It was an unfortunate ending, no doubt.
But it could do nothing to diminish the legacy that this group of Magic track and field stars had already cemented at Monticello High School.
In the final race of three remarkable careers, Monti did not finish in the 4×100 finals at the state track meet on Saturday, as a mishandled exchange led to a dropped baton.
A sour taste left? Maybe. A diminished legacy? No chance.
All Monti had already done on the weekend was qualify all three of their events for finals, including two relays, the first time in program history the Magic have done either of those things.
They’d already set the school record in the 4×100 and broken 43 seconds for the first time in program history. They’d followed up last year’s storybook state championship run with a fourth-place finish in the 4×200 relay. And they’d soon close things out with another All-State run for Charlie Voller, who finished fourth in the 400-meter run.
It was one more successful state weekend for the senior foursome of Ryder Beckman, Jack Hoaby, Nate Hoglund, and Voller, as well as the first state weekend, and a very successful one, for junior Kalvin Beal.
“Their careers, and what they’ve meant to this program, is unbelievable,” said Coach Dave Wik, half an hour after Monti had wrapped up the season at Hamline University on Saturday.
The weekend started in fine fashion for the Monticello fivesome.
All three entries ran outstanding races Friday, with each finishing second in their heat and earning a fourth seed for Championship Saturday.
“Friday was a really good day,” said Hoaby, who ran on both relay teams. “A successful day.”
“Everybody was spot on. Things were clicking,” added Wik. “It was a great day.”
Monti’s first race of the morning was the 4×200. The Magic came in to the meet as the defending champions, but said all week that they didn’t feel any added pressure to go along with it. They stood by that sentiment Saturday afternoon. And in between, they raced seemingly untethered by it as well.
Running in the first preliminary heat, Hoaby, Beckman, Voller, and Hoglund cruised to a time of 1:28.91, their best time of the season. It was good for second place in the heat behind only Hopkins, who ran a 1:28.43. Monti finished more than half a second ahead of St. Michael-Albertville and a second ahead of Rocori, both of whom qualified for the finals out of Monti’s heat.
Wik said the group was “solid as heck” in the preliminary run.
Monti had a limited turnaround time following the event, as the Magic’s three entries ran in consecutive events during the preliminary round. So just minutes later, Hoaby, Beckman and Hoglund were back out on the track where they were joined by Beal to run the 4×100.
Monti came in seeded outside of the top-nine, but believing that their best was likely still in front of them.
Friday they proved it.
Starting with Beal out of the blocks, the foursome burned around the track, crossing the line in 42.99 seconds to finish second in Heat 1. Just as importantly to the Magic, they shattered the previous school record of 43.25 seconds.
“I knew they had that in them,” said Wik, Saturday. “Obviously that 43 second barrier is kind of a milestone to be considered a really fast 4×100. So it was really satisfying to see them get that.”
Hoglund, Monti’s anchor, said it all started with their lead-off guy, the lone new addition to the relay this season.
“I would put money on it that no one in the state would beat him out of the blocks and around that corner – it was ridiculous, he was just unbelievable,” said Hoglund. “He was just an all-around great addition to the team.”
For his part, Beal radiates excitement when talking about being a part of this 4×100 team.
“Running with them, I started truly understanding the meaning of blood, sweat, and tears,” he said. “It’s so much fun running with these kids.”
Monti’s final event of the day was Voller in the 400. The senior finished third in the state last year, and qualified for the finals with ease on Friday. Like the other events before him, Voller finished second in Heat 1 of the preliminary rounds to lock up his spot in the finals. His time of 49.42 was the fourth best time ran on Friday.
The first event back to the track for Monticello on Championship Saturday was the 4×200 relay group.
The Magic were announced pre-race as the defending champions. That, combined with a favorable position in Lane 6, could’ve amounted to the Magic finally feeling some pressure. But they insisted afterward that there was still no such thing.
“We just go out and run our race,” said Voller.
Starting with Hoaby, that’s exactly what the Magic did Saturday.
The senior, a standout wide receiver in the fall season for the Magic, battled the wind down the back stretch to put the Magic in good position early.
“The wind was kind of hard to deal with, but everyone had to run against it so we were all in the same boat,” said Hoaby afterward, adding that he felt great coming out of the blocks.
Hoaby then handed off to Beckman, the lone new member of the 4×200 group this year. Now a senior, Beckman came out for track a couple of years ago thinking it could be beneficial to his football career. He soon learned that track could be pretty fun itself.
“I wasn’t much of a track person,” he admitted. “But getting here and realizing we’re fast – it’s a lot of fun.”
