Dramatic run for the title on the state track meet stage
Vikings win 4×400 Relay State Championship
A banner weekend full of school records and a season’s hard work culminated with a breath-taking victory June 8, for the Pelican Rapids High School Girls’ 4×400 meter relay team.
The previous night, Anna Stephenson, Abby Syverson, Chloe Paulson and Tatianna Wiley took second in a fierce prelims battle with Belle Plain and Mesabi East being beaten by .05 by Belle Plain and finishing with a school record time of 3:59.28. This gave them lane three in the finals on Saturday night.
That wasn’t the only thing going on for the Vikings though.
Saturday dawned and the Vikings went into finals confident in their position and also knowing they had a card left to play that many other teams didn’t, according to girls track coach John Peter.
Because Stephenson had focused mainly on High Jump throughout the year and involvement with the 4×400 had come unexpectedly through events at the True Team Section Championships, her fitness and experience were significantly lacking.
For context, Stephenson’s first real 400 specific workout on the track happened the week of the state meet.
Because of these facts, Coach Peter elected to replace Stephenson on Saturday with veteran runner Maddie Guler.
“We weren’t convinced due to Anna’s relative lack of fitness, that she could go deep back to back days and although she had been faster than Maddie of late, I told her [Maddie] when all the chips are down, I’m gonna bet on her because of her experience,” Peter said.
In the open 400 finals, just an hour before the relay final, Wiley struggled a bit with fatigue and came in 6th in a time of 59.5. In the tunnel beneath the grandstand, after the race, Wiley confided to Coach Peter that her legs felt terrible.
“I told her that it’s the state track meet on day 2, everybody’s legs feel terrible and that she would be able to sprint in the relay when it mattered,” said Peter recalling the conversation. “I also made sure to tell the other girls the same info, that everyone feels bad on day two and these races come down to heart.”
Less than 30 minutes later, Guler proved she was the right choice to start the relay, opening with her fastest split of the season (60.8) as she handed off to Abby Syverson.
Syverson ran a tenacious first 100 meters of her lap to move through traffic into 3rd place before overtaking 2nd place on the second curve. However, all this time Belle Plain was over 25 meters ahead and the race seemed to be getting away from all the other teams.
In the 3rd leg, Chloe Paulson fought off Stewartville on the back-stretch of the third leg and by the time they headed into the home stretch, to make the final handoff, Belle Plain’s lead had been cut down to 10 meters.
On the final lap of the race, Tatianna Wiley battled with Stewartville’s Maia Peterson down the back stretch and was eventually overtaken by Peterson as they went though 200 meters to go.
With a hundred meters to go, Wiley found herself in lane 1 seemingly out of things with Peterson in lane 2 closing hard on the Belle Plain runner who was also in lane 1, potentially trapping Wiley.
However, Wiley threw in a wild burst of speed and shot the gap between Peterson and the Belle Plain runner and with 30 meters to go surged away into the lead to cross the finish line in 1st place with a time of 3:59.56.
The title was a year’s long pursuit for the team who had said from day 1 of this season that being top 3 at State in this relay was the priority, knowing that top 3 usually means you are in the race for first, said Peter.
It was the Vikings first State Championship in Track and Field since Sommer Haugrud won the 200 meter dash in 2012.
Triple-jumper Eli Systma bounds to final round at state
Ties Pelican High School record set in 1988
Eli Sytsma, PRHS senior, had a great day in his last competition as a Viking.
Competing in the Triple Jump at the 2019 State Track and Field meet, Sytsma put it all together and earned a 7th place finish with a school record tying jump.
Sytsma entered the event as the 16th ranked jumper based on distances jumped at section meets.
On his first jump of the competition he went 41′ 8″.
This jump was just off his best jump ever so it put him in a good position to start, noted Coach Dave Haugen. Having a good jump early in the competition was a great start for Sytsma who was competing in his first state meet.
Sytsma was in third place after the first flight was done with their three preliminary jumps. The top 9 performers after the prelims advance to the finals and all Eli could do now was wait and see if his distance would hold up and give him the opportunity for three more jumps in the finals. The distance did hold up and Sytsma advanced to the final round in 8th place overall.
In the finals of the competition Sytsma came through with the 3 best jumps of his career with each of them being over 42′. The second jump of the finals is the one that will be remembered. The distance of 42′ 10″ is the one that earned him a tie for the school record and an overall finish of 7th place in the event.
Entering the event as the 16th ranked jumper there isn’t any real pressure to be a top place winner. Eli had a great week of practice leading up to the meet and a good attitude going into the competition.
“Earning a school record and a place on the podium at the state meet made for one of the best days an athlete can have,” said Coach Dave Haugen. “I’m very proud of Eli and extremely happy for him to finish his Viking career on such a high.”
The school Triple Jump record was initially set by Alan Martinson in 1988.