Grand Forks Red River's Joe Quinn grows into new role as one of the state's top distance runners

May 21—GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Red River's Joe Quinn was a 5-foot-5 sophomore at last year's North Dakota state track and field meet, happy to be involved in the showcase event.

Now, he's a 6-foot junior and has a new approach to this weekend's North Dakota state meet in Bismarck.

"Last year, I was just kind of going in like, oh my gosh, I'm going to state and this is cool," Quinn said. "Now, it's more like I have to compete at state and race well and hopefully score points for our team and maybe get a medal."

Quinn finished 20th in the 3,200 meters at state last season. After breaking the school record in the two-mile, Quinn ranks fourth heading to state. He's also ranked fourth in the mile.

"I've definitely exceeded my expectations from last year," Quinn said. "From almost not making state to a potential Top 5 runner. I just stayed always running from last track season. I just never stopped. I did it all fall and even in the winter."

Red River track and field coach Jeff Bakke saw Quinn's breakout season coming after Quinn was an all-state finisher in cross country in the fall.

"It's pretty cool to see his progression," Bakke said. "He ran with us a little bit in middle school and for anyone who knows him, he was until almost this year, a very small guy in stature. He was always just the little guy we all knew had the potential. He works really hard and put in the time and now he's physically matured."

Quinn's school record was previously held by Hunter McHenry, who broke the record a couple of seasons ago. When McHenry broke the record, it was held since 1986.

All five of the top seeds in the 3,200 in North Dakota Class A boys are times run at the Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls.

Owen Sondag of Fargo North is the No. 1 seed, followed by Bismarck High brothers Parker and Owen Hintz.

After Quinn, Red River teammate Elijah Dafoe is the fifth seed.

Having a training partner like Dafoe is a benefit to both runners, Quinn said.

"During speed workouts, we are all similar," he said. "We're all putting in the time together. That build a nice friendship and keeps us motivated."

Bakke said the quality of distance runners in Class A boys is strong.

"The quality is outstanding," Bakke said. "People have run times in the two-mile and mile and 800 in previous years would have won state but these guys aren't placing in state now. It's a really good time to be a distance runner but also a really tough time."

Local athletes with Top 5 seeds according to

1,600 — 4. Joe Quinn, RR, 4:22.09

3,200 — 4. Quinn, RR, 9:19.24; 5. Elijah Dafoe, RR, 9:22.15

4x800 relay — 3. Red River (Quinn, Dafoe, Micah Larsen-Schmidt, Grant Hoffarth) 8:11.67

Shot put — 1. Ethan Thomas, GFC, 62-0.25

Discus — 1. Thomas, GFC, 188-11

Javelin — 2. Thomas, GFC, 181-9; 3. Daniel Severud, RR, 180-4

Triple jump — 4. Isaiah Gaye, RR, 45-7.25