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Cloquet sends 11 to elite track meet

Last year Cloquet was thrilled to send one competitor. This year they sent 11. The Hamline Elite Meet, which pits the state's top track and field athletes in each event against one another, based on 2016 qualifying marks. "We had a sprinter, a th...

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Members of both 4x800-meter relay teams (back row from left) Parker Sinkkonen, Connor Denman, John Waltjer and Isaac Boedigheimer, and (middle row from left) Anja Maijala, Erin Turner, Makayla Baker and Jessica Stone, along with sprinter Kendra Kelley and triple jumper Collin Trout (front) celebrate making it to the Hamline Elite Meet in St. Paul Friday.

Last year Cloquet was thrilled to send one competitor. This year they sent 11.

The Hamline Elite Meet, which pits the state’s top track and field athletes in each event against one another, based on 2016 qualifying marks.

“We had a sprinter, a thrower, a jumper and two distance crews,” said Arne Maijala, the distance coach for the Cloquet High School track team. “So we had a little representation of everything.”

Cloquet Senior High sent both a girls and boys 4x800-meter relay team, which both set personal records at the meet, with the girls placing ninth and the boys taking 12th on Friday.

Runners for the girls team, in order, were senior Jessica Stone, sophomore Erin Turner, senior Mikayla Baker and junior Anja Maijala. On the boys team, also in order, were four juniors: John Waltjer, Parker Sinkkonen, Isaac Boedigheimer and Connor Denman.

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“Both 4x8 teams were phenomenal,” Maijala said, adding that the girls were just a couple seconds shy of a the 9:32 school record at 9:34.96. “It was really cool to get all their splits (individual times) - it’s amazing how fast each gal ran.”

The same went for the boys, another team that qualified for state last year, and who ran faster than they were running this time last year, completing the race in 8:18.71, with anchor Connor Denman running in almost 2 minutes flat.

Discus thrower Evan Erickson, a junior, threw 167 feet, a personal record and just 3 feet shy of a school record. He placed the highest of the Cloquet tracksters, coming in fourth on Friday.

Senior triple jumper Collin Trout jumped 41.11 for 10th place, and sophomore sprinter Kendra Kelley ran the 100-meter dash but didn’t make it to the finals. Kelley, who missed the first couple weeks of track because of some pulled muscles in her legs, was the only person from Cloquet to also qualify for the Hamline Elite Meet last year, in the 200-meter dash.

Maijala said the whole experience was fantastic, and will be valuable for the athletes as the season progresses.

“This is truly an elite meet,” he said. “It’s everybody in the state of Minnesota. I think the kids will be hungrier to get back to state (Hamline University is also the site for the state high school meet) and they’ll be more confident when they get there too.

“It’s a coach’s dream to work with these kids,” added the 19-year track coach, who coached 12 years in Carlton before coming to Cloquet seven years ago. “They’re top-notch.”

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