Spring track and field preview: Track numbers escalate in Cloquet, EskoThomas Udenberg, now a 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior, helps anchor the Lumberjacks’ largest track and field team under ninth-year Coach Tim Prosen, who estimated 140 students are participating in the ever-increasing program this year.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Even as a sizeable eighth-grader throwing shot put and discus five years ago, Cloquet’s Thomas Udenberg — along with his teammates — has had the time to grow much bigger.
Udenberg, now a 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior, helps anchor the Lumberjacks’ largest track and field team under ninth-year Coach Tim Prosen, who estimated 140 students are participating in the ever-increasing program this year.
"It's the biggest, strongest, deepest — and best combination of boys and girls — of a team I’ve had,” Prosen said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s good, but that’s a lot of kids to put in one gym!”
In the gym for over a month now, Prosen noted practices have been creative, with his athletes running on nearby streets and using the school’s hallways and staircases, as some equipment remains unusable due to what feels like an everlasting winter.
“The weather isn’t getting them down — they’re focused,” said Prosen, explaining the team ran through Pinehurst Park Tuesday. “We’re excited and have worked hard. I think they are all looking at having a really good year.”
For that to happen, the Cloquet girls will feed off experienced seniors Emily Rikkola and Emily Wangen, while speedster Mikayla Baker, a freshman, and eighth-grade distance runner Anja Maijala will also contribute.
“We’ve all come in pretty well in shape and are ready to go,” said Rikkola, a mid-distance sprinter. “We’re balanced and everyone has been working hard. We’re ready to go.”
Upperclassmen Aaron Peterson, Dylan Marvel and Erik Swanson all help the boys go, along with teammates Brad Butcher, Richmond Seju and basketball players Isaac Gilchrist, Aaron Johnson and Marquez Evans.
“My eighth-grade year we had some good talent, and now I’m starting to see that spruce up again,” said Udenberg, highlighting both team’s dominance indoors last Friday at the University of Wisconsin Superior. “We have performers. Every time I looked up at UWS, we were always in the lead.”
Esko knows a thing or two about leading, as both the boys and girls programs have won the Polar League almost every year for the past decade. Despite coaching changes, the Eskomos are, again, the easy favorite this season.
Longtime girls coach Tim Lindquist decided to step away from the sport, after leading the program to a multitude of state meets, including the most recent back-to-back state girls True Team championships in 2011 and 2012.
“He’s definitely someone who is near and dear to my heart — he’s been a part of my life for so long,” said Esko senior Marisa Shady, who has qualified and been coached by Lindquist through all 11 of her state meets in both cross country and track and field in a six-year varsity career. “We miss him, and things are different, but we still have the same mindset. This is just a new adventure for our track program.”
Shady said she’s already grown closer to new Coach Scott Arntson, a former state hurdler from Moorhead High School, who played quarterback at Concordia University-St. Paul before coaching track in Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With athletes like Shady, her younger sister, Erika, Kallyn Knutson and Kailee Kiminski — all members of last fall’s state cross country championship team — along with Dallas Cossalter, Erika Olson, Katie Beckman and Hailey Salo, Arntson, an Esko math teacher, is excited and goal-oriented.
“Every event is filled with a girl who can qualify for State,” he said. “If we win a meet, we win a meet. The main focus is getting the kids to compete at their fullest potential.”
Gary Beaudot, Esko’s boys coach for almost a decade, said his team welcomes back state returnees Ben Bisel, Riley Mudek and Jacob Tucker, along with distance dictators Ben Hanson, Joey Johnson and Matt Rengo, but said it’s the nine coaches helping roughly 115 students who are most beneficial.
“It’s a lot of kids to manage, but our coaching staff has a wealth of knowledge,” Beaudot said. “We’re certainly going to miss Tim, but hopefully we can take off where he left off.”