State Track: Mission accomplished for Wingers' 4x800 relay
ST. PAUL - After missing the school record in the 4x800-meter relay at the Section 1AA meet by .15 seconds, Red Wing's relay wanted to work out all the kinks before state.
Handoffs, pace, fighting through the calamity of the field, the Wingers' foursome of Aiden Winn, Joppa Olone, Tanner Alms and Darrick Jackson went over everything.
"This past week, we've been working on all those situations," Alms said. "That really helped in keeping your cool."
And a week after missing the school mark, Winn, Olone, Alms and Jackson return to Red Wing with a new record and a state medal after placing ninth with a time of 8 minutes, 5.58 seconds in the Class 2A state track and field championship meet on Saturday at Hamline University.
"It was a little closer than I would have liked, but either way, we broke a record and got a medal," Jackson said. "I'm happy; we got our names on the board."
Taking the Class 2A 4x800 title was Eden Prairie, which overcame Bemidji over the final lap to win with a time of 7:47.61.
Early in the race, Winn gave Red Wing a much-needed fast start. Winn led the race through the majority of the first lap and had the Wingers in the top five of their heat heading into the first handoff.
"The boys went out a little faster than I thought they would, but (assistant coach Tony Casci) told me to get into third or fourth and tuck in for that first lap," Winn said. "I just waited until the last 300 meters and sped up like I have been the past couple races."
Looking to keep Red Wing in contention in the second leg of the race, Olone was able to keep pace with the field, keeping the Wingers near the top of the heat. It was a solid showing for a racer dealing with a leg injury prior to Saturday's 4x800.
"My leg hurt before the race, and when I got into it, it didn't hurt anymore," Olone said. "I tried to keep up and I tried my best."
But heading into the third leg, Olone and Alms had a hard time getting through the crowd of runners during the handoff, dropping Alms near the back of the field. With Bemidji and Eden Prairie duking it out for the top spot, the Wingers continued to focus on their pair of goals regardless of the final outcome.
So when Jackson got the final handoff, he had a choice to make: play catch-up or keep a constant pace to try and place.
"I wanted to catch the guys ahead of me, but I knew that if I did, I'd probably go out too fast and die at the end," Jackson said. "So I kept in control and kept up a good speed.
"In the second lap, I started to fade a little bit. I saw one guy's shadow ahead of me, and that's when I heard my coach saying, "This is the guy for 10th place. It's between you and him for who gets on the podium.' That's when it clicked for me."
Jackson's final push was enough to put Red Wing on the medal stand and past the school record of 8:06.55.
"They accomplished the goals we set out for this state tournament; they broke the record and they got their medals," said Wingers' head boys' track coach Adam Nelson, who coached his final meet for Red Wing on Saturday. Nelson said that he accepted a principal position in the Cook County school district in Grand Marias, Minn.