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'GIVING IT ALL THE MARBLES:' Bemidji boys track team excited to test themselves at state meet

The Bemidji boys track and field program is sending seven athletes to the state Class 2A meet. The group includes (left to right), Sam Carlson, Gunnar Nelson, Adam Loisel, Brady Schmidt, Nick Gubbels, Wakinyan Moore and Elias Hendrickson. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The Bemidji boys track and field team plans to “give it all the marbles” when the Lumberjacks head to Hamline University in St. Paul Friday and Saturday for the state Class 2A meet.

“Giving it all the marbles has been our motto all year,” said Gunnar Nelson who will handle the lead leg of Bemidji’s 4x800 relay team. “Last year we were ninth in the relay and this year we’re shooting for No. 1. But to win the race it will take all the marbles.”

Nelson is one of seven Lumberjacks who will represent the school and the community at the state meet. Among the crew are his 4x800 relay teammates Nick Gubbels, Sam Carlson and Elias Hendrickson.

“As the lead my job is to run as fast as I can and keep turning left,” Nelson said. “I need to work for the best position I can to set up the other runners.”

Gubbels handles the second leg of the 4x400 and 4x800 relays and has the distinction of being the only BHS athlete to participate in three state tournaments this season.

Last fall Gubbels was a wide receiver on the football team that advanced to the state semifinals and in the winter he was a member of the 200 medley and 400 free relay teams that competed at the state meet.

“I’ve never been on the track stage before but it’s the same stage as the football state tournament and the swimming state meet,” Gubbels said. “Those experiences will help me stay calm and will give me confidence.”

With a section time of 8:01.31 the Jacks are seeded second in the 4x800 relay but Gubbels believes BHS can challenge for the title. Eden Prairie posted a time of 8:00.96 in its section final.

“Eden Prairie is public enemy No. 1,” Gubbels said. “Our job is to stay with Eden Prairie during the early going and to be ahead of them by the time I give the baton to Sam (Carlson).”

Carlson will handle the third leg of the relay and he knows his role.

“My job is to make up any ground that might have been lost and to give Elias (Hendrickson) a clean handoff for the final leg,” Carlson said. “Gunner, Elias and I were at state last year in the 4x800 and our goal all year was to get back.”

Carlson also will run the mile at the state meet and he hopes to do well in that race.

“I want to run the mile at state but that race is less than two hours after the relay so I’m going to be tired,” Carlson said. “But the mile wasn’t my goal this year. My goal was to help the relay team do well.”

Hendrickson will anchor the relay and run the open 800. The senior is one of the premiere 800 runners in the state and if Bemidji is close to the lead heading into the final leg the odds are that the Jacks will challenge for the victory.

“If all four of us run the race that we want to run, and if the pieces fall together, we can be a very fast relay team,” Hendrickson said. “The ultimate goal is to win it all and that is a realistic goal.”

In the 800 Hendrickson wants to qualify for Saturday’s finals but that will be a difficult task because the open 800 follows the relay and Hendrickson could be winded.

“The top nine make it to Saturday’s final and I would like to be in that group,” he said.

Hendrickson will complete his Friday and, hopefully, his Saturday anchoring the 4x400 relay team.

Leading off that race is Wakinyan Moore and the junior will be making his state debut.

“This is very exciting,” Moore said. “It’s been a fun year and we’ve progressed as a relay team during the last half of the year.”

The Jacks won the Section 8A meet with a time of 3:25.53 and is seeded 10th.

“We’ll have to run faster at state if we want to do well but I think we can do that,” Moore added.

Adam Loisel runs the second leg and also is a newcomer to the state competition.

“I did go last year as an alternate but I never ran,” Loisel said. “I did watch all of the athletes at state and I learned that preparation is the key to success. It is important to have a routine and to stay relaxed so you can be ready when you run.”

Bemidji’s other state entrant is senior Brady Schmidt who will compete in the long jump.

“My goal is to break the school record of 21-6,” Schmidt, who finished second at the section meet with a jump of 21-0.75, said. “My best so far this year is 21-0.75 but I think I can go 21-7 and get the record.

“I’m excited to go to state in my senior year and end my high school career with a bang.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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