Prep track and field: Superior’s James, McMeekin set records at Simpson indoor meet
Northwestern’s pole vaulters and Northwood/Solon Springs distance runners are all looking to qualify for the state meet this spring.
SUPERIOR — When Superior senior Darrel James took the baton in the 4x200-meter relay Friday at the Dennis Simpson Invitation at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the Spartans were already at least 50 meters behind the leaders.
A bad handoff on the first leg left Superior with a big gap, but last season in a similar situation James took off and ran down the leader to win.
Last season, James was new to track despite qualifying for the state meet in the 100-meter dash.
Unfortunately for James, he injured himself at the sectional meet and was forced to watch the state meet from the stands — something that was on coach Kris Leopold’s mind after the ugly start.
“I told him don’t even try to catch them,” Leopold said. “He hurt his (hamstring) last year at sectionals and we went to state and just watched the race. We watched his empty lane, his name was on the board and he said to me, ‘Coach, I’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.’”
Leopold said since last season, they’ve been working in the weight room to dial in the exercises he needs to avoid injury this season, and James sees a difference.
“I’ve gotten a lot better since last year,” James said. “I’m still trying to work on my blocks and how I start. My coach and I are trying new ways and I’m feeling good right now.”
James said one of his goals for this season is to “break some records,” something he did at the Simpson Invitational. His time of 6.62 seconds in the 55-meter dash was .01 seconds faster than the record set by Hayward’s Jimmy Thompson in 2006.
Leopold, however, thinks James can do a lot more than break records.
“I think he can be on the podium, for sure,” Leopold said. “I think he can be in the top three or four. We’re still teaching him how to run. We’re teaching him how to eat and sleep — he’ll do whatever we ask him to do. He’s a great kid.”
James wasn’t the only Spartan setting a record Friday. Sophomore Tayler McMeekin won the 1,600-meter girls race with a time of 5 minutes, 35.15 seconds, more than a second better than the record set by Superior’s Katie Rosberg in 2005.
The Spartans also expect big contributions in hurdle events from seniors Savannah Leopold and Hunter Willis and the team hopes to compete for a second consecutive Lake Superior Conference championship.
Vaulting a tradition at Northwestern
Northwestern’s Ian Kalin and Lillian Hoeffling are both looking to make some waves as pole vaulters this season. Kalin has already vaulted 12 feet this season and Hoeffling has recorded an 8 foot, 6 inch vault.
Kalin has a “great plant” that could help him qualify for the state meet, according to Tigers’ vault coach Bruce Nelson.
Hoeffling had a rough day Friday, only hitting 7-6, but the freshman was also running several races while the vault competition was going on. Nelson said Hoeffling is “loaded with talent” and has a bright future ahead of her.
Northwestern has a long history of strong pole vaulters. Nelson himself holds the Simpson meet record for pole vaults at a 13-8.5 in 1982 and said the tradition of vaulting is the result of strong coaching for nearly 50 years.
“It’s a tradition, but it’s more involved than that,” Nelson said. “The kids are dedicated. Over spring break they come in, we vault in the summer. When school starts they come up to my house in the fall and vault there because I’ve got a pit there.”
Northwestern’s Emmett Johnson and Jenna Hursch will be the top distance runners for the Tigers, and Reid Kreuser is one their top all-around athletes who will be competing in jumps and sprints.
Dickenson ‘the perfect distance runner’ for Solon Springs
Over the years, Northwood/Solon Springs has made a habit of sending runners to the state meet.
Owen Dickenson, now running at Minnesota Duluth, qualified in the 800 meters several years ago, and last season freshman Cade Lisson qualified in the 400-meter dash, something even more impressive because there is no track for the Green Eagles to practice on.
Not only is Lisson looking for another trip to state this season, but Isaac Dickenson, Owen’s younger brother, and Dylan Taggart are both hoping to join him, according to distance coach Nikk Adams.
“Isaac is the perfect distance runner,” Adams said. “His size helps, he’s smaller, skinnier, but it’s his work ethic. His brother Owen had it, his brother Ben had it and Isaac got it. He wants to be better than both of his brothers. He’s a great cross country runner, so he’s used to the 5K and then he can step down to the 2-mile and just fly.’
That work ethic extends to Taggart, who Adams said has more power than Dickenson, which makes him great for the 800-meter race.
“It’s the same thing as Ike, it’s the work ethic that he’s got,” Adams said. “If we’re doing intervals or anything in practice, we’ll set a number and then Dylan does four more.”
Head coach Shannon Dickenson said senior Carson Kaunonen will be competitive in the high jump and long jump. In addition, senior Izzy Molina will be a strong hurdler for the Green Eagles, and Zoe Smith will compete in the distance events.