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State track and field: A welcome finish for this Willmar Cardinal

Jun. 7—ST. MICHAEL — Through the cross-country and track and field seasons, Perham's Bjorn Anderson had gotten the best of Sully Anez throughout this school year.

The two were in the field for the boys' 3,200-meter championship to kick off the Class AA State Track and Field Championships on Friday.

This time, the Willmar junior got the better of his Perham counterpart.

"My original plan was just to stick behind Bjorn the whole time but everyone started packing in the front so I just stayed behind him," Anez said. "Once they spread out, I started passing people as it went on."

Anez placed fifth with a time of 9 minutes, 19.26 seconds. Anderson was eighth at 9:31.35. Annandale's Sal Wirth was the state champion at 9:06.54.

"I felt really good passing him," Anez said of Anderson. "He's beaten me every time this year so seeing him slow down and seeing my opportunity to take his spot felt really good."

This is the third straight season Anez has competed in the boys' 3,200. Friday was the first time he had medaled. He finished 13th in 2022 and 10th in '23.

"It feels really good," Anez said with the fifth-place medal draped over his neck.

"I knew I could get top five."

He'll get one more crack at a state medal Saturday in the 1,600. Seeded third at 4:19.50, it'll be the first time he's ran the 1,600 in the state meet.

While her spot on the medal podium didn't go up, Friday provided New London-Spicer's Danica Pederson a bit of redemption.

Pederson, a sophomore for the Wildcats, won her third straight medal in the girls' high jump. She tied for eighth after clearing a height of 5 foot, 3 inches.

Pederson also took eighth last year but did so after a jump of 5-0. She placed fourth as an eighth-grader at 5-4 in 2022.

She was relieved to beat her 5-0 mark from a season ago. And she did it with a heavily taped left foot that she uses for planting her jump.

"I've done a lot of high jumping in practice," Pederson said about how her injury began. "I try to ice it every night and make sure I don't jump too much at practices. Go easy on it."

Pederson added, "It was a big relief (to beat 5-0)."

Detroit Lakes' Grace Gunderson won the high jump at 5-6.

Willmar junior Lauren Eilers is also a repeat medalist in the girls' 3,200. She finished seventh at 11:05.82. Last season, Eilers was fourth in the 3,200 at 11:02.00.

"I didn't feel like myself today," Eilers said. "It just wasn't my potential that I know I could have done today."

Hutchinson's Isabelle Schmitz won the 3,200 with a new Class AA state meet record time of 10:24.14.

Eilers still has the 1,600 to run on Saturday. She's seeded sixth at 5:05.91. After the 3,200 left something to be desired, Eilers is ready to use that as motivation on Saturday. "Even though I didn't get what I wanted today, I can prove myself again tomorrow," Eilers said.

* Willmar senior Will Sportel had three races to run on Friday. That wasn't originally the plan, seeing that he qualified for the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. However, his heat got a redo in the 110 after an inadvertent extra gunshot at the start.

"There was no fight on whether it'd be run, it was a matter of when," said Cardinals head coach Connor Haugen. "... It's always nice to give kids a fair shake when something doesn't necessarily work out well."

Sportel finished 15th in the 110 hurdles prelims at 15.27. He just missed out on making the finals in the 300 hurdles with a 10th-place time of 40.50. The ninth and final qualifying spot in the 300 hurdles went to Grant Heim of Providence Academy at 40.36.

* While Willmar senior Tyler Evans missed out of medaling in the boys' pole vault, he did go out on a high note.

Evans set a new personal record after clearing 13-0. That was good for 10th place.

"A senior ending like he did, that was an incredible performance," Haugen said of Evans. "Especially since he beat his PR on his first try."

Rockford's Brian Schloeder claimed the pole vault title with a Class AA record height of 15-7.

* Along with Pederson, New London-Spicer's Carter Herman and Emma Madison competed on Friday.

Herman, a senior, finished 18th in the boys' triple jump with a distance of 42-0.25. Fridley's Fadel Johnson won at 47-3.25.

Madison, a junior, was 16th in the 100 dash prelims at 12.72. The top seed for Saturday's finals is Providence Academy's Brooke Hohenecker at 11.93.

* While Anez and Eilers chase down more medals in their respective 1,600 races, Cardinals senior Lyndi Koosman will be going for two medals in the field Saturday.

Koosman is set to compete in the girls' triple jump and the pole vault. She's the three seed in both events. She has a qualifying mark of 36-9.25 in the triple jump. She's one of five athletes with a qualifying vault of 11-1.

"That triple jump competition will be fierce," Haugen said. "I'm looking forward to that."