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Zack Benning races for Hastings in the 3,200 on Friday. He placed fourth in the event with a time that would have won the state meet last year by four seconds. (Rivertown Multimedia photo by Joe Brown)

Two school records fall at state track meet

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The Hastings boys track and field team made up for lost time at this weekend's state meet at Hamline University. The past two seasons, Hastings didn't qualify an athlete for the big meet. This year, seven athletes competed in four events, and two school records fell along the way.

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"We were thrilled," coach Jason Koch said. "It's a huge accomplishment in terms of individually and as a team. Throughout the entire season, we improved wherever we went. At the conference meet we moved up spots. At the section meet we moved up.

"We're just getting better as a program. We're starting to work hard and realize what it takes to be successful. That's all I can ask for -- improvement and continued hard work."

4x800 relay

The 4x800 relay team placed seventh at the meet. Team members were Jesse Green, Joseph Rabaey, Matthew Woolery and Zack Benning. They had a time of 8:00.17, breaking the school record.

Green, Rabaey and Woolery are all seniors. Benning in is a junior.

"They ran really well and competed really well," Koch said. "You can't ask for much more than setting a school record."

Green was moved up in distances to be on the team.

"Jesse, throughout his four years here, has mostly been a 200 and 400 runner," Koch said. "We were looking for one more guy who could get close to the two-minute mark in the 800. Our distance coach and I discussed it, and decided to give Jesse a shot."

Green got a chance to run the race at the regular-season finale at a meet in Cottage Grove.

"We told him to just go out and stick with the top guys," Koch said. "He ended up running really well."

Rabaey, Woolery and Benning were essentially easy picks to be on the team, based on what they had done in seasons past and this fall on the cross country team.

"We knew Joe would be there," Koch said. "We knew he'd be a guy we could rely on. Matt has come on really good in the 800 over the past few years. He was another kid we counted on. Zack can do anything we ask him to, from the 400 and up. He's very reliable."

This year's team broke a record set in 1997 by Evan Pengelly, Joe Haas, Tony Casalenda and David Bauer. Their time was 8:01.2.

The runners were all named to the all state team.

3,200

Benning placed fourth in the 3,200 with a time of 9:02.37, which was 28 seconds faster than his time at sections.

The winner, Obsa Ali, set a state record in the event with a time of 8:57.07.

Benning's time would have won the state meet last year by four seconds and would have been a state record. A total of five runners broke the previous state record in the event.

"It was the most incredible two-mile race I have ever watched," Koch said. "Through seven laps, there were nine guys who were in a pack. It was a race that was incredibly fast, and Zack just hung in there.

"We told him, 'If you want to get on the medal stand, you're going to have to run with the pack and hang in there as long as you can.' He did that and more.

"This was probably one of the best two-mile races in history. This doesn't happen all the time. Five guys broke the state record!"

Complicating matters for Benning is the fact that he and the other four runners who broke the state record are all underclassmen.

"There'll be quite a bit of anticipation for that race, I gotta believe," Koch said.

Benning set a school record in the event, breaking the oldest Hastings record on the books. It was set in 1974 by Mike Vought at 9:09.9. Benning was named to the all-state team, too.

Pole vault

In the pole vault, Wes Evansen placed eighth. He cleared 13-6.

The winner was Mitchell Valli of Buffalo, who had a winning height of 15-7.5.

"Wes has been Mr. Consistent throughout the year at 13-6," Koch said. "In pretty much every meet we had this year, he had that height.

"Once he breaks through that 13-6 thing, we can see him going quite a bit higher. He's got some potential to do some great things."

Evansen earned a spot on the all-state team.

4x400 relay

The Hastings 4x400 relay team did not qualify for finals. They had a time of 3:28.70 in the prelims.

The team was made up of Green, Benning and freshmen Mark Vaith and Clayton Johnson.

"That's a really young team," Koch said. "We couldn't have asked for anything more from them. That was their second-fastest time of the season. They peaked at the section meet to get into the state meet. I wasn't disappointed by any means. They ran a really good race, and they're young. They gained some experience, and hopefully we can use that to perform better in the future."

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Chad Richardson
Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
(651) 319-4500
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