BLAINE -- From the start of this spring, all eyes have been fixed on Laura Pace. Last year she won the Class 1A 100-meter hurdles state title as a sophomore so, naturally, expectations ballooned and talk of a repeat was on everyone's mind.
But, being a defending state champion isn't easy. Opponents gun for you, with the hopes of being able to brag that they beat a state champ. Then there's the pressure to perform and show you weren't a one-race wonder.
Pace dealt with those pressures like a champion and pushed the pressure aside. At Saturday's 1A state track and field finals at the National Sports Center, Pace repeated as 100 hurdles champion, fending off Alex Andrews of Triton as she posted a winning time of 15.01.
As difficult as Pace's repeat was, Wadena-Deer Creek's Eric Asfeld accomplished a feat just as monumental as the junior splashed onto the scene by winning the 110- and 300 hurdle state titles. Asfeld capitalized on his speed in both events as he posted times of 15.33 in the 110s and 39.75 in 300s.
John Pedersen photo
Wadena-Deer Creek's Eric Asfeld cleared a hurdle during the boys' 110-meter high hurdles in the Class 1A state track and field meet Saturday. Asfeld won the race, as well as the 300 intermediate hurdle event.
Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale's Philipp Scharff was another top area finisher, placing third in the triple jump with a distance of 43-9 1/4.
Pace's race in the 100 hurdles unfolded exactly the way she thought it would.
Andrews, who posted an identical qualifying time as Pace in Friday's preliminaries, threatened early but in the end Pace's superior technique gave her the blue ribbon.
"(Andrews) was right next to me the whole time and was pushing me," Pace said. "I knew in my mind if I gave it all I had I would win. I had really good technique the whole race. That's why I did well, because my technique was solid all the way through."
Pace was also quick to point out how different this state title was from the previous year, when she was a wide-eyed sophomore.
John Pedersen photo
Pillager's Laura Pace led the pack toward the finish of the Class 1A 100-meter hurdles Saturday. Pace won the event with a time of 15.01.
"It's a lot different coming back to state and defending your title than coming in trying to win your first one," said Pace. "There's a little more pressure on you when you're defending. Every meet there was pressure on me to run better and run faster.
"The pressure I put on myself not to get beat was a lot too but I think that's good. You want to push yourself to do above and beyond what you think you can do."
Asfeld had his own type of pressure to deal with. In Friday's 110 hurdle prelims he injured an ankle by hitting it against the hurdles. As he warmed up Saturday he reinjured the ankle, which began to swell and had to apply ice prior to the race.
Asfeld found himself trailing with about 50 meters left when he poured on the speed and passed opponents left and right. He admitted the slow start was by design.
"I got out slow and made sure I got over the first three hurdles," Asfeld said. "I hit the first three Friday and that ruined my race. Once I got in my rhythm I just went and ran as fast as I could."
In the 300s Asfeld said his strategy was to get out fast and catch the runner in the lane next to him by the first hurdle. When that didn't happen, it worried him into running faster. And, when the group entered the home stretch, Asfeld turned on the afterburners and sped away from Greenway's Zac Preble, his nearest competitor.
"When I saw Preble pass me I got scared and I just let it all go after that," said Asfeld. "I even hit the last hurdle with the wrong foot but it didn't faze me because I was going so hard. This is the fulfillment of a lot of goals that I made this year."
1A boys' team scores -- 1-Hermantown 36, 2-Caledonia/Spring Grove/Mabel-Canton 33, 3-Glencoe-Silver Lake 32, 3-New York Mills 32, 5-Annandale 30, 11-Wadena-Deer Creek 24, 40-Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale 8, 50-Pequot Lakes 5, tie-65-Crosby-Ironton 3, tie-65-Staples-Motley 3, 80-Pillager 1
110 hurdles -- 1-Eric Asfeld (Wadena-Deer Creek) 15.33
300 hurdles -- 1-Asfeld (W-DC) 39.75
Triple jump -- 1-Ted Rud (New York Mills) 45-11 1/2, 3-Philipp Scharff (Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale) 43-9 1/4, 9-Teddy Lundgren (Pequot Lakes) 42-8 3/4, 11-Ryan Taggart (Crosby-Ironton) 41-6 3/4
High jump -- 1-Jared Graff (LeSueur-Henderson) 6-7, 12-Eric Huber (Staples-Motley) 6-0
1A girls' team scores -- 1-Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd 54, 2-DeLaSalle 45, 3-St. Paul Academy 43, 4-Pipestone Area 38, 5-Cedar Mountain 34, tie-19-Pillager 15, 45-Staples-Motley 7.75, 64-Crosby-Ironton 3.75
4x800 relay -- 1-Cedar Mountain 9:26.62, 12-Crosby-Ironton (Stacey Gustafson, Reese Harris, Molly Nixon, Kim Beaman) 10:32.69
100 hurdles -- 1-Laura Pace (Pillager) 15.01
4x200 relay -- 1-Sleepy Eye Unified 1:44.09, 6-Staples-Motley (Jacque Peterson, Ashley Lisson, Missy Odden, Josie Pilgrim) 1:47.66
1600 run -- 1-Nikki Swenson (Lac qui Parle Valley) 4:56.92, 11-Kelly Anderson (Pequot Lakes) 5:26.36
800 run -- 1-Nicole Calabrese (Kingsland) 2:15.40, 7-Kim Beaman (Crosby-Ironton) 2:23.11
Triple jump -- 1-Amanda Trost (Lac qui Parle Valley) 37-02 3/4, 7-Pace (Pillager) 34-9
Pole vault -- 1-Jennifer Hensel (Frazee) 11-0, 7-Kelsey Griffith (S-M) 9-9
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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