Raiders place sixth at state track meet
Coming into this year’s track and field season, Hastings coach Jason Koch knew that if a few things went just right, the Raiders had a chance to have a strong showing at the state meet.
There’s no way, though, that he could have imagined what happened over the weekend. Hastings placed sixth at the state’s biggest meet and came home with one individual state title.
“It was exciting,” Koch said. “A lot of kids did well, and then to finish sixth overall as a team … I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. It’s amazing. It’s awesome. It’s fun.”
As a team, the Raiders placed sixth with 35 points.
Hopkins won the meet with 70 points.
Wayzata was second (57), Rosemount was third (56), Eden Prairie was fourth (50) and Stillwater was fifth (48).
“I didn’t think we’d be able to finish that high,” Koch said. “I knew we’d have a better team than we’ve had in the past. I knew we had a lot of kids returning, but I didn’t think we were going to place as high as sixth in the state.”
Koch said he knew the Raiders were heading toward big things when they placed second at the section meet a few weeks ago. A number of Hastings athletes stepped up in that meet, Koch said, including a large group that wasn’t able to qualify for the state meet but still scored big points at sections.
The big thing is that Hastings has some elite athletes, and their work ethic is catching on, Koch said.
“We had a core group of guys who were good leaders,” he said. “They compete well and they work hard. That’s having a trickle-down effect. Their hard work has rubbed off. That’s definitely going to lead to high level performances from kids.”
A state champion
Clayton Johnson, a Hastings sophomore, won the state title in the 300 meter hurdles.
He had a time of 38.30 to win the meet. It’s rare for an underclassmen to win a state boys track title, let alone a sophomore, Koch said.
The second-place runner was junior David Eldridge of Eden Prairie, who had a time of 38.33.
“Clayton is one of the few kids on our team who does summer track,” Koch said. “He loves track. It is his favorite sport. He does other stuff, but he lives for track. He definitely puts in the time and the work to be successful. He obviously has some talent to work with as well.”
Koch said that in addition to working hard at practice, Johnson works wisely.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Koch said. “He wants everything to be perfect. If it isn’t, he’ll put in a few more reps to make sure he’s making strides to being better every day.
“He’s never easy on himself. He pushes himself hard and it pays off.”
Johnson had a time of 38.33 in prelims, which was four tenths of a second faster than his time from the section meet of 38.77.
Hastings senior Wes Evansen qualified for the state meet in the pole vault and entered the meet with the highest seeding height at 15-1, a height he cleared to win the section title. That height set a new school record, too.
At the state meet, though, Evansen wasn’t able to get quite that far up. He did clear 13-6 and placed fifth.
The meet was won by Calvin Deike of Mankato East, who went 14-6.
“He came in there with the attitude that he was going to try to beat his record,” Koch said. “It didn’t happen that day, but he had a fantastic season. He set our school record in the pole vault. It wasn’t his best day, but it was good enough to get fifth in the state. If you can have a bad day and still get fifth in the state, that’s a good thing.”
Hastings sophomore Alex Poncelet was not able to advance to the finals in the 200 meter dash.
He had a time of 23.20 in the preliminary round, just a bit slower than his section finals time of 23.07.
“Alex was the biggest surprise for me this year,” Koch said. “I knew he was a good athlete, but I couldn’t have told you he was going to make it to the state meet at the end of the year. He surprised me and all the coaches. It was a very pleasant surprise to see him come along and make the strides that he made this year.”
Hastings senior Zack Benning placed second in the 3,200 meter run this year with a time of 9:02.71.
He entered the meet with a seeding time of 9:24.96.
The meet was won by Eli Krahn of Stillwater in 9:00.08.
Last year’s champ, Obsa Ali, was third in 9:02.97.
“He ran a really good race,” Koch said.
Benning passed two runners on the final stretch of the race to move up from fourth to second.
“He finished really strong,” Koch said.
Johnson qualified for the state meet in the 110 high hurdles, but wasn’t able to advance to finals.
Johnson had a time of 15.73 in prelims.
The meet was eventually won by Matt Baker of Mounds View, who had a time of 14.54.
The 4x400 relay team placed seventh with a time in finals of 3:25.68.
In prelims, they had a time of 3:22.11, which set a new school record.
The team was made up of one senior and three sophomores.
Benning is the senior. The sophomores are Kannon O’Brien, Mark Vaith and Johnson.
“They ran really well on Friday,” Koch said. “They put together the best race they had all year.”
Benning placed fifth in the 1,600 meter run on Saturday with a time of 4:15.60.
The meet was won by Krahn, who had a time of 4:13.54.
Benning entered the state meet with a seed time of 4:13.86, but was about two seconds slower in the state finals.
The top seven runners were all close, coming in within 2.5 seconds of each other.
Evansen qualified in the long jump, too. His best jump was 19-8.25. He didn’t place.
The meet was won by Terrance Bowers of Hopkins, who had a leap of 22-7.