5/16/2014 10:28:00 AM North Branch girls win True Team sectional
by JEFF NORTON
For the second year in a row, the North Branch girls track and field team is heading to the True Team state meet, the unofficial team state tournament in Minnesota. Since the end-of-the-year state tournament only features individuals and then accumulates their points to come up with a team championship, the true team allows a whole team to go and awards points all the way through the standings. It helps get a sense of which team is the best, from top to bottom.
North Branch is heading to True Team state for the second year in a row on the backs of plenty of talented competitors and their performances in Hibbing on Tuesday, May 6. It wasn’t easy though. They beat Cloquet by only the slimmest of margins to punch their ticket. One of the talented competitors was Cassie Kunshier. The sophomore performed well for North Branch, earning a victory in the 200 meter dash in a time of 27.18 seconds, grabbing a third place in the 400 meter dash, and taking part in the 4x200 relay team that finished first. That left Cassie as a part of 72 team points for the Vikings, and they needed every one of them. Another top performer for the Vikings was Mikayla Johnson. She topped the field in the pole vault competition and finished third in the 100 meter dash.
She also took part in the 4x100 that earned first place. Rhianna Rinke, the little runner that could, also earned big team points for the Lady Vikings, winning the 1,600 meter run and finishing second in the 800 meter run. In the relays, North Branch got two big first place finishes in the 4x100 and 4x200. The 4x100 team consisted of Johnson, Katy Trunk, Kadie Mattson and Julia Rupp, while the 4x200 team was comprised of Maddie Kunshier, Cassie Kunshier, Mattson and Stendahl. The 4x400 relay team of Maddie Kunshier, Mattson, Rinke and Haley Huset finished in second place Although the Vikings didn’t get any other wins outside of those three girls, they had top three finishes up and down the results, and that’s what propelled them to the victory.
Maddie Kunshier finished in second place in the 400 meter dash. Jessica Stendahl kept her impressive hurdling season going. The junior finished third in the 100 hurdles with a time of 17.87 seconds and third in the 300 hurdles with a time of 51.28 seconds. In the pole vault, Johnson wasn’t the only one who dusted the field. Katie Burnside finished in second place. Both Johnson and Burnside cleared 10 feet while the third place vaulter cleared just 8’6”. In the long jump, converted softball pitcher Katy Trunk continues to make her presence known. She finished in fourth place with a jump of 14 feet.
In the shot put, Josee Axberg and Anna Perrault made their mark, finishing fifth and sixth. Axberg backed that up with a second place finish in the discuss, her stronger event. All of that added up to 555 points for North Branch, which beat second place Cloquet by three points. The Lumberjacks had a bevy of first place finishes of their own, and they tallied 552 points. But, just as true team was meant, Cloquet didn’t quite get the lower finishers high enough in the standings to unseat the Vikings. Grand Rapids also made a spirited run at the championship, scoring 547.5 points and falling less than 10 points shy of the Vikings.
“The team dug down deep to repeat as Section 7AA champions,” Head Coach Norm Nagel said after the chilly and windy meet. “I am very proud of what these girls have done. We have set three goals for the season and this was one we achieved. Next on our list is the M8C Conference and then Sections.” The True Team State Meet will be on Saturday, May 17 at Stillwater High School. The Class AA girls will be performing from 3-7:30 p.m., with the awards ceremony following immediately after.
Boys The boys also ran very well in the true team, but Cloquet took the championship in that half of the meet. North Branch got three first places on the day, and two of them came from the springy legs of Arik Steele. Steele finished first by a long shot in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. He topped the field in the 110 with a time of 15.27 seconds, almost one second faster than the second place finisher. In the 300 hurdles, Steele won by almost two seconds with a time of 41.56 seconds.
The other win for North Branch came when Kyle Crandell demolished the pole vaulting field with a 13 foot jump. Ben Halverson of Duluth Denfeld was in second with a jump of 11’6”, a foot and a half behind Crandell. Connor Utchinski of NB finished in third in the event with a jump of 11 feet. Matt Marrin had matching third place finishes in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, and the Vikings’ 4x200 meter relay earned second place.