BLAINE -- Maria Swanson may not fit the mold of a typical shot putter, but what the slender 5-foot-10 Brainerd junior may lack in brute strength she makes up for in sound technique and desire.
Those qualities came shinning through Saturday in the Class 2A state track and field meet at the National Sports Center as Swanson placed sixth in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 40-11 1/4.
Swanson competed against one of the most accomplished throwers in state history in Lakeville's Liz Podominick, who won another state championship, and against one of the most talented fields of shot putters.
"That's one of the toughest fields I've ever watched," Warriors throwing coach Dan Clabo said. "Our goal was just to have Maria get to the finals and to get sixth place was a bonus. She threw her personal best so I can't ask for more than that."
Podominick, Chisago Lakes' Kari Schmidt and North Branch's Sheena Devine fit the mold of the typical shot putter. All are more than 6 feet tall and pack considerable power.
Swanson is on the other end of the spectrum. She has to rely on explosiveness, quickness and technique.
"Maria's very quick at the end and you need to be explosive in the shot put," said Clabo. "Her quickness is her asset. You look at the rest of the group and Maria's the smallest one out there."
But being the smallest didn't deter Swanson. In fact, she set the standard with her personal-best throw, which also happened to be her first throw of the day.
"I just needed to go as fast I could and continue to look up," Swanson said. "Relaxing was the main thing and not thinking about anything. I just had to get the job done. I try to have better technique and do the little things right."
It's those little things that Clabo believes was the difference for Swanson in the finals. That, and the fact she had competed in the state True Team meet and was used to the throwing venue.
"She was familiar with the surroundings," Clabo said. "Maria is a well-focused athlete. She does all the little things right, like eating well and getting sleep. That's the kind of athlete you like to have."
The Warriors' Dusten Olejnicak came up just short in his bid to make the triple jump finals. He finished 10th with a leap of 42-3 1/4, which was one-half inch short of the finals.
"The triple jump didn't go as well as I expected," said Olejnicak. "My first two jumps I scratched. I felt nervous because I hadn't gotten a jump in so on my final one I just didn't get it all."
It was Olejnicak's second jump in which he scratched that may have been the one to get him into the finals.
"Dusten scratched on his second jump, which was a very good one and would've put him in the finals," Warriors head coach Rod Reuer said. "Again, it's those inches or tenths of seconds that make a big difference in a quality meet like this."
Olejnicak was a last-minute alternate on Brainerd's 4x200-meter relay, as was Justin Mueller in the 4x400. Both teams finished eighth.
"In the 4x200 we didn't get the clean exchanges you need to have," said Reuer. "We had two passes that weren't real smooth and in this caliber of competition that's enough to set you back from a top three finish.
"This was the best the 4x400 has run. When you run a time like that at the state meet you can't ask for any more than that."
This was also one of the most successful state meets Reuer has experienced in his years as a Warrior coach.
"When you can come here and have everyone medal in some way or another that's all you can ask for," he said. "In my career that's the best showing at state the boys have ever had."
Class 2A boys' finals
4x200 -- 1-Wayzata 1:29.85, 8-Brainerd (Jason Roberts, Justin Mueller, Sam Gervais, Dusten Olejnicak) 1:32.08.
4x400 -- 1-Woodbury 3:25.11, 8-Brainerd (Olejnicak, Mueller, Cory Olson, Roberts) 3:28.27.
Triple jump -- 1-Jade Ellis (Totino Grace) 46-11 1/2, 10-Olejnicak (Brainerd) 42-3 1/4.
Class 2A girls' finals
Shot put -- 1-Liz Podominick (Lakeville) 49-10 3/4, 6-Maria Swanson (Brainerd) 40-11 1/4.
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