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Rebels are off to the races

The Rebels track team is living proof that good things really do come in small packages.

With about 65 athletes out for the teams in grades 7-12, sixth-year coach Tony Andres is optimistic that his Moose Lake-Willow River boys team can repeat as Section 7A True Team champions.

“I like that we’re young,” Andres said. “But we do have goals to get people to state and continue our team success.”

The girls team has fewer members — only about 25 — but Andres is optimistic that certain members of the team have good chances to have long and productive seasons.

“Our jumpers are good,” he said. “We probably won’t rack up a lot of team points most days but we do have some good performers.”

Freshman Kennedy Bryant is one. Despite being in ninth grade, she has already competed twice at the state meet in the long jump, and has added the triple jump this season, while also taking part in sprints. “This year she’s pushing to go (to state) in both jump events,” Andres said. “If things keep progressing she will be fine.”

Eighth-grader Lauren Hartman and junior Kirsten Evenson are also talented runners, with Hartman adding hurdles to her repertoire and Evenson adding some unique events to her own portfolio.

While an accomplished sprinter, Evenson also takes part in the shot and discus — a very rare combination for a sprinter. “She is strong and very versatile,” Andres said, “and you don’t see that very often.”

In the distance events, eighth-grader Savannah Gamst is expected to make noise in the 3200-meter run but senior Nicole Tekippe’s return from injury has Andres smiling.

“She went to state as a freshman in cross country and track but got hurt in her sophomore year and basically lost two seasons,” he said. “It’s great to have her back as a senior.”

Meanwhile the boys team will attempt to regain the Polar League championship it won in 2014 but lost last year, with a deep and talented roster.

Junior Sam Coil was fifth in the state in the shot put last spring, throwing 50 feet 10 inches, and is already just three inches short of his state throw in early meets.

“He’s off to a great start,” Andres said. “He is in mid-season form and he’s throwing the discus about 140 feet already too and looking to add about 20 feet to that as the year progresses.

Sophomore Ethan Olson, who set the 3200-meter school record last year as a freshman, has already broken that record this season with a two-mile time of 10:21.

“His goal is to get under 10 minutes before the year is over,” Andres said. “He is also within four seconds of the school record in the mile as well.”

Junior Joe Bustrak is out for the team after surgery following the cross country season, and senior Nick Furey, who was part of the team’s 4x400 relay team which qualified for state last spring, is back to lead the middle distance runners.

In the sprints, junior football and hockey star Bryceton Butkiewicz will run the 100 meters and relays along with senior Thomas Hansen.

“Hopefully we can put some of these guys together and get a relay team to state,” Andres said.

Junior Isaac Riihiluoma is out for the team for the first time and is expected to be a staple in the 200 meters and jumping events, while sophomore Colton Little figures to add speed in the 100 and 200 meters.

It’s all part of a boys team that was second in the conference last year and has won the True Team section meet in each of the last two seasons.

“Definitely, another True Team championship is one of our goals with a nice, balanced team,” Andres said. “But we’d like to compete and push for the conference championship as well.”

The team’s next meet is at Sandstone East Central today (Thursday, April 21). Look for news on that meet in next week’s Pine Journal.