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Forest Lake's Emma Benner digs down to win 3,200-meter title going away

06/10/2016, 6:43pm CDT
By David La Vaque, Star Tribune

Emma Benner defeated Alexandria's Megan and Bethany Hasz in the Class 2A finals.


Emma Benner of Forest Lake celebrates her title. (Timothy Nwachukwu, special to the Star Tribune)

Competitors, confidence and closing speed — none proved problematic for Forest Lake senior Emma Benner at Friday’s state track and field championships.

Benner won the Class 2A 3,200-meter race in a time of 10 minutes, 29.69 seconds, about seven seconds ahead of Alexandria seniors Megan Hasz (second) and sister Bethany Hasz (third). The twins have reigned as distance running royalty, combining to win the past three cross-country state championships. Bethany was the defending 3,200 champion.

On Friday, they were the first to offer Benner congratulatory hugs on the Hamline University track.

“I knew all this time they were going to be the two that I was fighting,” said Benner, who gained confidence with a solid performance against the twins in November at the Nike Heartland Regional.

Fourth in the past two cross-country state meets and last year’s 3,200, Benner noticed a disappointing trend.

“I didn’t feel like I gave it everything I had, and I regretted it,” said Benner, who has committed to Purdue.

This spring proved otherwise. Benner took a big step in April at the Hamline Elite Meet. Running the same track used for the state meet, Benner crushed the school record set by Kim Kauls in 1986 by more than 15 seconds.

“She dug down a little bit and found it,” Forest Lake coach Devin Swanberg said. “That’s when she realized that she could run that way every day.”

Well ahead of the pack on Friday with a little more than one lap left in the race, Benner said she reminded herself, “I didn’t want to hear the story of, ‘Emma Benner was leading and then got overtaken.’ I knew I had to close hard.”

Benner’s male counterpart, Wayzata senior Jaret Carpenter, won the 3,200 in a time of 9:10.46. Carpenter, victorious in cross-country last fall, took a step toward the distance running triple crown. He’s seeded first for Saturday’s 1,600 race.

“Along with being extremely tired, I’m ecstatic right now,” Carpenter said. “It’s really cool to get the 5K and the two-mile because they are my favorite races.”

Sweet repeat

Heat and humidity sapped Eden Prairie senior Ashley Ramacher but couldn’t keep her off the podium. Ramacher, who has committed to the Gophers, defended her high jump state title. One of three competitors to leap 5 feet, 7 inches, Ramacher won on tiebreaker criteria.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” said Ramacher, who received medical attention after the meet. “To go out and defend my title is something I’ll always hold on to.”

It’s on now

Defending hurdles state champions Karina Joiner of East Ridge (100 meters) and Meleah Biermaier of Thief River Falls (300) are locked in for a pair of big showdowns in Saturday’s finals.

Joiner started her day posting a state record time of 13.94 seconds in the 100 hurdles. Biermaier placed second at 14.27.

“It felt good to come out strong,” Joiner said. “It’s what I’ve been looking for all season.”

Conceding top honors to Joiner in the 100 didn’t faze Biermaier. Taking second to her in the 300 preliminaries was another matter.

“Second seed is not OK,” said Biermaier, who set the state record of 42.13 seconds at state last spring. “Oh, yeah, I’ve got some fire in me. I’m ready.”

Running in separate 300 heats, Joiner posted a 42.87, a hiccup faster than Biermaier’s 42.93.

“She looked really strong,” Biermaier said. “It’ll be a battle. I can just feel it.”

Class 2A noteworthy

Chanhassen senior Jedah Caldwell, owner of state records in the 100 and 200, earned the top seed in both events for Saturday’s finals. … Robbinsdale senior Evan McClellon, who holds the state 100 record, paced the field in prelims. … Blaine senior Clint Lockwood won the shot put title (58-10 ½). … Mounds View sophomore Calvin Ciganik soared to the pole vault title (15-0). … St. Paul Como Park senior Trevon Clay takes the top seed into Saturday’s 110 hurdles title defense. ... Wayzata senior Ruby Stauber, state record holder in the 800, is the top seed in Saturday’s finals.

Fast company

A weather delay forced the Class 1A meet to start more than one hour late Friday afternoon. Minneapolis North sophomore T’Nia Riley showed no ill effects, winning the 100 in a meet record time of 11.95 seconds.

Riley ran alongside fellow Northsider and defending 100 state champion Jia Lewis of Minneapolis Edison and later cheered for her sister, Jada Lewis. The trio will compete for the same title Saturday but Riley isn’t worried about hard feelings.

“We grew up running Park Board together so we have a good relationship,” Riley said.

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