FAIRMONT - "It's kind of a big deal," Fairmont senior Ryan Heuer said in reference to the Minnesota State High School League's Class A state track & field meet Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Heuer, along with 22 other area athletes, will compete in 19 of the 36 events in the hopes of earning a state medallion.
Blue Earth Area earned 10 berths to the state meet - the most of the area qualifying schools. Last season, Marissia Hagedorn and Jake Zebedee were the lone Buc representatives at the state meet.
HEADED TO HAMLINE — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal track & field team competing in the Class A state meet Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul include, front row (l-r): Sasha Riley, Sierra Schultz, Megan Fuhrman and Paige Bearson. Back: Mark Fruechte, Kevin Hanson, Ryan Heuer, Rainier Quade, Joe Driano and Carson Ricard.
This season, Krista Hassing and the Buc girls 4x400-meter relay team already have traveled to Hamline once on April 27 for the Hamline Elite Meet, but this time they will have company.
For the first time, Blue Earth Area's Nick Beattie, Jacob Olson, Josh Johnson, Taylor Grandgenett, Anne Franta and Karli Olsen will be competing at the state meet. Hassing also will be competing in her first state track & field meet.
Hagedorn will be busy for the Bucs, competing in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, in addition to the pole vault, while Johnson will take part in both throwing events - the discus and shot.
Hassing will compete in both the open 800-meter run - where she holds the second-fastest time in the Class A qualifying field - and the 4x400 relay.
The Blue Earth Area 4x400 relay team of Taylor Grandgenett, Franta, Olsen and Hassing has the second-fastest seed time in the state meet with a 4:02.64.
The Bucs' Nick Beattie and Jacob Olson will both be racing for spots in the finals, with Beattie in the open 100 and Olson in the 200.
For the second straight season, Zebedee will represent the Bucs in the pole vault - this time with the top height in the state.
"This week we are just trying to keep everybody sharp and ready," said Blue Earth Area coach Tom Plocker. "I think it'll really help us that Krista (Hassing) and the relay team have been (at Hamline) already in a big-meet situation. They just need to trust in their training and that they are prepared."
Fairmont's team has five state qualifiers, including the 4x400 relay on the boys' side, while Paige Bearson and Sierra Schultz will handle the jumps for the Cardinal girls. Bearson will compete in the triple and long jumps, while Schultz will compete in the triple jump.
Fairmont's Megan Fuhrman will try to improve upon her latest person best in the pole vault at 9-11, while freshman teammate Sasha Riley enters the state meet with the third-fastest time in the open 400 at 58.85.
"There really isn't too much pressure for us, just making it to state and trying to enjoy the experience of state," said Fuhrman. "There really aren't any expectations for us, so it'd be great to get on the (medals) podium."
The Cardinal boys 4x400 relay will have all day on Friday to prepare for their preliminary heat.Heuer, Rainier Quade, Carson Ricard and Mark Fruechte will compete against Section 2 champion and South Central Conference rival Waseca in an effort to reach the finals.
"Each individual has been working hard each day and doing what they need to do in order to do well," said Fruechte.
"We would really like to be on the podium and place highly, we have the athletes and the ability to do well," said Ricard.
Heuer, the lead leg of the Fairmont 4x400, will have both the 110- and 300-meter hurdle races to keep him occupied.
His high hurdle time of 15.06 is the second-fastest overall in the Class A state field, while his time of 39.17 in the intermediates is the fastest.
"Everyone in our group that is going is a great finisher, and that is what they will need in order to do well in this meet," said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. "Going to state is always fun, you can't ever count on it when you have such a great section like we do. Every athlete that gets to go deserves it."
Madelia/Truman's distance core ran its way into the Elite Meet in April, and will try to race to the top of the state podium.
The Jayhawks' 4x800 relay of Adam Cooling, Caleb Arndt, Cade Ekstrom and Leeroy Leal has the fastest time going into the meet at 8:07.09.
Ekstrom also will be demonstrating his distance prowess in the 1,600-meter run. His time of 4:19.68 is the second-fastest behind Section 2 champion Shane Streich of Waseca, who ran a 4:19.29. Arndt will face Streich in the 800-meter run.
DaMarko Thomas will be the lone Jayhawk in the sprints, taking on the field in the 200. Thomas will go head-to-head with Olson from Blue Earth Area in the second heat in hopes of making it to finals Saturday.
Madelia/Truman's 4x400 relay of Cooling, Arndt, Ekstrom and Leal will take its second-fastest time and try to improve to make it to the state finals.
"This group of runners has a pretty big workload, it will be challenge for them this weekend. They have done it all season, they just want to run so much and are so competitive. They are a unique group for us," said Madelia/Truman head coach Pete Goeringer.
For Martin County West's lone participant, the workload is much less. Freshman Haley Jensen will compete for the Mavericks in the 100-meter dash with the hope of making it to Saturday's finals.
The freshman sprinter made it to the Elite Meet, and set the school record in the open 100 to merit Martin County West's most valuable sprinter two years in a row.
"We've been practicing about the same time everyday that she'll be running, making sure she is mentally and physically prepared. She is extremely competitive and has only been beaten three times this year," said Martin County West head coach Curtis Smith. "She gets nervous before each big meet, but has really finished well. The more big meets she's in, I think the less the nerves will bother her."
For coaches, this week is full of preparation and anticipation for one of the best meets all year.
"We try to treat this week as just another meet, just keep everything normal and routine. There adrenaline will pump anyways once you step on the track that day," said Bonk. "Try to remind the kids that everyone there is just another high school athlete."