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Wensia Johnson: From Haiti to Alexandria, fast

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 06/09/12, 2:25AM CDT


Haiti native Wensia Johnson sped to the finals in three events, including setting a meet record in the 100.

Boy's and Girl's State High School Track Meet. (IN THIS PHOTO) Defending champion Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria (#1) and Maria Hauger of Shakopee (#2) battle it out in the Girls Class AA 3200 Meter run. Hauger won the race and Piepenburg came in 3rd. E

Wensia Johnson competes with Alexandria's black and red colors on her back and Haiti in her heart.

Johnson, a precocious eighth-grader, blazed to a Class 2A state meet record time of 11.74 seconds in the 100-meter dash preliminaries Friday at Hamline University.

Adopted in 2004, Johnson and her younger sister left their family in Haiti for Minnesota. But her native country remains close in spirit.

"When you're born in Haiti you don't have much chance," Johnson said. "So I'm doing it for all the children who don't think they can. They actually can, they just need a chance."

Johnson qualified for Saturday's championship finals in three events: 100 and 200 dashes and the 4x100 relay. She owns the fastest seed time in the 100 and 200 finals.

Also setting meet records were Park of Cottage Grove senior R.J. Alowonle (110 hurdles), Andover senior Tom Anderson (shot put), St. Francis junior Maggie Ewen (discus throw) and Richfield junior Jessica January (100 hurdles).

Alowonle's 110 hurdles time of 13.88 seconds smashed the state meet mark of 14.06 set in 1994. Earlier this spring, Alowonle reset the all-time mark in the 300 hurdles (36.38 seconds). He will attempt to defend titles in both events Saturday.

Head meet judge Gene "Lefty" Wright, who has officiated 44 consecutive state meets, called Alowonle "one of the smoothest hurdlers we've seen in a long time."

Alowonle also won the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet, 11 inches.

Anderson fell short of becoming Minnesota's first high school thrower to surpass 70 feet in the shot put. But he won his second state title with a meet record mark of 65 feet, 4¼ inches.

He set the all-time mark of 65-8 earlier this season. He is the top seed in Saturday's discus throw and expects big things.

"I'm in a really good groove in discus," Anderson said. "I'm right at my peak, and I should have a good throw [Saturday]."

Ewen's discus throw of 171-9 reset the state meet record while falling just short of the all-time mark of 172-7 she set earlier this season.

The one that got away? Ewen threw more than 180 feet but missed staying in the circle by mere inches and fouled.

"I think I just got a glimpse," Ewen said. "I hope it's still coming."

January's 100 hurdles time of 14.32 eclipsed her all-time mark of 14.33 set two years ago. She will go for her third consecutive state title Saturday.

Going the distance

Shakopee junior Maria Hauger and Wayzata senior Josh Thorson were not pleased with their results at state last June. They have been hard to beat since. They won their respective state cross-country titles in November and breezed to victory in the 3,200 races Friday.

Thorson's time of 9 minutes, 6.07 seconds was more than 12 seconds faster than the runner up.

Hauger overtook longtime rival Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria on the final lap and posted a winning time of 10:28.85.

In preparation for the 9 a.m. race, Thorson, who said he believes he runs better at evening races, has been "waking up around 6:30 or 7 a.m. every day just to get my body going so today wouldn't be too much of a shock."

Conversely, Hauger said: "I love running in the morning. I feel like I always do badly at the Hamline Elite Meet here because it's at night."

Worth noting

Minneapolis Southwest senior Tatyana Pashibin won a second consecutive high jump title with a leap of 5-6. She also placed second in the long jump (17 feet, 8¾ inches).

Lakeville South junior Lee Bares defended his pole vault title, clearing 15-6.

Class 1A

• Clare Flanagan, a sophomore at Blake, ran to victory in the 3,200 girls' race in 10:44.70. She won the Class 1A state cross-country meet in November.

• Blake junior Grant Krieger won the pole vault, clearing 15-0.

• Foley junior Charlie Lawrence won the boys' 3,200-meter run championship, in 9:22.92.

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