BLAINE -- Brainerd Warrior distance runner Justin Grunewald knew coming into the 3,200-meter run at the Class 2A state track and field meet at the National Sports Center in Blaine that he had nowhere to go but up to improve on his last-place finish from a year ago.
The sophomore did just that Friday, finishing in 13th place and beating out four other runners with a personal best time of 9:50.62.
Even though he didn't medal, Grunewald was happy with seeing his improvement at the state's showcase meet.
"I'm happy with the place I got," said Grunewald. "Last year I got last so I've improved. Hopefully next year I'll be in the top seven and then my senior year I'll run for a championship."
Warrior distance coach Dave Herath was also pleased to see Grunewald's improvement and pointed out that each year of competing with the best can only help.
"He followed the race plan really well for the whole race," Herath said. "Justin is used to maintaining the pace and down here everybody runs negative splits, meaning they run their second mile faster than their first. Justin did what he needed to do, but that lead pack went that much faster.
"Every extra year you get down here is a bonus, especially in the distance events because it's such a tactical thing. Every year is a learning year."
Another Warrior that got valuable experience was junior Jason Roberts as he competed for the first time at the state meet in long jump. He finished 15th in the event with a jump of 20-3 3/4 and missed out on competing in the finals.
Roberts, who competed in the long jump two years ago at the state true team meet, said that the competition at the individual meet is much better and is hopeful that he will be back to state next year.
"There's a new challenge that is presented each year because the distances change every year," said Roberts. "Hopefully I'll beat the challenges, make state again and get to the finals."
Senior hurdler Megan Steiger ran in the second heat of the 300 hurdle prelims, finishing in sixth place with a time of 47.83 and missed out on making Saturday's finals.
"I was really nervous pretty much the whole day," Steiger said. "The race went pretty well and I felt good, but it wasn't as smooth for me. It went well considering it was my first time at state.
"I just took it as another race. I didn't really think too much about what I was here running for and that helped me calm down a little bit."
Even though she won't be racing in the finals, Steiger was still happy to have been down on the track racing instead of up in the stands watching.
"I've been down here to watch, so I know what that feels like," Steiger said. "It's an awesome experience to be down on the track. It's an awesome way to end my senior year."
The lone Little Falls Flyer, Quentin Plumksi, had a tough time in the pole vault as he failed to clear the bar and finished with no height recorded.
Darren Clabo and Ashley Rodriguez are the final two Warriors to compete and finished out the state meet for Brainerd Saturday. Clabo threw the discus and Rodriguez threw the shot put.
3200 run -- 1-Forrest Taahdooahnippa (Mpls. SW) 9:21.59, 13-Justin Grunewald (Brd) 9:50.62.
Long jump -- 1-James Lundberg (Robbinsdale Armstrong) 23-8, 15-Jason Roberts (Brd) 20-3 3/4.
Pole vault -- 1-Nick Wilson (Mankato West) 14-3, Quentin Plumski (LF) NH.
300 hurdles, heat 2 -- 1-Mikaela Radatz (Eastview/Apple Valley) 45.12, 6-Megan Steiger (Brd) 47.83.
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