Cloquet is off to a running start
TRACK AND FIELD
Cloquet High School's largest-participation sport is back, and it promises to be a special season for them.
Head Coach Tim Prosen's track team has more than 100 athletes getting ready for the outdoor season — which kicks off in earnest on Saturday — and has several state contenders ready to show their skills.
"We're in a great spot numbers-wise," Prosen said. "We're consistent with where we have been, but what we are finding is that the talent gets a little better every year, the kids have higher expectations and they seem hungrier. And for these kids, that's saying a lot. It speaks well of our coaches and of our kids."
Unlike some teams, Prosen's Lumberjacks have selected captains by event rather than overall captains. Emma Lenarz and Evan Erickson are the captains among the throwers, with Erickson a genuine threat to win a state title in the discus.
"Evan is significantly stronger than he was last year and he's one of the very best there is," Lenarz said. Erickson finished fourth in the state in the discus last year with a toss of 162 feet, 7 inches and is hungry to do better this year. Defending state champion Jake Kubiatowicz of North St. Paul is back, though, to give Erickson the highest quality target.
Erickson suffered an injury playing football but didn't play hockey this winter and is healed up for his senior track season.
"He's so locked in on track," Prosen said. "He's able to clean-and-jerk 300 pounds now and he's a lot stronger than he was last year."
Junior Aahsan Maigag and sophomore Kendra Kelley are the sprint captains, with Kelley coming off a ninth-place finish at state last spring in the 100 meters and a sixth-place finish in the 200 meters. Senior Maddie Kayser captains the high jumpers.
Among the distance runners, senior Anja Maijala is a captain, as one-fourth of the 4x800 relay team that took sixth in the state. Seniors Jessica Stone and Mikayla Baker from that team graduated but junior Erin Turner is back.
Seniors Isaac Boedigheimer, Parker Sinkkonen and 800-meter state entrant Conner Denman are distance captains for the boys. That part of the program is led by Arne Maijala, last season's section assistant coach of the year.
Senior Sylvie Dieters captains the long jumpers, sophomores Peyton Schneberger and Eli Benson captain the pole vaulters and senior Jay Boder and sophomore Kelly Lorenz lead the hurdlers.
"We don't have a lot of seniors for a program our size," Prosen said. "What we do have is good balance and a lot of hard workers. They will work very hard and they show up to practice knowing they are going to work hard. They don't back down."
That often leads to pleasant surprises on meet days for Prosen.
"Who knows who will pop out?" he said. "We get nice surprises when people work hard. We have some distance runners who can turn some heads. We have all kinds of surprises."
Last season's Lake Superior Conference meet turned into the now-traditional battle between Cloquet and Hermantown, with Superior thrown in for good measure.
"Our goal every year is to win the conference and qualify for the team state meet," Prosen said. "Those goals are consistent. We won the conference last year in both boys and girls, the guys went to state and the girls didn't, and we want to get back there. The ball is in their court and I'm confident in them."
The team had an indoor meet at UWS Saturday and will compete in its first outdoor meet of the season at Rockford Thursday, with an indoor meet at UWS on Saturday followed by the regular outdoor season.
Whether or not the season is a success, Prosen knows that the character of his athletes will show through and that's another reason to smile.
"I get so many compliments on the character of my athletes, how supporting and positive they are, how they support our team and others," he said. "Last year after a meet I walked out of a McDonald's that I brought the team to, the (store) manager chased me down to say thank you for how great the kids were. When you bring 80 kids to a McDonald's, the coach doesn't usually hear that. That's stuff that really makes me proud."