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State's truest sign of spring arrives

By DAVID La VAQUE , Star Tribune, 05/15/12, 4:35PM CDT


The track and field meet that rewards teams, not individuals, is Friday and Saturday in Stillwater.

Totino-Grace’s Michael Frisbie finished first in his heat of the 100-meter hurdles at the True Team Class 2A, Section 5 meet last week. The state meet is Friday and Saturday. Photo by MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com

Chris Beach graduated from Totino-Grace High School in 1998 without reaching the True Team track and field state meet.

Beach, a decathlete in college, took over the Eagles' boys' and girls' programs nine years ago and helped make track and field dreams a reality for a new generation. The girls have won four consecutive Class 2A True Team state meet titles. The boys won in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

Both programs are back in the hunt this season. The True Team section and state meets, sponsored by the Minnesota Track and Field Coaches Association, reward programs for their depth because every athlete competing earns points toward their team's total.

By contrast, one ultra-talented athlete can -- and has -- won a "team" title for their school at the Minnesota State High School League-sponsored state meet in June.

The 26th True Team boys' and girls' state meet takes place Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School. The meet is a two-day event, featuring the large schools in Class 3A competing Friday evening and the smaller 2A and 1A programs competing throughout Saturday. In all, 54 teams, eight section champions and one wild card team in each gender will vie for titles.

"We talk about doing it for the person next to you," Beach said. "True Team allows you to pull a large group of kids together, and our kids have really bought in."

The Rosemount boys' program returns to chase its second Class 3A state title in three seasons, while the Minnetonka girls' program upset defending champion Hopkins to win its section meet and return to state for the first time since 2006.

All three schools received strong performances from proven competitors as well as breakthroughs by less-heralded athletes to win their section meets last week.

Minnetonka's Maggie Carruth and Piper Jensen, past Minnesota State High School League individual state champions, each scored points at the section meet. Also chipping in was Lizzy Crist (shot put and discus throw) and Carolina Bowe, who won the 200-meter dash and added points in the 100 and shot put.

All-state sprinters Jared Schmit and Alex Wagner ran well for Totino-Grace at sections. Meanwhile, Cameron Miller anchored the section title-clinching 4x400 relay. And Kai Barber set personal bests in the shot put and discus throw.

The Eagles' girls were led by sprinters Anne Louiselle and Elizabeth Wanner. Extra points came from freshman Amy Gasperlin, who set a personal best by 30 seconds in the 3,200.

Beach said the programs' continued successes have helped attract more athletes to track and field. He coaches about 180 athletes overall, up from 60 when he took over the programs.

Rosemount coach Jay Hatleli knows the power of tradition. He believed the Irish would be rebuilding this spring. But led by a strong distance running corps of Chandler Dye, Calvin Lehn and Nathan Rock, plus sprint event newcomers Darrell Hunt and Marius Lewis, Rosemount is back at the state meet.

"Perspective was a priority because last year's team was great," Hatleli said. "So it was a big deal for us to get back this year. It showed we still have the talent, the numbers and competition within to win."

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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