Prep track and field: Hermantown’s Harriman combines speed and power
The Hawks’ senior is looking to qualify for the state track meet in the 100-meter hurdles and discus.
SUPERIOR — Hermantown’s Elise Harriman has been a great hurdler for years.
She’s qualified for state the past two years and took the 2022 Lake Superior Conference title in the 100-meter hurdles again Tuesday with a personal best of 15.97 seconds.
Two years ago, Harriman had shin splints and wasn’t able to run, and throwing coach Dale Mundle encouraged her to try the discus.
“You can still throw,” Mundle recalled telling her.
Harriman said she was a little unsure if she wanted to try the event, but after trainers said she couldn’t hurt herself, she decided to try it.
She didn’t compete as a sophomore, but when dealing with an ankle injury again last season, she picked up the discus and started competing.
Hermantown girls coach Maddy Armbruster said Harriman is a great combination of speed and power.
“I think, for her, part of it is she’s drawn to things with technique,” Armbruster said. “Discus has a lot of technique and hurdles have a lot of technique and track is very much her thing. She works on being super strong and super fit in her whole body and I think that’s why discus worked for her. She’s using her legs, she’s using her arms, she’s kind of got it all.”
For Harriman, the draw is a combination of her past experience and a release.
“I was a gymnast for 11 or 12 years, so hurdling reminded me of that almost,” Harriman said. “With my gymnastics background, it’s a more graceful sport and with discus I can let out my anger and frustration.
Harriman struggled with control at the conference meet and finished second to Cloquet’s Seija Suominen. Suominen’s winning throw of 117 feet, 7 inches was more than 21 feet longer than Harriman’s best, but Harriman knows she edged Suominen at the True Team meet just last week.
“I really got in my head and got down as soon as I got into the finals,” Harriman said. “I got upset because I know I can throw better and, obviously, that didn’t go as planned.”
Spartans’ Gamache ahead of the ‘curve’
Relays typically position the fastest runner on the team as the final or anchor leg of the race.
Superior set a Lake Superior Conference record in the 400-meter relay Tuesday, but the fastest runner wasn’t McKenzie Branley, it was Lilly Gamache running the third leg, which includes the curve around the track.
“The curve has always been my good spot,” Gamache said. “We’ve talked about making me the anchor because I hold a better time, but I run the longer split — I run a 120. So I can get us in first with that curve and then when I hand it off to fourth, she’s already gone. I’ve never left the curve — the curve has always been there for me and I usually destroy it.”
The Spartans’ time of 51.32 seconds was nearly a second faster than Hermantown and broke the conference record set by Two Harbors in 2005 before the Agates moved to the Polar League.
Gamache and Branley have been running together since they were fifth graders. Coach Kris Leopold said Gamache edged out Branley and it was the start of a friendly rivalry that has turned into a successful partnership.
“They weren’t friends for a while, but now they are,” Leopold said. “They’ve pushed each other throughout the years, but Lilly — the way her legs are built, she just runs a smooth curve.”
Gamache also won the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.81 seconds, edging teammate Josephine Hanson.
McMeekin dominant in distance races for Spartans
Superior’s Tayler McMeekin swept the girls distance races at the LSC meet, winning the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 25.11 seconds and the 3,200 meters in 12:07.37.
McMeekin spent much of the 3,200 trailing Proctor’s Lizzie Harnell, but turned it on over the final quarter of the race to take the win.
“I just wanted to stay with her,” McMeekin said. “Then I knew the last two laps I could push it and give it my all.”
McMeekin’s double conference championship is even more impressive since it is her first season of track and Tuesday was the first time she’s done multiple events in one day.
McMeekin also plays soccer and has worked with Leopold to manage her running load to keep her fresh for both sports, even if that means deciding not to run occasionally.
“It’s definitely a lot, but the good thing is a lot of the races I did for track were before we had any soccer games,” McMeekin said. “Now that we’ve had more soccer games, I’ve laid off on the races. Last week, we had a race Friday but I backed out of that one, but it felt really good to get back out there today.”
Proctor’s Pease ready to do ‘whatever it takes’
Proctor’s Cam Pease set a conference record when he won the 300-meter hurdles in 40.40 seconds Tuesday, but somehow that was a little disappointing.
“It seems everything is coming together for him in the 300,” Proctor coach Nate Johnson said. “Our school record is 39.5 and that’s been his goal all year. He came out today and ran really, really strong and was getting stronger. The last flight of hurdles, he actually clipped the hurdle and he said ‘I lost all my speed,’ and he still ran a 40.4.”
Pease said the weather caused Proctor’s first four meets to be canceled, but that hasn’t stopped him or his Rails teammates.
“We’ve been putting in a ton of work every single day,” Pease said. “We’ve just been working hard every day, even when it’s snowing, raining, whatever. If we have to run in the school hallways, we will. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep moving forward and get the snowball rolling. The goal is to make it to state and hopefully win there.”
Shepherd’s ‘kick’ lifts Cloquet
Cloquet’s Alexa Shepherd dueled with Hermantown’s Liv Birkeland for much of the 400-meter dash, but over the final half she pulled away to win in 1 minute, 1.26 seconds.
“I have a really good kick, I’ve noticed that in the 400 and the 800,” Shepherd said. “I pretty much just tried to stay with Liv from the beginning. That’s mostly how I’ve been trying to run the 400s is sticking with my competition until I get to about the last 200. It’s just sort of instinct at that point, my kick just takes off.”
Cloquet coach Tim Prosen said Shepherd, a junior, has put in a lot of work over the past two years to get where she is.
“As a freshman and sophomore, she just physically had to grow into her body, and you could see it coming along,” Prosen said. “Finally this year, her flexibility, her strength, her stamina, all of that naturally aligned and now it’s showing on the track.”
Cloquet senior Miles Fischer swept the boys' distance events for the Lumberjacks, winning the 1,600 meters in 4:48.25 and the 3,200 in 10:31.41. Fischer even ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 meter race where the Lumberjacks finished third with a time of 3:42.08.
“He’s a special kid that you’re going to see run the mile, 2-mile and 4x400,” Prosen said. “He just wants to keep running, and if you watched him finish the 2 mile, he’ll jog around until he picks up his time. He’s a hard worker, a class act and we’re going to miss him.”
The wins from Shepherd and Fischer helped the Lumberjacks sweep the boys and girls meets and take the Lake Superior Conference title back to Cloquet.