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Hopkins aims for true-team state

By CALVIN SWANSON, Star Tribune, 03/27/12, 3:13PM CDT


 Hopkins, with a nice mix of experience and youth, hopes to parlay that into a True Team state meet run.

Photos by KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com Hopkins senior Julius Williamson was part of the Royals’ 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams that finished seventh and third at last year’s MSHSL Class 2A meet.

Hopkins boys' track and field athletes are striving to end a True Team drought.

It's been four seasons since Hopkins last competed in the True Team state meet. Last season Hopkins finished fourth in the Class 3A, Section 7 meet behind powerhouses Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Wayzata. No current Royals runners have been a part of a True Team state appearance.

"Our main goal is always to make it to True Team state, because for us that's our true test of who is the best team," first-year head coach Ronni Hamilton said. "At the [Minnesota State High School League] state meet it says who has a lot of all-stars, which we like to have those, too. [But] True Team is where we want to make a big impact."

Hopkins returns a plethora of senior leadership from last year's team, which finished 10th at the MSHSL Class 2A meet.

"As far as the seniors go, we have very high expectations for the team this year," senior co-captain Austin Salargo said after practice last week. "We've got a great group of guys out, some really strong runners and our field [throwing and jumping events] is looking up, too."

Hamilton believes the team's senior leadership and hard-work ethic on and off the track will be instrumental in developing what she says is both an experienced and young squad.

"We have a lot of experience in our stronger events, but then we do have a lot of opportunity for new kids to come in," she said.

Senior co-captain Julius Williamson said, "What makes us special is the bonding we have and unity. We're all good athletes, but we all get along. I think that's the best quality."

Hopkins' strength is in the sprint events, filled with talented seniors.

"Sprinting is our most dominant thing. In each relay, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400, three seniors return," Williamson said.

Hamilton has seen improvement in distance-running events and pole vault. The biggest challenge will be finding people to fulfill roles in hurdles and jumping events where they lost kids to graduation, she said.

Salargo, who owns the school's record for the 400 meters (48.18 seconds), brings a strong presence to Hopkins' sprint squad which he has been training with during the offseason. He hopes to surpass his team record this year by running a time of 47.5 in the 400, he said. Salargo's first-place time of 48.56 in the 400 at state last year helped pave the way for the school's 10th-place finish.

"He already has the school record," Hamilton said. "We're hoping he betters that. He has a shot at the state record."

Williamson and fellow senior John Klecker are both poised to have strong senior years for the Royals, Hamilton said.

Williamson was a part of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams that finished seventh and third at state last year. He plans on running the 100, 200 and 400 relays this year while also attempting to set a school record of 6 feet, 8 inches for the high jump, he said.

"I think Julius is really going to pop something in the high jump," Hamilton said. "Last year, getting his 6-4 was amazing considering it was his first year. I can expect him going higher."

Klecker, who finished ninth overall in last fall's Class 2A cross-country meet, is a standout runner in Hopkins' distance group.

"John in the distance races, whether he focuses in the mile or two-mile, he has great potential in either of those," Hamilton said.

The Royals' first meet of the season kicks off in Shakopee on April 19.

Calvin Swanson is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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