After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 track season, Rock Ridge sophomore Cameron Stocke said he had no idea what to expect coming into this season until the Iron Range Conference Meet May 27 in Aurora, something he called his “breakout race.”

“I ran a 4:17 in the mile and was like, ‘Wow, I could really do something down at state,” Stocke said.

Stocke did that, winning the Minnesota Class A 1,600 meters in a blistering 4 minutes, 12.94 seconds, missing the state meet record by less than a second Friday at the Minnesota Track and Field Championships at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

Perham junior Jacob McCleary was second in 4:16.38 and 2019 winner Geno Uhrbom, a senior from Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, was third in 4:19.39.

“I ran my fastest when it counted, so I’m pretty happy about that,” Stocke said.

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McCleary turned the tables in the 800 an hour later, winning in 1:56.92, with Stocke second in 1:57.96. Two Harbors senior Isaac Swanson was seventh in 1:58.78. McCleary led from start to finish but Stocke reeled him in a bit with a strong kick at the end.

“I felt great in the mile but the 800 I didn’t feel good,” Stocke said. “I just ran out of gas. I felt really bad after the mile. I don’t know if it was due to the heat or whatever. I normally go out really fast in the 800 — 54 or 55 seconds (for his first lap) — but I knew if I did that, if I wasn’t feeling good, the second lap was not going to go well. So I started out more conservatively. ”

While Stocke will be disappointed he didn’t get the sweep, it doesn’t diminish what he has accomplished this year. He was always fast, but this year he has come into his own. Hard to believe, but he had never won a section track title until this season as he was always settling for second to the older Uhrbom.

Stocke could have been called second-best runner in the state — next to Geno — or best runner not to win the big one.

“That just shows you how good Geno has been over these past few years,” Stocke said. “Geno is still the gold standard when it comes to the two-mile still.”

Not this year. Last week he set a Section 7A meet record by winning the 800 in 1:55.38 and just missing the 1,600 record by a half-second in 4:17.56. As fast as that latter time was, he took nearly another five seconds off his PR Friday, showing the sky’s the limit for the talented Wolverines sophomore.

Stocke ran the Northland’s fastest time in the 1,600 since Duluth East’s Jay Schoenfelder ran a 4:12 in 1995. Stocke even topped the 4:13.1 that Duluth Denfeld’s Jeremy Polson clocked in finishing second by a tenth in the 1996 Class AA 1,600 finale. Proctor’s Garry Bjorklund remains the king with a time of 4:05.1 as a senior in 1969 in the true mile, which equates to a 4:03 1,600.

Stocke led all but about 15 meters of the 1,600, with Blake junior Shef West seizing the lead briefly at the end of the third lap. Stocke took it back right after the bell signaling the final lap.

Waseca’s Shane Streich set the Class A meet record with a 4:12.02 in 2015, giving Stocke something to shoot for next season.

“I definitely thought about the record coming in, but knocking about five seconds off is a fairly big jump for a PR,” Stocke said. “I had my sights set on running a solid race and hopefully going for the win. It was nice to see that the time was so close to the record.”

McNiff soars to title

Floodwood junior Kaden McNiff entered the state meet as the fifth seed but bettered his section mark by nearly 2 1/2 feet to win with a mark of 45-3.25, almost a foot better than Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton junior Joshua Finseth (44-3.75). The jump bested the Floodwood school record by more than two feet.

Finseth won the long jump with a leap of 21-3.25 while McNiff was fourth with a 20-10.25, bettering the PR he set last week by more than nine inches.

What the heck is going on here?

“I have no idea,” McNiff said. “I have just been really focused on track a lot more lately. I’ve been eating a lot healthier, I’ve been exercising a lot more, practicing more, just getting a lot more serious about it.”

If he keeps doing 45 or better in the triple jump, there’s going to be a college interested in him. McNiff plays basketball but at 5-foot-9, he isn’t your stereotypical lanky triple jumper.

“It’s kind of intimidating,” McNiff said, laughing.

