When Coach Kim Nygaard announced the results of the home invite to her team last week, they were disappointed to find out they’d came in second at the six-team meet. When she told them that Alex, the team that won the invite, was the defending state champions, the mood changed a bit.
“We were pretty stoked with that,” summed up Nygaard.
Alex ran away with the six-team invite, the last varsity meet to be held at the Monticello Middle School track, by scoring 234.25 points. Monti finished second with 130 points, edging out Osseo by just 2.5 points. St. Cloud Tech finished fourth, Buffalo fifth and St. Cloud Apollo sixth at the meet.
The second-place finish continued a pattern of outstanding performances for the Magic track team this season. Monti entered the season with a number of question marks but has seemed to find new answers at every meet.
“It’s been sort of a pleasant surprise,” said Nygaard.
Monti lost a big senior class last season, including six major point-getters. But using a mixture of all classes, they’ve been able to patch holes here and there.
Some standout freshman have stepped in to fill some of the voids, while Nygaard said the older girls have done exactly what they needed to, if not more.
A couple of weeks ago at the Princeton Invite was the biggest indication for Nygaard that this team might be farther along than everyone thought. Monti had already racked up a few wins, but they were all at small meets and triangulars. At Princeton, Monti knocked off five teams including Grand Rapids and Cambridge to win by a wide margin.
“That was that ‘aha’ moment,” said Nygaard. “It was like holy cow, look what they’re doing!”
Since then, the Magic have only continued to progress and impress.
One of the biggest keys to success for Monti has been balance. At the home invite on Tuesday, Monti managed a second-place finish despite winning just one event. The Magic instead used a number of girls in the second through seventh place range to stack up points on their opponents.
The lone win came in the 800-meter run, where Maddie McDermott grabbed first place by nearly six seconds with a time of 2:28.87. Teammate Ashanti Guertin just missed making it a sweep for Monti, as she finished third, three hundredths of a second out of second place. Michaela Swanson added a sixth-place finish to cap a dominant event for Monti.
The Magic continued to be strong in the rest of the distance events as well. In the 1600-meter run, Monti placed three girls in the top-seven. Senior Alexa Yeager (5:41.74) paced Monti with a second-place finish, while eighth-graders Miah Olson and Kaelin McDermott were fourth and seventh respectively.
At the 3200-meter distance, Monti placed three in the top-six. Gabriella Witschen (11:45.90) and Elise Yeager (11:50.06), an eighth-grader and ninth-grader, continued to build on their impressive seasons by turning in second and third place finishes respectively. Alexa Yeager finished sixth, giving Monti 17 points in the event, the best of any team in the field.
Monti also picked up three top-two finishes in relays, coming in second in the 4×800, 4×400 and 4×200-meter runs.
Another strong event for Monti was the 400-meter dash, where Olivia Kanzler (1:01.99) finished second and Lauran Zwack came in seventh.
Mara Docherty helped pace the Magic in the hurdle events, finishing seventh in the 100-meter event and fourth at the 300-meter distance.
The Magic added several impressive field events to the score-sheet on Tuesday afternoon. Topping the list was pole vault where Camille Ashfeld and Kennedy Bican both tied for first, along with two other girls, by clearing a height of 9-00.00. Ally Kroll cleared 8-00.00 for the Magic to finish in sixth. Monti totaled 17.1 points in the event, nearly 10 more than any other team.
The Magic also showed off their depth in the discus, placing three girls in the top ten. Jade Kopff threw 91-11.75 to finish sixth, while Jessica Holker came in seventh and Hope Meierhofer finished 10th.
Nygaard said that the throwers have been a huge boost to the Magic this season.
She said in past years, Monti has maybe had one great thrower but limited depth. This year there is a whole number of girls who rotate pacing the team at meets.
“Coach [Kristin] Zalec does a great job with those throwers,” she said. “It’s been a neat thing.”
Nygaard said that the whole team is filled with girls who are athletes, but more importantly are competitors.
“It’s the effort,” she said. “They come in and do what they have to do.”
The coach said that’s something that starts with the leadership of her upperclassmen and trickles down through the ranks. It’s something that Monti has established in the program, and has provided Monti with continuity and long-term success for many years now.
“Year in, year out, the girls have a tradition of family,” said Nygaard. “They look out for each other.”
It is a tradition that continues to pay off for the Magic.
Monti added several accolades to this season’s trophy chest at Tuesday’s meet. The 4×800 team of Ashanti Guertin, Maddie McDermott, Elise Yeager and Gabriella Witschen earned a spot on the State Honor Roll with their time of 9:54.95. Witschen and Elise Yeager both earned individual qualifications as well, for their performances in the 3200-meter run and Ashfeld earned a spot for her pole vault performance.
“That was really a neat thing,” said Nygaard, of seeing Monti earn that many honor roll spots.
The girls join Bican (pole vault) and Lauren Roff (long jump) as Magic athletes to qualify for the honor roll this season.
Next up for the Magic is the True Team Section Meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at Brainerd.