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'Jacks show purple pride at state track meet

Cloquet sophomore Kendra Kelley sprints to third-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter races at the Minnesota State Class AA Track and Field meet Saturday. Photo contributed by Yvette Maijala.1 / 3
Cloquet senior Evan Erickson stands at the podium for his fifth-place finish in the discus at the Minnesota State Class AA Track and Field meet Saturday. Photo contributed by Yvette Maijala2 / 3
Cloquet senior Conner Denman runs to a fifth-place finish in the 800-meter run in the Minnesota State Class AA Track and Field meet Saturday. Photo contributed by Yvette Maijala3 / 3

To call it a good day, or a good season, would be an understatement.

The Cloquet track teams were well represented at last weekend's Minnesota State Class AA Track and Field meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Sophomore Kendra Kelley earned a pair of third-place finishes in sprint events and two Cloquet boys finished sparkling prep careers by earning points for their team.

Kelley took third place in both the 100- and 200-meter races. In the 100, her time of 12.22 seconds nosed out Orono's Lauren Hansen for third behind Anna Keefer of St. Michael-Albertville and fellow sophomore J'Ianna Cager of North St. Paul.

In the 200, Kelley's time of 24.83 seconds was seven-tenths of a second behind Keefer, who was a double winner, and Honour Finley of Bloomington Kennedy.

"Kendra is so driven," coach Tim Prosen said. "She's never satisfied and the sky is the limit for her. It was a very difficult state meet for her because she was competing in four events."

It was difficult because the long jump preliminaries, an event in which Kelley also qualified, were held at the same time as the 100 meters.

"She had to run the 100 and literally go straight to the long jump pit and jump without even a practice jump," Prosen said. "Then she was also in the 4-by-400 relay."

That relay team, which consisted of sophomores Kelly Lorenz and Payton Schneberger and junior Erin Turner in addition to Kelley, set a school record of 4:03.40 but finished seventh in its heat and didn't qualify for finals.

On the boys side, Prosen could be excused for feeling extra proud of Conner Denman after the senior took fifth place in the 800 meters in 1:58.48.

"Last year, almost a year ago to the day, they had to carry Conner off the track after he tore his Achilles tendon in the same race," Prosen said. "It wasn't an easy recovery. I remember the Monday after the state meet he was in my class talking about college track and he could hardly walk. (Assistant coach) Arne Maijala did a great job with Conner."

Prosen had praise for Denman's work ethic — as has everyone else who has coached him.

"You have to tell him 'no' sometimes and almost literally hold him back," Prosen said. "He's like a car that's red-lined. You want to keep going but not blow out the engine. You have to put the brakes on him."

Denman also anchored the all-senior 4-by-800 relay team with Derrick Moe, Parker Sinkkonen and Isaac Boedigheimer, which finished eighth in its heat in 8:22.39 and did not qualify for finals.

Senior Evan Erickson took fifth place in the discus, throwing 166 feet, 2 inches with defending state champion Jake Kubiatowicz of North St. Paul outclassing the field.

"He didn't have the best throw of his career but this was a very strong class of throwers this year," Prosen said. "It was a windy day and a lot of it was down to when you threw and who could time the wind the best. He's headed to North Dakota to throw for them next year and he will keep improving and be passionate to improve."

The team standings showed the boys in 31st place in the state and the girls 24th — an excellent showing given the school's size.

"I couldn't be happier or prouder," Prosen said. "But that goes for all the kids. Every kid on this team matters. I don't care if they're the slowest runner or the shortest thrower, they are practice partners and they help everyone improve. Some catch all the headlines but every person on our team helps create those headlines."