And as is generally the case with good long jumpers, McNiff has speed, too, with a time of 23.77 seconds in the 200 meters.

McNiff laughed again when asked if he had been eating his Wheaties.

“I don’t know, man,” he said. “Today all I ate for breakfast was two bananas, but that was about it.

McNiff wasn’t sure if his triple jump was a school record, but it’s a good bet unless Superman was previously jumping for the Polar Bears. Floodwood has a tiny team, but with the likes of McNiff and Neva Polo, who competed in four Class A girls events Friday, the Polar Bears certainly have talent.

“We take a lot of pride in that,” McNiff said. “We like to show what a small team can actually do.”

Best of the rest

Rock Ridge senior Josh Creer-Oberstar tied Minnewaska Area senior Peyton Johnsrud by clearing a personal record 6-7 in the high jump, but Johnsrud earned the victory through the tiebreaker rules as Creer-Oberstar missed his first two attempts at 6-7.

Johnsrud’s mark was four inches better than his sectional mark, while for the 6-foot-1 Creer-Oberstar, it was three inches better. It was also two inches better than his previous PR.

“I was super happy with my performance, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish my senior year and my track career,” said Creer-Oberstar.

But Creer-Oberstar’s track career might not be over just yet. Creer-Oberstar — no relation to the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar — was planning on going to Lake Superior College but after Friday’s meet, Minnesota State-Mankato asked him to come jump for the Mavericks.

“I’m hoping I can continue to get offers after that performance,” he said.

South Ridge senior Deekon Anvid saved his best for last, finishing second in the discus with a school-record mark of 168-7, while Esko senior Gage Stankiewicz finished third in the shot put (51-2.5) and fourth in the discus (164-4).

Anvid will throw at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall.

“It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season — it is all about competing on the big stage,” an excited Polson said. “Deekon is a competitor and it showed today.”

Mesabi East senior and Minnesota Duluth football recruit Gavin Skelton matched his place from two years ago with a fourth in the 300 hurdles at 40.67 while adding a ninth in the 110 high hurdles at 15.93.

While some of the previously mentioned times were blazing, others were slower than sections. The high temperature in St. Michael was 88 degrees Friday.

“The heat definitely got to some people,” McNiff said. “If you don’t stay in the shade, it definitely gets to you fast. You’ve got to have a lot of water out here with you.”

The high temperature for St. Michael is expected to be a much more comfortable 80 degrees for Saturday’s Class AA meet.

Johnson, Werner have an impact

Esko senior Zoie Johnson was the Northland’s top Class A girls performer, finishing third in both the shot put (39-1) and discus (118-5), one spot ahead of South Ridge senior Elle Ridge (117-6).

“Today was a perfect end to what was a special year for our track programs,” Esko girls track coach Matt Peterson said. “We had many special performances and a handful of PRs as well. State brings opportunities for athletes to strive for their own personal greatness to break through physical and mental boundaries and our kids did just that, putting an exclamation note on the season.”

Proctor senior Morgan Binsfield was part of four victories at last week’s Section 7A meet in Cloquet but got overheated and lightheaded running the 1,600 Friday. The Rails got permission to pull her from the 800 and still use her in the 1,600 relay if she got medical clearance, but she was feeling dizzy when she tried to run so they used an alternate, Jaime Haugen, who teamed with Hope Carlson, Makenna Kleiman and Courtney Werner.

“Jaime ran great,” coach Jim Savre said. “We had been seeded eighth and finished seventh, so I’m very proud of them.”

Werner, meanwhile, finished third in the 400 in 58.24, breaking the school record by .32 seconds.

“Courtney ran our strategy to the letter and had the race of her life,” Savre said. “What a great end to a great career.”

