When the going gets tough, the tough are supposed to get going.
A couple of Monticello Magic track stars did just that at the section track meet last week, helping advance four athletes to this weekend’s Class AA Track and Field State Meet.
Strong, into the wind, performances by Michael Witschen and Sam Johnson helped carry the 4×200 relay team to a Section 8AA championship, and a state tournament bid. Johnson rounded out one of Monticello’s best section performances in years with two other second place finishes, coming in the 200 and 400. He’ll compete in all three events at the upcoming state meet.
As a team, the Magic finished sixth at the section meet, which was a two-day affair, held Wednesday in Detroit Lakes and Friday at Sartell. They turned in a handful of quality performances, with no huge surprises and no monumental disappointments.
“I think we advanced the groups that probably should have advanced,” said Coach Dave Wik.
The first race to advance was the 4×200.
The relay team, made up of Collin Scherber, Witschen, Mahdi Mire, and Johnson, entered the section meet seeded fifth. But, despite slogging through a wet and windy spring, they had little doubt that they were faster than their seed time showed.
“I knew some teams had run faster than us this year,” said Wik. “We just hadn’t had a day to run fast.”
When Wik saw the setup of the track, he felt even more confident. The second and the fourth leg would be run into the wind, meaning Witschen and Johnson would be the ones dealing with the 20 mile per hour gusts.
“The wind fit the strength of our team,” said Wik. “The two runners that had to deal with the wind were our two physically strongest runners.”
“I knew we would be the least affected by it.”
Scherber, a high-level 100-meter sprinter got the Magic off to a great start with the opening 200-meter leg. Witschen took the baton next, and proceeded to open up the close race.
“He just chewed people up,” said Wik. “Gave us a nice cushion.”
Witschen handed the baton to Mire, the third straight senior to grab it, and Mire kept Monticello in front.
That was all he needed to do. Mire conducted a smooth handoff with Johnson, and all the knots in Wik’s stomach disappeared.
“Give it to Sam at the end and it’s lights out at that point,” said Wik. “I knew he was better than everybody else’s anchor”
Johnson crossed the finish line at 1:32.11, giving the Magic a first place finish and a school record. The time was a full second under the previous school record.
But beyond the section championship and school record, Johnson said it was truly special for the Magic to be able to send three seniors to state in their final year.
“They were so happy,” said Johnson. “It’s hard to explain, the emotions were just awesome.”
Johnson was able to carry those emotions through two more races.
In the 400-meter dash, Johnson set the pace for the race before being clipped at the end. Wik believed it was still one of the most impressive performances of the day.
“Man, that was a great race,” said Wik. “[Sam] made that race.”
Johnson pushing the pace allowed him, and the Moorhead kid who passed him at the end, to turn in two of the top four times in the class. Johnson finished with a 49.11, which gives him the fourth seed headed into the state meet. It also has him .11 seconds off the school record.
“Since I ended last year, that was my goal for this year, to break the school record,” said Johnson.
He came close Friday despite a crazy schedule and wind roaring down the final stretch. He believes 48 something, which Wik calls “rarefied air” is an attainable number at the state meet.
“At state there is a little more rest,” pointed out Johnson. “Adrenaline will help too.”
He’ll need both, as he is the first athlete that Wik can recall in his 20 years of coaching that will compete in three different events at the state meet.
The third and final event is the 200-meter, where Johnson also finished second at the section meet. The junior finished just one one-hundreth of a second ahead of the third-place finisher from Moorhead, running a time of 23.28.
Johnson is the only one of the four who was at the state meet last year. As a sophomore, he reached the finals of the 400-meter dash, where he finished ninth and earned All-State honors.
Aside from the state-bound athletes, the Magic turned in various other strong performances Wednesday and Friday to help them to their sixth place team finish in the sixteen team section.
Derek Secord dropped eight seconds off his mile time, running a 4:36.91 to earn a fifth place finish.
“I thought that probably emptied the tank,” said Wik. “But he came back and ran a gutty race in the 800.”
Secord finished sixth in the 800-meter, adding more points to Monticello’s final tally.
Michael Gerber also had a good meet for the Magic, finishing fifth in the discus.
Senior Colin Lyndorff also finished his career on a high note, running to a third-place finish in the 3200-meter run.
Lyndorff led the race for a stretch, but couldn’t quite hold on down the stretch. He finished with a time of 10:04.12, over ten seconds lower than his seed time.
The state meet is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul, beginning at 9 a.m. The 4×200 relay is the first scheduled event that the Magic are participating in. The preliminary race will begin at approximately 10:44 a.m. Friday. The 400-meter prelim and 200-meter prelim will both follow. The final races are scheduled for Saturday. For exact times, visit www.mshsl.org.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com