The Forest Lake boys track team turned heads Saturday at a packed stadium on the campus of Hamline University with a best-ever second-place finish at the state track and field meet. Stillwater captured first with 65 points; Forest Lake had 59.5.
Rangers were state champions in three events.
Between a rookie sprinter in senior Andrew Wright and some injury-ridden runners, the 4×100-meter relay squad of Wright, senior Zachary Freer, junior Pat Murphy and senior anchor Rich Carr earned the title with an exciting win and time of 42.43, fending off Hopkins by four-hundredths of a second in front of a roaring cheering section. The Rangers started in the middle front of the pack, but when Carr took the baton for the final leg, it was all over. Carr closed the gap and caught the Royal runner in the final feet.
While head coach Paul Kendrick was unavailable for comment due to vacation, assistant coach Deno Johnson said Kendrick was floored.
“Kendrick was pretty stoic, but I kind of think he was in shock,” Johnson said. “He’s worked with these guys for so many years, and I know the 4×100 is near and dear to his heart and it’s kind of always been his baby. The guys got a good start, the handoffs were just awesome, and then Rich got the stick for the final leg. And when Rich wants it, he gets it.”
Senior Anthony Tyler claimed a state title in the discus with a personal-best throw of 160-3, winning by nearly two feet and beating out 2012 medalist Nate Bird of Stillwater.
Senior Cody Walton racked up the medals and points on Saturday, earning the state title in the 300-meter hurdles (37.60), taking third in the 110-meter hurdles (14.54) and clearing 6-5 in the high jump, good for a tie for fourth place. This is Walton’s third state medal in the 300-meter hurdles, having placed ninth in 2011 and fifth in 2012.
“Cody just had an all-star day, MVP of the whole thing and just one medal after another,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of it had to do with the crowd. Every time you heard Forest Lake announced, there was just a roar and I think that sense of pride pushed Cody. It was very cool.”
To accompany first in the 4×100-meter relay, Carr also took second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11 seconds flat. He placed seventh in the event last year. Junior Shaheed Hickman of Hopkins took the title with a time of 10.90.
Senior Jacob Jankowski finished 12th in the 3200-meter run with a time of 9:34.21, and also placed 17th in the 1600-meter run (4:26.19) while setting a new personal record in what Johnson called “one of the toughest fields in years.”
Junior Preston Huddleston just missed the finals in the long jump, but marked a distance of 20-9.25 in the preliminaries Friday.
The second-place team finish is a leap from last year’s finish of a tie for 21st with Tartan and Oakdale with 17 points and marks the highest placement in school history.
“It’s just fantastic to see such a great group of seniors do such a nice job,” Johnson said. “It really exemplified the fun factor of track. We have all these kids from different walks of life break down barriers, become really close and become really special leaders. They deserve everything they got.”