Laura Pace has a sour taste in her mouth. And at this weekend's Class 1A state track and field meet at the National Sports Center in Blaine, the Pillager sophomore will look to rinse that taste away.
Last year, Pace was in prime position to finish the 100-meter hurdles and earn a medal when disaster struck. Pace stumbled on the second to last hurdle, fell under the final hurdle and was disqualified.
This spring Pace has run with determination and heads into the 100 hurdles with the top time at 15.18.
Staples-Motley's Josh Smith qualified in three events.
Pace will also compete in the triple jump, where she has the sixth best jump in the field, and the 300 hurdles, where she's seeded 9th. She could earn medals in all three events.
But her sights are set firmly on claiming the 100 hurdles championship.
"Laura has a bitter taste in her mouth from last year," Pillager girls' coach Holly Cervin said. "She's a humble kid, but her goal is to win state in the 100 hurdles. She spent a lot of time in the weightroom over the winter and it's paid off. She's just a lot stronger both mentally and physically."
Pillager hurdles coach Terry Hollingsworth has done his best to keep Pace focused on her events the past week. A difficult job when Pace is the only athlete at the track.
"Laura's been running very well this year," Hollingsworth said. "It's always new at state. I'm trying to keep her focused on the hurdles and not the competition. I also want to keep her loose so we talk about lighter subjects. She's ready to win."
Staples-Motley's Josh Smith is another area athlete that will compete in three events at state. He enters with the top time in the 400 dash with a time of 49.10. Last year he placed fifth at state in the 400.
Smith also will compete in the 200 dash and long jump, where he's seeded sixth in both events. He took third place in the long jump a year ago.
Pillager sophomore Laura Pace is back at state.
"Josh hasn't peaked yet," S-M coach Ryan Beachy said. "His race strategy will be to get out quicker. Josh finishes very strong and has good endurance. He's done all the training and now it's time for the payoff."
Also back for the Cardinals are the girls' 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams from a year ago. Last year both teams finished fourth.
This year's 4x800 team of Courtney Robinson, Steph Jares, Hannah Landecker and Britta Binek has the second fastest time at 9:37.50. Beachy knows that this team still has its best race ahead of them.
"At sections they were really disappointed and they still broke the school record," said Beachy. "We're shooting to run under 9:25 which would be a new state record. This year the girls are more focused on what they can accomplish."
Crosby-Ironton's Parker Robinson, last year's state high jump champion, also returns to defend his title, but with little fanfare. The senior is tied with two other jumpers for the second highest leap at 6-foot-5. Jeff Lillevold of Martin County is the top seed at 6-6.
Robinson's pre-meet seeding won't fool anyone. He is the favorite in the event because he possess the ability to jump 6-9. He won the event last year with a 6-7 leap.
Robinson could be a double-medal winner as he's seeded fourth in the long jump at 20-7 1/4.
Wadena-Deer Creek's Eric Asfeld should have a shot at a medal. He's seeded fourth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 40.74.
The Class 1A meet begins 2:30 p.m. Friday with preliminaries and finals in some events and concludes Saturday with finals beginning at 9:45 a.m.
Class 1A state track and field qualifiers
200: Josh Smith (Staples-Motley)
400: Smith (S-M)
300 hurdles: Eric Asfeld (Wadena-Deer Creek)
1600: Joe Radinovich (Crosby-Ironton)
3200: Chad Brever (S-M)
4x200 relay: S-M (Dylan Huss, Derek Peterson, Josh Anderson, Smith)
4x200 relay: S-M (Brever, Jake Belanger, Dan Freeman, Dan Huebsch)
Long jump: Parker Robinson (C-I), Smith (S-M)
High jump: Robinson (C-I)
Triple jump: Ryan Taggart (C-I)
Pole vault: B.J. Olson (W-DC)
100 hurdles: Laura Pace (Pillager)
300 hurdles: Pace (Pillager), Kaitlyn Jensen (Pierz)
800: Kim Beaman (C-I), Steph Jares (S-M)
1600: Jamie Talberg (Pierz), Brittany Brenny (S-M)
3200: Brenny (S-M)
4x200 relay: S-M (Abby Palmer, Courtney Robinson, Britta Binek, Jacque Peterson)
4x400 relay: S-M (Robinson, Palmer, Peterson, Jares)
4x800 relay: S-M (Robinson, Binek, Hannah Landecker, Jares)
High jump: Peterson (S-M), Teresa Parker (Pequot Lakes)
Triple jump: Pace (Pillager), Flecia Foster (PL)
Pole vault: Binek (S-M), Kelsey Griffith (S-M)
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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