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Cloquet relays get high approval ratings

Esko’s Haley Sonnema makes it over the bar in the high jump during the Cloquet Relays Friday. Jana Peterson/ 1 / 3
track Cloquet Isaac B plus esko Trenton Menor grade 10 mlwr Nick Furey 3C Cloquet’s Isaac Boedigheimer takes the lead over Esko’s Trenton Menor and the Rebels’ Nick Furey in the boys 4 x 800 relay Friday. Cloquet won that race. Jana Peterson/ 2 / 3
Cloquet’s Kelly Lorenz hands off to Alysha Anderson in the 4 x 800 relay race during Friday’s Cloquet Relays, a unique multi-team competition where every race is a relay and some of them involve hay bales. The Cloquet girls team — which also included Anja Maijala and Erin Turner — won with a time of 10:24.5. Jana Peterson/ 3 / 3

Former Pierz High School sprinter Tony Andres still runs sometimes while the now 28-year-old coaches his Moose Lake-Willow River track team at daily practices.

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Practice paid off last week as Andres, fellow assistant coach Joe McDonnell and senior duo Jon Evenson and Hannah Race ran to their third consecutive coaches relay title victory at last Friday’s Cloquet Relays at Bromberg Field.

The coaches relay — by far the atypical meet’s most popular event — is a 400-meter dash of fun. While it features two athletes, the best part is watching the coaches get to run.

Running the oval in 48.97 seconds, Andres, McDonnell (also 28) and the Rebels were impressively fast, not worrying about pulled muscles, but defending their title.

“We’re lucky to still be pretty young,” Andres admitted.

“They looked like a bunch of 22-year-olds built to play football,” said Cloquet sprint Coach Jeff Leno, with a laugh.

Laughs are inevitable at the meet itself. An annual event now in its fifth year under creator, coordinator and Cloquet Coach Tim Prosen, the Cloquet Relays is a relaxed afternoon of quirky opportunities for athletes to try something different.

Different events like team medleys, co-ed relays — also including ones with throwers and pole vaulters — and the unmistakable steeplechase over a track dotted by hay bales.

Prosen said six schools competed last week, including ML-WR, Esko, Carlton, Proctor, Deer River and the host Lumberjacks — which also won the Section 7AA boys’ True Team title in Hibbing Tuesday, while the girls placed second.

While results were secondary at last week’s unique meet, the goal — including Prosen’s — is to award as many T-shirts to the winners and participating schools as he possible can.

“I was happy everyone went away with T-shirts,” said Prosen about a meet unlike any in the area. “That’s my goal as host. To make sure everyone has a good and fun experience.”

Cloquet senior shot put and discus thrower Michaela Sunnarborg had fun she said, but missed the throwers relay.

“I had to get my nails done for prom,” she said, laughing.

Cloquet freshman Conner Denman meanwhile, ran six events, saying the coaches relay was one of his favorites.

“It’s always a fun time,” Denman said. “Now you always have something to laugh about when talking to your coaches.”

Esko Coach Gary Beaudot has wisely never run the event, admitting “48-year-olds and sprinting don’t go hand-in-hand.”

Even Leno, 30, needed a half hour to warm up before.

“I was nervous about pulling a hamstring,” said Leno, a former Cloquet sprinter. “I’m no spring chicken anymore.”