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Track and Field: Two more Wingers headed to state

Red Wing's Aiden Winn (right) battles with Austin's Andrew Baker during the final stretch of the 800-meter run at Saturday's Section 1AA championship meet in Lakeville. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 4
Red Wing's Jasmyn Armstrong (right) leads the pack through two laps of Saturday's 1,600-meter run during the Section 1AA championship meet at Lakeville South High School. Armstrong finished the race in third place. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 4
Red Wing's Darrick Jackson (right), shown running in the 4x800-meter relay, qualified for state in the 400 for the second straight year during Saturday's Section 1AA championship meet in Lakeville. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 4
Red Wing's Emily Stegora leaps over a hurdle during the 100-meter hurdles finals Saturday at the Section 1AA championship meet in Lakeville. Stegora finished in eighth place. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)4 / 4

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — After two Red Wing track and field athletes qualified on Thursday, another pair of Wingers punched their tickets to state on Saturday.

Competing in Day 2 of the Section 1AA championship meet at Lakeville South High School, Red Wing senior boys runners Darrick Jackson and Aiden Winn each made the state cut, joining boys shot put thrower Nick Connelly and girls distance runner Jasmyn Armstrong.

“Three of the (boys) captains, we got into the state meet,” said Red Wing boys track coach Tony Casci. “That was really cool to see.”

Trying to reach state in the 400-meter dash for the second straight year, some doubt crept into Jackson’s mind before Saturday’s section final. Jackson sat as the No. 2 seed after Thursday’s prelims by one-hundredths of a second in front of Austin’s Connor Sheehan, but Jackson was dealing with a hurt leg throughout Saturday’s meet.

“I was pretty skeptical about how much was I was going to compete in this, so I was freaking out the whole time,” Jackson said. “The whole waiting (during a weather delay), I stretched out and tried to get as good as I could. It still hurt.”

But as he got into the blocks, Jackson said the pain went away. And as he rounded the track, he managed to stick to the front of the pack and held off Sheehan to finish in second place with a school-record time of 50.71 seconds. The top two in each event qualify for the state meet.

“I got on the blocks, and I don’t know what came over me. Suddenly, I thought, I’m a senior, this is my last chance, I can’t be worrying about a hurt leg, just got to get out there and try my best,” Jackson said. “I focused on everything my coach told me: driving my elbows back, shortening my stride. And before I knew it, I was right behind Tanner (Grubb of Farmington) and I thought was going to be way ahead of me.”

Casci added, “It was really tight, and Darrick is one of those kids that really enjoys the competition. He doesn’t complain about how close his competitors are; he welcomes that and uses that as his motivation. It’s just a great attitude for a competitor and he uses that to fuel his race, and he did that again.”

In the 800, Winn stuck in the top two for the majority of the race, eventually taking the lead with 300 meters to go. But for the rest of the race, the two state bids came down to three runners: Winn, Austin’s Andrew Baker and Rochester John Marshall’s Ethan Bone.

“I knew everyone was going to start kicking it into gear with 300 meters to go. I just decided to kick it in a little harder,” Winn said. “I was in the top two right away in the race and stayed in the second until the 300 meters where I passed (Baker) in first. I tried to hold off as long as possible.”

While Baker was able to reclaim the lead and win the race, Winn held off Bone by .15 seconds to finish second in the 800 at 1:59.70.

“It was a perfect race, as good as I could have gone in it,” Winn said.

Said Casci, “We’ve been talking that the 800 is a pretty strategic race. It was a smart race, it was a gutsy race and it really paid off for Aiden. I’m glad he took the chance and got through.”

The Winger boys missed out on sending the 4x200 relay to state, but the team of Lucas Knowlton, Frankie Drazkowski, Jackson and Omonte Bowens set a school record with a third-place finish at 1:31.93.

Drazkowski medaled with a fourth-place finish in the 200 (23.26), and Knowlton placed fifth in the 300 hurdles at 41.11.

While the Red Wing girls had four third-place finishes, no other athletes were able to join Armstrong at state.

Armstrong looked ready to reach state for a second event, the 1,600, after sitting in second down the home stretch. But in the last 100 meters, Austin’s Paiton Schwab went from third to first, leaving Armstrong out of a state spot with a third-place time of 5:13.28.

The Wingers had a pair of medalist in the 400 as seventh-grader Emily Hart (59.94) and eighth-grader Elayna Meyer (1:01.09) finished in third and sixth, respectively. Kianna Stewart added another third-place finish with a 800 time of 2:20.95.

Senior hurdler Emily Stegora wrapped up her track career with a sixth-place finish in the 300 hurdles (47.83) and an eighth-place finish in the 100 hurdles (16.75).

Red Wing’s top relay came in the 4x800, where Stewart, Adelle DeSutter, McKenzie Muelken and Elise Leise finished third at 9:54.48.

The Minnesota State Track and Field Championship meet takes place on Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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