North Branch track teams have much to celebrate after Arik Steele, Gina Amundson, Mikayla Johnson, Rhianna Rinke, Sherahlynn Linkert and the girls 4x200m relay team all qualified for State by finishing in the top two places at the Section 7AA Championships at the University of Minnesota Duluth last Saturday.
Johnson took champion while setting a new section pole vault record with a jump of 12 feet, 2 and 1/4 inches, which well surpassed the State qualifying height of 10 feet, 11 inches. This after the pit was moved indoors due to the cold, wet weather.
The girls 4x200m relay team of Cassie Kunshier, Madison Kunshier, Kadie Mattson and Linkert also earned Section champion by crossing the finish line with a time of 1:48.19.
Earning champion runner-up were Rinke in the 1600m run (5:13.86) and 3200m (11:18.30), as well as Amundson in the high jump (5 feet).
For Linkert, she earned Section champion in the 300-meter hurdle event with a time of 46.05. Linkert, who has won every race she’s participated in this year, beat last year’s state runner up from Zimmerman, Cassie Ortberg.
The girls racked up 77 points as a team to take third out of 14 teams, behind Elk River (93) and Forest Lake (104).
“Gina surprised us and earned a trip to the State track meet,” said coach Norm Nagel. “It came down to a tie with the Andover athlete, and Gina won it on fewer misses. What a great way to finish out her senior year.”
“This is also Rhianna’s first trip to State. She had a successful cross country season that carried over to the track season. She is our first double distance entry in quite some time. It will be fun to watch her run with the big dogs at Hamline.
“This is Sherahlynn’s second trip to the State track meet. It’s her first time in the 800 meter relay and second in the 300 meter hurdles. Sherahlynn’s 300 meter hurdles race was very exciting… She also took third place in the 100 meter hurdles just missing qualifying in this race by .07 seconds.
“This is the girls’ first time as an 800 meter relay team that qualified for State. We knew the girls had a chance to qualify, and they proved it. It was a very fun race to watch because at one point they were in sixth place and had to make up some time.
“Mikayla gave us all a scare at the 9-foot 7-inch height when she missed her first two attempts and made her third. Then she got on a roll and jumped her personal best to take first place and a trip to the State meet. She is just freshman, and we have her for three more years.
“Sophomore Cassie Kunshier ran the 200 meter dash and placed a very pleasing fourth place finish. It was only the third time she ran this race.
“Maddy Kunshier took third place in the 400 meter dash by just narrowly missing qualifying for the State meet.
“Eighth grader pole vaulter Katie Burnside jumped her personal best of 9 feet, 7 inches and took fifth place.”
Viking boys track and field
The boys team totaled 25 points to place ninth out of 16 teams, with Forest Lake taking first (134).
Steele was Section champion runner-up in the 110m high hurdles finishing in 15.22.
“Arik had a very close race at the end and was willing to sacrifice his body by plunging forward at the finish line to beat Elk River,” Nagel recalled. “This is Arik’s first trip to the State meet, and I’m very excited to see him run. Arik is our only boy entry this year.”
“Levi Kolke had the top seed going into the finals for the 400 meter dash and just missed out qualifying by taking third place.
“Junior Brandon Thauwald took fourth place in the high jump with a height of 5 feet, 10 inches. Sophomore Jack Klun placed sixth in the triple jump with 40 feet, 9 inches.
“Hector Rosales took eighth place in the boys discus throw with a toss of 122 feet, 1 inch. Hector ran a leg in the 4×400 relay because of substitution changes at the last minute. From all the coaches, nice job, Hector.
“Overall, it was a nice finish to the season. Considering the rain, fog, wind and cooler temperatures we had to face in Duluth, I was very pleased with our athletes’ performances. They represented North Branch High School very well. I would like to thank our parents who braved the elements to watch the athletes compete at Sections. I would also like to thank the coaching staff for all of their dedication this spring.”
The State High School Track and Field Championships take place Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 at Hamline University in St. Paul.
The finals for the girls high jump and 3200m run are scheduled for 9 a.m., while the preliminaries for the boys 110m hurdles are at 9:52 a.m., the 4x200m girls relay at 10:30 a.m. and the girls 300m hurdles at 11:36 a.m. Friday. The finals for the girls pole vault are scheduled at 9 a.m., the boys 110m hurdles at 10:03 a.m., the girls 4x200m relay at 10:25 a.m., the girls 1600m run at 10:42 a.m. and the 300m hurdles at 11:31 a.m. Saturday.