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Mounds View girls reawaken past relay glory
Not that long ago, the Mounds View High School girls track and field team put together an impressive streak relating to state championships in relay races. The Mustangs won at least one relay state title four years in a row from 2006 to 2009 and claimed a total of six championships in that stretch.
The streak eventually ended and the Mustangs saw the relay titles stop for a few years — until last week. Mounds View won its first relay state championship in five years on Saturday at the Class AA state meet as senior Nicole Geist, junior Mikayla Toninato and sophomores Annalee Blake and Rachel Boyer teamed up to claim the 4x200-meter relay state title.
“Legacy is a huge thing,” Blake said. “Our coaches always emphasize that we’ve always had a really good program and we want to continue it. We definitely want to live up to the girls that raised us in this program.”
Mounds View had the second-fastest time in the prelims on Friday and on Saturday ran in lane three. From that lane, they could see the runners from Waconia, which had the fastest prelim time.
“So the entire time we tell our girls to chase the girl in front of you,” Blake said. “And when we get in first, run like you feel they’re right behind you. Don’t look back, just run your race.”
Boyer crossed the finish line 0.77 seconds ahead of Prior Lake’s anchor runner. Waconia wound up third, more than a second behind the Mustangs.
Mounds View also finished in the top nine in the other three relays at the state meet. Toninato, Geist, Boyer and junior Elizabeth Menne wound up third in the 4x100; Blake, Menne, junior Christine Hessini and freshman Natalie Nowatzke finished eighth in the 4x400; and Hessini, Nowatzke and juniors Nicole Wahlin and Anna Solfest were ninth in the 4x800.
Other point-getters for Mounds View included Toninato in the 100-meter dash, where she finished sixth. Olivia Fixsen closed out her prep track career with a fifth-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles. Cassidy Smestad took fifth in the shot put and Veronica Rasmussen did the same in the discus.
State participants who finished out of the points included Kayla Day and Natalie Louderback, who finished 11th and 13th, respectively, in the pole vault. Fixsen also ran in the 300-meter hurdles but not qualify for the finals.
Mounds View earned 23 team points from its four relay finishes and only Minnetonka got more points in relay events. The Skippers’ 4x800-meter relay team took first, the 4x400 was second, the 4x100 was fourth and the 4x200 took seventh for a total of 31 points. Minnetonka also claimed the meet’s team championship.
In the final team standings, Mounds View finished sixth with 42 points. The last time the Mustangs finished higher and scored more points than that was in 2009 when they won the team title with 48 points. Minnetonka claimed the team title this year with 80 points.
Mounds View’s boys team also brought home a state champion on Saturday. Junior Matt Baker posted the fastest time in the prelims of the 110-meter hurdles on Friday and backed it up by doing so again in the finals. His time of 14.54 seconds gave him the gold medal by 0.07 seconds over Arik Steele of North Branch.
Baker’s state win was the first for Mounds View’s boys team since 2007, when the Mustangs won four event titles and the team championship.
Other state entrants for the Mustangs included senior Jalen Hallman, who ran in both hurdle races. He took sixth in the 110 hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles.
The 4x400-meter relay team of Grant Herbert, Will Eggers, Tony Moga and Michael DeGroot took sixth. Michael Hoff ran seventh in the 800 and Andre Hessini was 10th in the 1,600. Sola Olateju competed on Friday in the triple jump and finished fourth.
In the team standings, Mounds View scored 31 points and finished eighth, a half point behind seventh-place Apple Valley. Hopkins won the team championship with 70 points.
Two Irondale High School athletes qualified for the state meet and both finished with all-state honors.
Senior Joe Kelner closed out his prep sports career with his second consecutive appearance in the state pole vault competition. After placing 12th in 2013, Kelner went a foot higher this year and finished second. He cleared 14 feet even after going 13 feet even a year ago. This year, only Mankato East’s Calvin Deike was better thanks to his top height of 14 feet, six inches.
Eighth-grader Julia Hayes showed she could be a serious contender over the next four years after placing fourth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 44.67 seconds. Rocori junior Erin Huls won the state title with a time of 43.39.
Hayes was the youngest competitor in the 300 hurdle finals by two years.
Brian Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.