ST. MICHAEL, Minn. — Rarely in the history of the Minnesota track and field championships has a state champion looked so glum as Esko sophomore Makoi Perich looked Friday, June 10, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Perich was just crowned the Class A winner in the long jump, his mark of 21 feet, 5.75 inches winning by five inches, but he was still bummed out about the one that got away.
That would be the boys 400 relay, where Esko had the lead going into the final turn. That’s when Makoi was about to hand the baton to his older brother Mason for the final leg, but unfortunately for the Eskomos, the senior immediately came up limp on the final leg, the product of a hip injury that just came on Friday.
Instead it was Minneapolis North winning in 42.57 and Esko going down as a DNF.
“He pulled up. He got hurt,” Makoi Perich said of his brother. “We would have easily won. We would have beaten them by four steps. We would have run in the 41s. Mason is the fastest of all of us.”
Makoi Perich would have to settle with the consolation prize of being a state long jump champion in his first year running track.
“It’s all about the coaches. They trained me well,” Makoi explained. “I just started looking straight and not looking at the board.”
Still, he couldn’t quit thinking about the 400 relay. Makoi is a multi-sport standout and a competitor. He’s a team guy all the way.
“That 400 relay was the one I was really looking forward to,” he said. “We’re all pretty much like brothers.”
GNK’s Wells sets a PR in winning the 400
Senior Taevon Wells hadn’t broken 50 seconds in the 400 since clocking a 48.67 seconds at the Hamline Elite Meet April 29 in St. Paul but he was confident the Class A state meet would bring out his best.
It sure did. Wells won going away Friday, clocking a personal-record 48.60.
“We got it done,” he said.
Medford’s Henry Grayson finished second in 49.52 as Wells turned on the jets on the final straightaway.
“That’s what I usually do,” Wells said, laughing.
Wells also anchored GNK’s 800 and 1,600 relays, with both finishing seventh. He said two days of running in 80-degree heat started to wear on him.
“I felt pretty good in the 400, but I didn’t feel really good after,” said Wells, who plans on eventually running at Nebraska. “It felt good winning it, but it didn’t feel good on my body after. Yesterday me and a buddy on my 4x400 team woke up throwing up, so we were really sick yesterday. It was bad. I ran my first 4x200 and felt really weak, so I was really worried about that 400, but we still got it.”
Best of the rest
The Northland got nice performances in the 800, with Moose Lake/Willow River’s Joseph Mikrot fourth in 1:56.56 and Silver Bay’s Nate Bilben seventh in 1:59.22.
Cromwell-Wright’s Noah Foster finished fourth in the 1,600 in 4:26.84 despite fighting a knee issue that had restricted his training to an elliptical machine recently.
Duluth Marshall’s Jasper Timm tied for fifth in the high jump with a mark of 6-foot-2.
Senior Emily Rengo led the Esko girls with a fifth-place finish in the 100. She also anchored the Eskomos’ fourth-place 400-relay team, which included Gwendolyn Lilly, Kaitlyn McConnell and Tegan Erickson. Esko also has an up-and-comer in eighth-grader Whitney Hanson, who finished seventh in the triple jump with a mark of 35-2.5.
Class AA recap
Harriman, Weston bring home the gold
There weren’t a whole lot of finals in Friday’s Class AA morning session but Cloquet and Grand Rapids made the most of the ones that were held.
Cloquet senior Bella Harriman won the girls discus with a personal-record 122-4 and teammate Olivia Jameson was second in the high jump at 5-6.
Harriman was as surprised as anybody.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Harriman said. “I was ranked pretty much last in the heat. It’s definitely something that was unexpected, but me and my partner (teammate Seija Suominen, who was 10th in 105-6) have been practicing really hard and we’ve been throwing far out there in the last few days. We were definitely hoping for something good.”
But that good? Wow.
“It was a super fun day to be a Cloquet track coach,” Lumberjacks coach Tim Prosen said. “We were all busy running around the track as we had throwers, jumpers, hurdlers, distance runners and sprinters. I have never had a state meet quite like that.”
Grand Rapids senior Jackson Weston won the Class AA boys shot put in a school-record 58-2 while Thunderhawks pole vaulter Kaydin Metzgar finished sixth by clearing the bar at 13 feet.
Weston broke Grand Rapids’ previous shot record of 57-5 set by Wayne Jacobson in 1968, on his second-to-last throw.
“I probably could have done better,” Weston said, drawing a laugh.
Thunderhawks coach Matt Sandys wasn’t as hard on him.
“Weston has put in a lot work with our throwing coaches, so it’s fun to see it come to fruition like this,” Sandys said.
Now Weston is going after Adam Brace’s record 171-2 in the discus.
“Why not?” he said.
Minnesota State Track and Field Championships
At St. Michael-Albertville High School
Friday’s Finals Results
(Winners and Northland Finishers)
3,200 — 1. Shef West, Blake School, 9 minutes, 15.57 seconds; 11. Jacob Mertz, Cloquet, 9:52.79; 16. Aaron Nelson, Rock Ridge, 10:03.06; pole vault — 1. Brian Schloeder, Rockford, 14-3; 6. Kaydin Metzgar, Grand Rapids, 13-0; triple jump — 1. Anthony Borom, Fridley, 45-7; 16. Colton Johnson, Grand Rapids, 39-3.75; shot put — 1. Jackson Weston, Grand Rapids, 58-2; 12. Josh Monreal, Proctor, 46-7.25.
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.
After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.
Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.
Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.