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New to Hastings, Kneen sisters bring experience to track team

Sophia, left, and Johannah Kneen are new members of the Hastings track and field team, but bring experience from their previous school.

Hastings High School's girls track and field team is young this year, and while Sophia and Johanna Kneen are new to the team, they came with a little experience.

The sisters moved to Hastings with their family last July from North Branch.

Sophia had been participating in track and field for five years, and Johanna for three years when they joined the Raiders.

Sophia, a junior, first turned to track and field to break away from her routine.

"I had been doing gymnastics my whole life and I wanted something different," she said.

Her events this year are the 200-meter, 400-meter, 4x400 relay and triple jump.

Johanna had enjoyed running on her own, she said. As a freshman this year, she's competing in the 400-meter, 4x400 relay and high jump.

Johanna was originally a distance runner, competing in the mile run and 800-meter.

"As I started getting faster and faster and as I started maturing more, my coach put me in the 400 and I took first place," she said.

Moving to Hastings has given both sisters a fresh start.

"I used to hate the 400," Sophia said.

After Hastings head coach Greg Sandkamp convinced her to try it, she's come to love the event, she said.

Sophia also used to bet intimidated by other athletes and certain events, she said. This year, she's unfamiliar with the other athletes and has the chance to try the events she enjoys, which means intimidation isn't a factor anymore.

For Johanna, working with new coaches has led her to modify her methods. Her high jump coach in North Branch taught her a specific jump style, one that differs from Hastings' methods.

"It's been a little hard to adapt," Johanna admitted. "It's like I have to start over."

Her jumps have to get worse to get better, she said, but she and her sister are confident she'll improve.

The question everyone seems to ask them is if they're rivals on the track, they said. While they do compete against each other, they're more supportive than competitive, they explained.

"Like my mom always says, we're like Venus and Serena (Williams)," Sophia said.

Both sisters are three-sport athletes. Sophia still competes in gymnastics and also plays soccer. Johanna plays basketball and cross-country.

"This is our favorite sport," Johanna said of track and field. "By far, this is our favorite sport."

This season, Johanna wants to lower her 400 time to 60 seconds and clear four feet, 10 inches on the high jump. Her personal bests are 63 seconds in the 400 and four feet, nine inches in high jump. Other than that, she wants to be a leader on the team, she said. Sophia just wants to beat her old times and enjoy her events. Her personal bests are 33 feet in triple jump, 64 seconds in the 4x400 relay and 27.3 seconds in the 200.

You can expect to see both sisters on the track again next year. Sophia had considered not joining as a senior, but said she'll be there.

"I'm just gonna go out and have fun," she said.