a little late, serving as role model for all around.
“She’s always been so willing to help me and always gives me advice,” Lorenz said of her close friend and teammate. “She’s just really inspiring to me. I look up to her.”
Esko is always a team that people are looking up to in the point totals and, like their neighbor Cloquet, they have a healthy amount of youngsters on their talented squad.
According to girls Coach Scott Arntson, there are 80-plus athletes in grades 9-12 in the program, including younger students like freshman hurdler and pole vaulter Ava Gonsorowski — also a state varsity girls basketball starter — who help a lot.
“We have some pretty good athletes,” said Arntson, who coached his Eskomos to the state Class A True Team title last year. “They have a good mindset and are willing to work.”
As Arntson said, energy isn’t an issue with his youth, Gonsorowski added they’re always looking for a challenge.
“We have to be well-prepared,” Gonsorowski said. “But just to carry on that Esko tradition of track would be cool.”
In Cromwell-Wright, young athletes are a must, said senior runner Allie Cahoon, who remembers her days as a seventh-grade relay runner. Nowadays, her younger sister, Amber, and little brother, Cameron, are with the program.
“At Cromwell we have, like, no one, so it helps out,” the elder Cahoon said with a laugh. “I was so nervous, though.”
Yet, nerves haven’t gotten to runners like South Ridge sophomore Gracelynn Otis, who has multiple state meet trips under her belt.
“You can kind of tell,” Coach Jeremy Polson said of the younger kids, “but there are always those ones that surprise you.”