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State track and field: Cloquet's Kelley wins rare Northland girls sprint title

Cloquet's Kendra Kelley (4) sprints to victory in the 200-meter dash finals at Saturday's Class AA state track meet in St. Paul. Kelley finished with a time of 24.60 seconds, 14-hundredths ahead of North High School's Shaliciah Jones. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal1 / 2
Cromwell's Nic Johnson runs in a 100-meter dash heat race at the Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet on Friday afternoon in St. Paul. Johnson won his heat and qualified second overall for Saturday's Class A 100 meter final with a time of 11.20. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Conditions were wet for the Minnesota state track and field meet Saturday at Hamline University, but it didn't seem to matter for Cloquet junior sprinter Kendra Kelley.

The way Kelley glides across the track, it simply appeared she was walking on water. Kelley won the Class AA girls 200 meters in a school-record 24.60 seconds, pumping her fist as she crossed the line, and she finished second in the 100 in 12.30. After finishing second in both events last season, this was her time.

"I'm kind of in shock right now," Kelley said. "I've made it to state meet every year since eighth grade, and I've gotten to see these amazing athletes, and I finally realized, 'Why can't that be me? Why can't I stand at the top of the podium this time?' "

It was the third straight year a Northland runner has brought home a sprint title, with Proctor's Terrance Wenzel winning the Class A boys 100 in 2016 and Esko's Dawsen Cossalter taking the boys Class A 200 last year, but for a Northland girl to take home a large-school sprint title is extremely rare. Duluth Denfeld graduate Paige Stratioti, competing for Duluth Central, won the Class AA 400 in 2011.

"I worked really really hard this year, just busted my butt, so it feels good to be rewarded for it," Kelley said.

The Class AA meet on Saturday morning featured rain and a lightning delay but cleared up for the Class A meet in the afternoon.

"I don't recall any puddles, but it was definitely raining," Kelley said. "There was some water on the track, but not a ton in my lane."

Kelley lost to Minneapolis North sophomore Shaliciah Jones by .23 in the 100, but in the 200, Kelley reeled in Jones, whom she considers a friend, and then surged to the line, taking nearly a second off her winning Section 7AA time.

"I can't quite believe it, either," Kelley said. "With better conditions, I could have run a better time, but with what we were given, I'm really happy with that. Sections the weather was even worse. It's been a rainy season, but I'm happy to come out with the win."

With one more year, how does Kelley top this?

"I'll be really happy with this up until next track season," she said, "but I know if I want to win the 100 and 200 next year, I'll have to put in even more work."

Cromwell-Wright athletes place at state

Cromwell-Wright senior Nic Johnson had a busy and productive day, finishing fourth in the boys Class A 100, seventh in the long jump and anchoring the Cardinals' 400 relay to fifth. That team included juniors Kannon Korpela and Cameron Cahoon and sophomore Ben Hansen.

Cromwell-Wright sophomore Shaily Hakamaki finished fifth in the girls triple jump.