The high school track and field season takes an interesting twist as the state True Team meet gets under way Friday and Saturday at Blaine's National Sports Center.
No longer are individual performances by a team's top athlete heavily relied on.
The Brainerd Warrior girls' team, the Staples-Motley Cardinal girls and the Pierz Pioneer boys' and girls' teams will compete for True Team titles. Brainerd competes at 4 p.m. Friday, with Pierz and S-M competing on Saturday, Pierz at 10 a.m., S-M at 3 p.m.
For Brainerd, the Class 3A meet is another event in a long string of big meets. The Warriors won their first conference title Tuesday and have the North Subsection meet next Wednesday.
"The True Team is a hard meet to figure out a lineup for because we have another big meet next week," Warriors coach Geri Skogen said. "We're trying not to get the kids injured or wear them down. These meets are both emotionally and physically intense."
The True Team format is unlike any other track and field event during the year. A team can enter three athletes per event with each athlete earning points for their team depending on how they finish.
"Every single athlete that we enter can make a difference," said Skogen. "It doesn't come down to one athlete. Instead it comes down to all three kids in each event. The third-place athletes realize how important they are."
This is the third time in Skogen's 20 years of coaching that the Warriors have competed in the True Team meet. She knows these opportunities don't come along every year.
"At this year's team meeting the seniors said they wanted to go back to the state True Team meet and have that experience again," Skogen said. "This is a good meet because we can give this experience to 35 kids."
The Pioneers head to the Class 1A state True Team meet with an abundance of experience.
This year marks the ninth time in 11 years the Pierz girls' team has competed in the True Team, and the third time the Pioneer boys' team has been to state.
Pierz coach Craig Johnshoy has a bevy of athletes at his disposal. Kaitlyn Jensen, Tiffany Loidolt and Nicole Kasper give the Pioneers three good hurdlers while Stephanie Bleichner leads a strong group of sprinters.
"We have a ton of sprinters and the more you have the better," said Johnshoy. "Our field events are also solid. Our weakest point may be in the distances. We've encouraged some of the sprinters to maybe go up and run the 800 and 1600."
The boys' distance crew of Zach Solinger, Randy Rauch and Josh Andrea will anchor the Pioneers while Tony Andres and Bryan Virnig will help out in sprints. Danny Kimman is a threat in the long, triple and high jumps.
The S-M Cardinals girls' team is making its first trip to the True Team meet.
But don't think the Cardinals' athletes aren't accustomed to pressure. Many of their distance runners are from the state champion cross country team.
"The girls know how to compete and they've been in big meets and games before," S-M coach Ryan Beachy said. "I won't have to explain much to them . They know what it takes and what they have to do. I won't have to give them a big pep talk or anything like that. They'll be ready."
S-M will rely on distance runner Hannah Landecker, middle-distance runners Steph Jares and Abby Palmer as well as pole vaulter Brittany Binek.
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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