Beckman helped the Magic go fast Saturday, finishing the first full lap around the track before handing the baton to Voller for the third leg.
Voller, headed to North Dakota State University next season to continue his running career, charged around the backstretch to get Hoglund the baton.
Last year, Hoglund found himself in front of the pack and in charge of holding others off when he grabbed the baton for the home stretch. This year, with East Ridge running out front, it became a battle for every position behind them.
Monti’s senior went six weeks at one point this season without running a competitive 200 due to a hamstring injury. The evidence was non-existent Saturday. He galloped down the straightaway, coming in just behind Hopkins and Mankato East for a fourth-place finish, holding off a Rocori team that had edged out Monti the weekend prior at the section meet.
Monti turned in a time of 1:28.46, their best mark of the season and just a quarter second off their school record and state championship time from last season. East Ridge won the state championship Saturday with a time of 1:27.17.
“I’m very happy with the outcome of what happened today – we ran our best race and we did well,” said Hoglund, mentioning that Monti had three great teams in front of them. “Especially in this wind, we ran a 1:28. That was a good time.”
Wik said that the fourth-place finish was a tremendous accomplishment for the Magic.
“Obviously last year set a little bit of a different plateau. Things just happened last year, and it certainly doesn’t diminish this year,” said Wik. “We definitely ran to our ability today and have nothing to regret.”
Following the 4×200, Monti had a short break while the 1600-meter races were ran. Then it was back to the track for the finals of the 4×100.
The Magic came out of the gates strong, with Beal blazing around the opening corner, and Hoaby and Beckman turning in strong legs each.
But as Monti went to execute the final exchange, from Beckman to Hoglund, there was a mishap. Missed hands led to a dropped baton, and left Monti pulling up 100 meters short of the finish in Lane 6.
Neither Hoglund or Beckman were certain of what went wrong in the immediate aftermath, they just knew it hadn’t ever happened before.
“Me and Nate have been handing off since sophomore year, no problems, have never dropped the baton, have never been close,” said Beckman. “Just think it was too comfortable coming around that corner, I got up too close to him and when I missed then he started reaching and then when you’re both trying to get it there …”
The senior trailed off.
“I don’t know.”
“Things just got a little out of hand – nothing we could really control,” said Hoglund.
In a fashion befitting the way they compete and carry themselves on the track, and the way their coach says they lead both on and off the track, neither athlete handed out blame or had any interest in a ‘woe is me’ approach.
“It was too bad the outcome of today didn’t happen the way we wanted,” said Hoglund. “But that’s something you just gotta live with and move on.”
Certainly, all was not lost. Even with the DNF in the finals, Monti had already earned itself a spot in both sprint relay finals heats, something that only Hopkins and St. Michael-Albertville could also say.
“Everybody down here is big school,” said Beckman. “We come down and we should be placing in two relays, and people are like, [nods approval] ‘OK’. So it’s pretty cool.”
Just 10 minutes later, Voller was back out on the track to represent the Magic for one last time.
The senior was as rock-solid as ever in the final 400-meters of his high school career, coming down the stretch just a hair behind his section rival from Bemidji to finish fourth overall with a time of 50.22 seconds.
“He’s been stable all year,” said Wik, pointing out the number of emotional highs that Voller has went through with sports from fall football through winter hockey until now. “I was glad to see him finish strong.”
Voller grinded through conditions that certainly weren’t ideal for the 400 meter distance on Saturday.
He said portions of the track were protected from the wind but that it was a “bugger” down the back stretch.
However he said there are enough other things going on at this stage that it doesn’t affect you too much.
“You get out here, adrenaline, the competition, and you block it all out,” said Voller.
The competition, he said, is the highlight of the state meet.
“It pushes you,” said Voller. “There’s not a slow kid in the heat, so everyone’s battling for one more place, one more place. It’s great to have competition like that.”
For Wik, it’s been awfully great to have kids like these.
Voller, Hoglund, Beckman, and Hoaby leave the program with nine All-State medals between them, as well as school records in two relay events. But Wik said what they’ve meant to the program goes well beyond those accolades. Even if those accolades do make them the most accomplished group he’s ever seen come through Monticello High School.
“They’ve been the rock the last couple of years,” said Wik. “Just their personalities on the team, their work ethic, their fun loving nature, their inclusiveness. They’re not elitist by any means. They’re your ordinary, everyday kids. They like to have fun and they get along with everybody on the team.
“The environment that they’ve created and been a part of in the program is irreplaceable,” Wik said.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]