Minnesota State Track and Field Championships

At St. Michael-Albertville High School

Friday’s Class A Results

Boys

Teams (Top 10 and Northland Teams)

1. Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta, 42; 2. Plainview-Elgin-Millville, 38; 3. Perham, 35; 4. Annandale, 34; 5. (tie) Spectrum and Mora, 33; 7. Rock Ridge, 32; 8. (tie) Providence Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Lewiston-Altura, 30; 17. Floodwood, 18; 18. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 17; T-20. Esko, 15; T-35. South Ridge, 10; T-43. Mesabi East, 7; T-58. Proctor, 4; T-69. Two Harbors, 3; T-76. Cromwell-Wright, 2; T-81. Moose Lake-Willow River and McGregor, 1.

Individuals (Winners and Northland Finishers)

100 — 1. Max Reis, Spect., 10.84 seconds; 14. Matson Granmo, TH, 11.50; 16. Kaden Robbins, MLWR, 11.67; 200 — 1. Ethan Lebrija, MACA, 22.30 seconds; 16. Robbins, MLWR, 23.57; 17. Granmo, TH, 23.60; 400 — 1. Kyler Bade, PEM, 49.63; 10. Taevon Wells, GNK, 51.50; 2. Evan Bowen, Proct., 53.85; 800 — 1. Jacob McCleary, Perh., 1:56.92; 2. Cameron Stocke, RR, 1:57.96; 7. Isaac Swanson, TH, 1:58.78; 1,600 — 1. Stocke, RR, 4:12.94; 2. McCleary, Perh., 4:16.38; Geno Uhrbom, GNK, 4:19.39; 110 hurdles — 1. Jayson Ekiyor, PA, 14.51; 9. Gavin Skelton, ME, 15.93; 15. Jajuan Hall, GNK, 16.56; 300 hurdles — 1. Kenny Soderberg, MACA, 39.14; 4. Skelton, ME, 40.67; 10. Tony Cummins, SR, 42.51; 400 relay — 1. MA, 43.51; 9. MLWR (Jackson Thompson, Grant Pettit, Carter Johnson, Robbins), 44.88; 11. SR (Isaiah Foster, Weston Stroschein, Tony Cummins, Tyler Anderson), 45.26; 800 relay — 1. Mora, 1:30.23; 11. RR (Ethan Zlimen, Karson Sortedahl, Jake Burress, Josh Creer-Oberstar), 1:34.51; 16. MLWR (Thompson, Pettit, Adam Olson, Jaxsyn Schmidt), 1:37.65; 1,600 relay — 1. Lake City, 3:27.43; 6. Proct. (Zach Schnabel, Caleb Mattison, John Werner, Evan Bowen), 3:34.56; 9. GNK (Isaiah Austad, Bodie Jorgenson, Wells, Uhrbom), 3:35.04; 3,200 relay — 1. Park Rapids Area, 8:12.86; 11. GNK (Weston Marx, Benjamin Plackner, Daniel Olson, Michael Butterfield), 8:30.30; 15. MLWR (Zach Youngs, Daniel Mikrot, Joseph Mikrot, Maverick Koecher), 8:35.92; high jump — 1. Peyton Johnsrud, Minnewaska Area, 6 foot, 7 inches; 2. Creer-Oberstar, RR, 6-7; 9. Carter Zezulka, Esko, 6-0; pole vault — 1. Jarod White, Pine Island, 15-9 (Minnesota all-time state meet record); 10. Thompson, MLWR, 12-0; long jump — 1. Joshua Finseth, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 21-3.25; 4. Kaden McNiff, Flood., 20-10.25; 11. Johnson, MLWR, 19-10.5; triple jump — 1. McNiff, Flood., 45-3.25; 2. Harrison Nistler, McG., 41-5.75; shot put — 1. Tony Nelson, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, 59-2.25; 3. Gage Stankiewicz, Esko, 51-2.5; 15. Cody Jantzen, International Falls, 46-4.5; discus — 1. Will Tschetter, Stewartville, 175-7; 2. Deekon Anvid, SR, 168-7; 4. Stankiewicz, Esko, 164-4.

