The Forest Lake girls track team moved up 13 spots from last year’s state showing to 24th overall in points and medaled in three events at the state track and field meet at Hamline University over the weekend.
Head coach Eric Kaluza said it’s a step in the right direction for the Ranger girls.
“I thought we did a fantastic job, particularly when we had every kid, with the exception of Caitlin (Freer) being injured, into the finals,” Kaluza said. “I think that’s immensely important in the validation of what we’re doing here and just continuing to progress.”
Senior Jessica Dhaene medaled in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.96 to take fourth place.
The 4×800-meter relay squad of eighth-grader Maria Valentin, sophomore Rocci Wohlk, ninth-grader Emma Benner and eighth-grader Allie Bartlett placed seventh in the event despite a shoelace coming undone, finishing three spots higher than their seed heading into the final.
Sophomore Cassidy Baker took sixth in the pole vault by clearing 11 feet after placing 16th in the event last year. Baker was seeded first heading into 11-3 by clearing all heights through 11 feet with no misses. The title winner, ninth-grader Andrianna Jacobs of Rochester Century, set a state all-time record by clearing 13 feet. The previous record holder vaulted 12-9 in 2005.
Ninth-grader Abby Jungwirth turned heads in the triple jump as the youngest competitor to make the final. Jungwirth finished 10th after clearing 35-6.
“In talking with the coaches, and especially Devin (Swanberg), a lot of the coaches were asking ‘What kind of freak of nature do you have over there?’ and we’re very excited to see that there are only one or two things to mechanically work on, and Devin knows those things too,” Kaluza said. “So next year, we expect her to be on the podium in more than just triple jump, maybe in three or four events. She will be very good.”
Kaluza added that between the success of his young team and the elite showing of the Ranger boys at state, the Forest Lake track program is full of talent and dedication. Now, he hopes for improvement of its training ground.
“The boys, and give Kendrick all the credit in the world, the coaching staff, the kids all work so dang hard. And we do as well,” Kaluza said. “That just shows that when you have two teams that have so many kids out and can score so many points in the state meet, the facilities need a monster upgrade. The fallacy is that ‘Well, what we have is good enough,’ but that’s not the case. We need to get it taken care of quickly for the safety of the students, the student athletes, the community members and stakeholders in this district. We must get it repaired.”