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Track: Carlson sets Bemidji 1600 record on way to 4th place finish at state

ST. PAUL -- When fans of Lumberjacks sports gather, especially fans of the running sports, the talk often leads to Brian Kraft and his state victories in the 1600 and 3200 at the 1981 Minnesota state high school track and field meet.

During his surge to the state championships that season Kraft set Lumberjack records in both events, going 4:15.90 in the mile and 9:13.30 in the 2-mile.

“Those records were set 33 years ago,” said former BHS coach Dennis Bartz. “That shows just how fast Brian was.”

Saturday at the 2014 state meet at Hamline University, Kraft gave way to Sam Carlson in the 1600 as the senior placed fourth at the Class 2A meet with a time of 4:15.50. Kraft’s 3200 record is still intact, however.

On Friday Carlson set another school standard when he ran 1:54.63 in the 800 preliminaries and bettered the previous record time of 1:54.95 set by Alex Schoneberger in 2011. During Saturday’s 800 finals Carlson clocked a 1:55.59 and finished fifth. The 800 was run about an hour after the 1600 and Carlson was one of only two athletes who competed in both races.

“Had I been able to focus on the 800, I’m sure I could have bettered Friday’s time but I was just coming off the 1600,” Carlson said. “I was aiming for a top-five finish in both events and I did that so I had a good day.”

Carlson has two other school records as he is a member of the 4x800 relay team which posted a time of 7:47.92 in the 2013 season and he also owns the standard in the 5-kilometer for the cross country team.

“Sam ends his career with two school track records at the state meet, last year’s 4x800 record and the cross country record,” said his distance running coach Ryan Aylesworth. “I think Sam will go down as one of the best runners in Bemidji history from the 400 to the 5-kilometer distances.”

And Kraft would welcome Sam to the fraternity.

“What Sam has done in terms of running is monumental,” Bartz said. “And Brian would be ecstatic to have Sam break his record. Brian loved anybody who wanted to run.”

After winning his events at the 1981 state meet Kraft competed for the University of Missouri but during the indoor season he was slowed by a back spasm. The spasm was later diagnosed as Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Kraft transferred to NDSU and ran for the Bison, and he continued to run following college despite his illness. He lived with the cancer for 15 years but the cancer eventually won and Kraft died in the mid 1990s.

“Don Larson was Brian’s coach at NDSU and we were at the state meet this weekend watching Sam run,” Bartz said. “And when Sam broke Brian’s record on Saturday Don said that Brian was smiling. He said that Brian would be very happy to have somebody break his record.”

And accomplishing the feat was not easy, according to Carlson.

“The race went out a little too slow and I was boxed in the back of the pack,” he said. “The lead pack took off and my pack didn’t follow and by the time I could get out of the box it was a little too late to catch the leaders. But my strategy was to sprint like crazy with one lap to go and the sprint moved me to fourth.

“I had a good day. I had a good state meet. And I had a good career,” Carlson added.

Jenna Truedson also did well Saturday as the BHS junior placed fifth in the the Class 2A girls 1600, finishing in 4:58.47.

“Jenna’s time was faster than last year’s when she won the 1600,” Aylesworth said. “But she was gapped behind the leaders and when they broke from the pack Jenna couldn’t make her move until it was too late.”

Tess Misgen, who finished second behind Trudeson last spring, won the race in 4:50.78. The Hasz twins of Alexandria, Megan and Bethany, were second and third and Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan finished just ahead of Truedson for fourth.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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