The North Branch girls track and field team won the Section 7AA True Team Championship for the fifth year in a row – though the victory was a close-run affair that saw the Vikings come from behind in the final race.
The Vikings claimed the top spot in the field of 13 with a score of 619, just ahead of challengers Cloquet (612.5). The meet was hosted by Grand Rapids.
Senior Rhianna Rinke earned two 26-point victories on the track, winning the 1600 in 5:28.76 and the 800 in 2:23.74. Cloquet runners answered that result by winning every other individual non-hurdles race.
Sophomore Ashley Robillard claimed the only other Viking victory, taking the pole vault (10 feet). Senior Katie Burnside added to the points haul by taking second (9 feet).
Sophomore Savannah Hoard earned second-place points in the 200 (26.87) and placed third in the 400 (1:02.18).
The high jump proved to be a valuable event for the Vikings: Eighth-graders Katherine Carlson placed second (5 feet) and Paige Bauer placed fourth (4 feet, 10 inches). The triple jump was worth nearly as much, with eighth-grader Khyah Harper (33 feet, 9.25 inches, third) and junior Keeley Ertl placing highly. In the long jump, only a half-inch separated fifth-placer Bauer (15 feet, 8.5 inches) and sixth-placer Harper (15 feet, 8 inches).
Senior Jillian Yerges placed third in the 3200 (12:07.13).
The 4×200 relay team picked up 36 points by finishing second (1:52.80), less than half a second behind the Chisago Lakes quartet. The 4×100 team finished third (54.03).
The Vikings were trailing Cloquet after 17 events, with only the winning team guaranteed a place at the state meet. In the last event, the 4×400 relay, the Vikings placed third (4:18.22), earning nine more points than sixth-placing Cloquet (4:24.00) – enough to win the meet by only 6.5 points.
The Viking boys finished fifth with 494 points. Mississippi 8 rivals Chisago Lakes claimed the state berth with 671 points, well clear of hosts Grand Rapids (631).
Senior Evan Amunrud claimed the only Viking victory, in the pole vault (12 feet, 9 inches). Sophomore Jose Elzarraga Flord finished third (12 feet, 3 inches). Junior Colton Bauer placed third in the discus throw (127 feet).
Viking teams finished fifth in the 4×200 (1:39.25) and 4×400 relays (3:42.34).
The North Branch girls will contest the Class AA True Team state meet at Stillwater High School on Saturday, May 20, beginning at 3 p.m. The Vikings will be up against sectional champions Belle Plaine, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Pequot Lakes, Red Wing, Rocori, Visitation, Willmar and wild-card qualifiers Byron. Including North Branch, five of the nine qualifiers return from 2016; the Vikings finished seventh in last year’s championship.