Century's Sophia Comfere comes through in record time at Section 1 meet

Jun. 1—LAKEVILLE — Sophia Comfere took a peek at Katie Eidem's social media pages in mid-May, to get a better idea of who she has been chasing.

Saturday, Comfere did something she wasn't sure was possible two weeks ago — the Rochester Century junior broke a program record in the 400 set by Eidem, a 2017 Century graduate.

"I looked at her Instagram a couple weeks ago and thought 'oh my gosh, that is so cool what she has done and been able to accomplish, that she's a professional athlete,'" Comfere said of Eidem. "This means a lot. It was one of the final goals of my season."

Just seconds after Comfere crossed the finish line Saturday afternoon, Century coach Kris Allen called Comfere's name from just outside the chain-link fence that surrounds the track at Lakeville South High School. Allen smiled and pumped her fists and shouted just three words to her star junior: "New school record."

Comfere's time of 56.41 topped Eidem's previous mark of 56.55 and it gave Comfere her second consecutive Section 1, Class 3A championship in the 400. But it was Comfere's time in Thursday's prelims that gave her the confidence she could pass Eidem, who went on to star at Arizona State University.

"Thinking back to a week ago, I wasn't sure yet if (the record) was going to happen," Comfere said, "because I had yet to break 57 (seconds). Then I got that (56.84) on Thursday and I thought 'OK, maybe I can do this.'

"Then, I think winning the 4x200 right away today really got my legs turning over and it set me up for a fast first part of the 400."

Indeed, Comfere took great satisfaction in knowing her name will now be up on Century's record-holder wall, but her smile broadened when asked about how she started and ended her day Saturday — helping a pair of Panthers relay teams win section titles and earn trips to the Class 3A state meet, set for Thursday, June 6, and Saturday, June 8, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

She ran a leg early in the day on the Panthers' section championship 4x200 team, along with Megan Lund, Clara Gerhard and Kaia Berry. They turned in a winning time of 1:43.75.

Then, in the day's final event, Comfere ran the anchor leg as Century won the 4x400 relay. She joined Berry, Emma Anderson and Emily Bunce on the title-winning team, which finished in a sparkling time of 3:56.24. They beat runner-up Lakeville North by more than a second-and-a-half.

Comfere will head to state in three events. She said the experience of winning the section championship in the 400 last year, then competing in the state finals, has been greatly beneficial this season.

"It definitely helps a lot," she siad. "I remember when I was a ninth-grader, looking and thinking 'oh, this track looks sooo big.' And now I look and think 'this is doable.' It helps a lot with my confidence going into the race knowing I've done this before."

Taylor Kurtz wasn't introduced to the state track and field meet a year ago, as much as the meet was introduced to her.

Then a star sprinter at Dover-Eyota, Kurtz burst onto the state scene as an eighth-grader 12 months ago, challenging for Class 1A championships in two of the most competitive events in high school track and field.

Kurtz won a Class 1A state championship in the 200 (25.99 seconds), then narrowly finished as the runner-up in the 100 (12.48) to Section 1 rival Chantle Reiland of Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland.

This year, the multi-sport star — Kurtz also excels in hockey and soccer — has moved to school in Rochester and up two classes on the track.

Saturday, she showed the same poise in the Section 1, Class 3A finals as she did last June in winning a Class 1A state championship.

She'll have a chance to sprint for another state title next week, after winning the 200 comfortably on Saturday. She ran a sizzling 25.38-second race in the finals, finishing ahead of Lakeville North's Kiah Blalark (25.67).

Kurtz narrowly missed qualifying for state in the 100 and as part of Mayo's 4x200 relay team, placing third in both events. So her victory in the 200 — the second-to-last race of the day — by nearly three-tenths of a second, was some redemption.

"After the 100 and the 4x2, I was just praying that something good would happen," she said, "and I had a lot of support from everybody, just cheering me on.

"It just felt good to finally have my hard work pay off."

Whether it's indoors or outdoors, an ice rink, the artificial turf of a soccer field or synthetic rubber of a running track, Kurtz excels at whatever sport is in season.

Also a standout hockey player, she was the lone Rochester picked to play in the Minnesota Hockey High Performance 16s Spring Festival, which featured approximately 100 of the top players from around the state in her same age group.

"It was a great experience," Kurtz said, "everyone there was insanely good at hockey. It was definitely a different level of competition and really great to experience."

Now, before Kurtz turns her attention to summer hockey and soccer, she gets to race for a Class 3A track and field championship.

"The competition is definitely a lot bigger and I feel like it pushed me a lot to become better," Kurtz said of the move up to Class 3A. "Honestly, I think if anything (last year's experience), it puts more pressure on you because it's expected that you're supposed to be good and do well.

"But I like that. I think having that pressure is good, too. It gets the adrenaline going and you can feed into it."

Two other Rochester athletes earned spots in next week's Class 3A state meet on Saturday, one thrower and one distance runner:

—John Marshall senior Ryana Mathis finished second in the 1,600 with a time of 5:05.88. Her time Saturday is a personal record for the Rockets' standout and a top-24 time in the state this spring. Mathis' JM teammate, freshman Abigail Tri, placed third in the 1,600. Tri will also be headed to state, but in a different event; she won the 3,200 on Thursday by more than 15 seconds. Mayo senior Willemijn Leiner finished fourth in the 1,600, in 5:11.72, just seven-hundredths of a second behind Tri.

—Temitope Amusan's first throw in the shot put finals on Saturday was her best of the day, a state-qualifying mark and a top-five throw in the state this season. No matter that she is in the same section as the girl with the top throw in the state this spring, Lakeville North's Trinity Wilson. Amusan qualified for state by finishing second (Wilson won with a throw of 42-8 1/2 ), but her runner-up throw of 40-7 1/2 is 2 1/2 feet better than the state qualifying standard.

—Century freshman Nell Ferguson could be a force in the triple jump for years to come. She placed third Saturday (35-7), missing the state-qualifying standard by just five inches. Ferguson had a personal best of 37-4 1/4 this season.

—Century's 4x100 relay team (Megan Simons, Kaia Berry, Clara Gerhard and Megan Lund) placed third, in 49.63 seconds, just 35-hundredths away from meeting the state qualifying standard.

—Rochester runners claimed three of the top four spots in the 200. Kurtz won it in 25.38. Century's Gerhard was third (26.28) and JM sophomore Maysen Pettingill placed fourth (26.51).

—Lakeville South won the team championship (216 points), followed by Lakeville North in second (145.5) and Owatonna in third (135).