Girls

Teams (Top 10 and Northland Teams)

1. Rockford, 46; 2. Annandale, 42; 3. Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland, 39; 4. Concordia Academy (Roseville), 38; 5. (tie) Blake and Luverne, 34; 7. Stewartville and Fairmont, 31; 9. Minnewaska Area, 28; 10. (tie). Canby/Minneota and Belle Plaine, 25; T-16. Esko, 21; T-29. Proctor, 11; T-45. South Ridge and Mesabi East, 6; T-55. Floodwood, 4; T-71. Moose Lake-Willow River, 1.

Individuals

100 — Anisa Thompson, Blake, 12:23; 10. Emily Rengo, Esko, 12.66; 13. Elli Theel, ME, 12.99; 200 — 1. Thompson, Blake, 25.46; 11. Ava Fink, Rock Ridge, 27.39; 15. Kaitlyn McConnell, Esko, 27.78; 400 — 1. Ellie Kuechle, Eden Valley-Watkins/Kimball, 57.34; 3. Courtney Werner, Proc., 58.24; 13. Makenna Kleiman, Proc., 1:01.90; 800 — 1. Grace Drietz, CM, 2:17.36; 12. Ingrid Hexum, Esko, 2:26.31; DNS: Morgan Binsfield, Proc. (medical scratch); 1,600 — 1. Drietz, CM, 5:00.45; 12. Binsfield, Proc., 5:31.21; 15. Kate Nelson, MIB, 5:40.35; 100 hurdles — 1. Shaina Zinter, CA, 14-29; 10. Neva Polo, Flood., 15.99; 14. Gwendolyn Lilly, Esko, 17.04; 300 hurdles — 1. Shaina Zinter, CA, 43.51; 6. Polo, Flood, 47.62; 16. Merlea Mrozik, DM, 49.99; 400 relay — 1. Rock., 49.88; 5. Esko (Allison Thornton, McConnell, Gwendolyn Lilly, Rengo), 50.79; 7. ME (Hannah Hannuksela, Kora Forsline, Kailey Fossell, Elli Theel), 51.13; 800 relay — 1. GMLOK, 1:44.41; 7. ME (Kiarra Moehlenbrock, Hannuksela, Lindsey Baribeau, K. Forsline), 1:47.63; 11. Proc. (Kelsey Tangen, Jaime Haugen, Kleiman, Werner), 1:49.30; 1,600 relay — 1. Stewartville, 4:01.18; 7. Proc. (Hope Carlson, Jaime Haugen, Kleiman, Werner), 4:11.72; 13. SR (Kenna Ridge, Jaden Ellefson, Jillian Sajdak, Ana Ridge), 4:19.20; 3,200 relay — 1. Luverne, 9:34.64; 11. ME (Aaliyah Sahr, Olivia Forsline, Lydia Skelton, Aubree Skelton), 10:19.32; TH (Grace Swanson, Cedar Gordon, Lamar Gordon, Autumn Smith), 10:22.82; high jump — 1. Nyalaam Jok, Ann., 6-0 (Minnesota all-time state meet record); 13. Allison Thornton, Esko, 5-0; 18. Binsfield, Proc., 4-10; pole vault — 1. Toryn Richards, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, 10-9; 9. Skyla Thompson, MLWR, 9-6; long jump — 1. Jok, Ann., 20-5; 15. Polo, Flood., 16-2.25; 18. Brooke Doran, Barnum, 15-9.75; triple jump — 1. Maggie Larson, Maple Lake, 40-10.5; Polo, Flood., 34-7.25; 2. Elli Jankila, Rock Ridge, 32-10.75; shot put — 1. Delany Smith, Windom Area, 43-2.75; 3. Zoie Johnson, Esko, 39-1.5; 13. Emmalee Oviatt, GNK, 35-.5; discus — 1. Metaya Jergenson, MA, 123-8; 3. Johnson, Esko, 118-5; 4. Elle Ridge, SR, 117-6.

The story was updated at 12:35 p.m. on June 19 to note Kaden McNiff's school record and with a quote from Josh Creer-Oberstar. It was originally posted on June 18.