Natalie Windels of Eagan placed first in the preliminaries of the girls' Class 2A 300-meter hurdles. [GLEN STUBBE / firstname.lastname@example.org]
Passing the race clock to begin the last of her eight laps, her competitors well behind, Minneapolis Washburn junior Emily Covert dared herself to make history.
As Covert flew around the final turn on the Hamline University track, her pursuit of the 3,200-meter record made grandstand spectators resemble tennis fans watching a great match. To their right, the race clock. To their left, Covert, her bright pink shoes churning.
Clock. Covert. Clock. Covert.
The drama ended well Friday morning at the start of the two-day track and field state meet. She crossed the finish line in 10 minutes, 6.19 seconds, only 76 hundredths of a second faster than Holy Family’s Bria Wetsch in 2006. Furthermore, Covert became the first Minneapolis Public Schools female to win the 3,200 since it replaced the 2-mile run in 1979.
“I told myself that I have to want it,” said Covert, who won the Class 2A cross-country state title in November. “If I pushed through that last lap, I’d be able to get it.”
Covert outran runner-up Lauren Peterson of Farmington, the defending event champion, by 34.27 seconds.
Washburn junior Grace Dickel, who placed third, said of her teammate, “She believed in herself today and she did an amazing job.”
Like Covert, Wayzata senior Khalid Hussein triumphed in cross-country and in the 3,200 on Friday. He won in a time of 9:07.88, edging Edina’s Maxwell Manley (9:08.90). Washburn’s Joseph Minor took third.
Manley captured the 3,200 title on the same track April 27 at the Hamline Elite Meet, two spots ahead of Hussein.
“It was good for me,” Hussein said. “I feel like if I had won that meet, I’d go into state thinking, ‘Nobody can beat me,’ and maybe I’d let up and get passed at the end. Max and Joseph Minor are great athletes, so I had to be ready.”
In Hussein’s defense, Trojans distance coach Eric Jahn said the training schedule wasn’t designed for peak April performances. Still, creating a little hunger wasn’t a bad thing — because Manley, a fellow Lake Conference and Section 6 competitor, demanded the best from Hussein in their latest showdown.
“They both ran faster than they ever have, so that’s what it took,” Jahn said.
Safe at third
Anger, calm and prayer became Orono senior Patricia Johnson’s three-step process to a state championship.
She was furious with herself after scratching her first two long jump tries. Her coach advised she take a deep breath, after which Johnson said she “prayed that I made it to finals.”
With one jump left to qualify, Johnson unleashed a leap of 19 feet, 3¾ inches, which held up as the winning mark and ranked fourth in state history. She topped her previous personal best by about 9 inches and shattered her seed mark by more than a foot.
Pushing the pace
Natalie Windels’ competitive instincts burned even before she began the first step of her 300 hurdles state title defense.
White Bear Lake junior Erika Townley won the first preliminary heat in 42.99 seconds, and Eagan’s Windels sought to one-up her rival.
“After I saw Erika’s time, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out there and run a PR,’ ” Windels said.
She succeeded, clocking 42.65 seconds — the fifth-fastest time in state history — for an edge heading into Saturday’s finals.
The pair also run the 100 hurdles and are in hot pursuit of defending champion Shae Buchman of Rosemount. The top three — Buchman, Windels and Townley — finished within 15 hundredths of a second in Friday’s prelims.
Younger Ping wins 3,200
An anticipated Class 1A showdown in the 3,200 held intrigue for six of eight laps, until Winona Cotter seventh-grader Lauren Ping put older sister Grace and Math & Science Academy freshman Tierney Wolfgram behind for good.
The younger Ping enjoyed a memorable state meet debut, winning in a time of 10:29.77, ahead of Wolfgram (10:34.17) and Grace Ping (10:38.96). Both Wolfgram and Grace Ping, a ninth-grader, have won state cross-country championships.
“We have a competition, but we’re all friends,” Lauren Ping said.