By Victoria Dahlin
Rush City athletes Max Maher and Kayla Nelson both took third place at the State High School Track and Field Championships last week at Hamline University.
Junior pole vaulter Maher made a jump of 13’9”, which in another year would have been enough to earn the Championship, but this year Grant Krieger from Blake School went over the bar at 15’ and Jake Zebedee of Blue Earth made 14’9” to win the top two places on the podium.
“Wow, what a season!” said Coach Mike Vaughan. “This is the goal Max has been working for and focusing on all year. Max made it to state last year, but this year he was not going to be satisfied with just making it. I know he wanted to be one of the top pole vaulters in the state, and he has certainly proved that at the state meet. He broke his own school record set earlier this season by 1 foot 2 inches.
“He has spent the last year improving his technique and increasing his strength. We knew he was capable of high heights because he had been at those heights at camps last winter and Junior Olympics last summer. He certainly performed at the most important time of the year. I know Max is happy with his performance, but will not stop developing as a pole vaulter. Next season I am sure he will go after first at state and maybe some state records. Max is an athlete who has truly excelled by his commitment and dedication to mastering his event. The coaching staff is certainly proud of his accomplishments,” Vaughan continued.
Freshman 400 meter dash runner Nelson crossed the finish line in 58.43 seconds, with only AnnMarie Healy of Providence Academy (56.73) and Elizabeth Hemswort of Sauk Centre (57.11) finishing ahead of her.
“Kayla’s third place finish at the state was certainly memorable,” said Coach Vaughan. “We knew the great things Kayla was capable of going into the season. After sitting out most of last season with a stress fracture in her foot, Kayla has been focused since the first minute of practice this season. It is very satisfying as a coaching staff to see things work out for Kayla. Her combination of work ethic and natural ability put her on that podium at State. Like Max, I know Kayla is satisfied with her place at state and also like Max, will not stop working until she is in the top spot. Kayla has proven she is one of the elite 400 runners in Minnesota. The coaching staff is certainly proud of her performance as well. We look forward to both athletes returning next season and believe we will have a lot more at state next year.”