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BOYS TRACK: Bemidji turns heads in St. Paul

Eden Prairie’s Cal Lawton, left, raises his arms in victory as he crosses the finish line mere inches ahead of Bemidji’s Elias Hendrickson during the final lap of the 800-meter relay at the Minnesota Class 2A track and field championship Saturday in St. Paul. The Lumberjacks ran the third-fastest time in state history at 7:47.92, but Eden Prairie was a hair faster. Michael Vosberg | Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Through the years the Bemidji High School boys track and field program has been able to produce many quality distance runners. Included in that group was the 4x800 relay team of 2011 which included Jake Urban, Isak Sommer, Alex Schoneberger and John Buckanaga.

That squad thrilled the fans at the state meet by winning the state title in 7:49.15.

Saturday at Hamline University the Lumberjacks had another quality relay team in the race. Gunner Nelson, Nick Gubbels, Sam Carlson and Elias Hendrickson have developed into one of the premiere 4x800 units in Minnesota and Saturday they hit full stride.

Their time of 7:47.92 in the state meet finals shattered the mark of Bemidji’s 2011 team and was the third fastest time ever run at the Minnesota state meet.

Unfortunately, Eden Prairie posted the second-fastest state time on Saturday and the Lumberjacks had to settle for second place.

Eden Prairie finished in 7:47.61 as Eagles anchor Cal Lawton hit the line an eyelash ahead of Hendrickson.

“We broke the school record. We ran a great race,” said BHS coach Steve Sneide. “The guys ran their hardest and gave everything they had. We can only control what we do. We ran the third fastest 4x800 in state history but on Saturday Eden Prairie was just a little faster than we were.”

Nelson handled the first leg and posted a split of 1:59.

“The first lap was relatively slow,” Sneide said. “It appeared that nobody wanted to make the first move.”

The pace picked up in the second leg and by the end Bemidji and Eden Prairie put on a two-team show.

“Everyone on our team had a phenomenal race,” Sneide said. “Nick (Gubbels) ran 1:57. Sam (Carlson) ran 1:54.9. And Elias took off side-by-side with the Eden Prairie guy down the stretch and neither guy budged.

“It was a fantastic race and one that had all of the fans cheering. We just came up a little short at the end.”

Later Saturday Hendrickson claimed fourth in the 800 with a time of 1:55.18. None of the three runners who finished ahead of him ran in the relay so they were rested for the individual 800.

“Elias was in contention most of the way but he wasn’t totally fresh,” Sneide said. “At the end he was catching up with the third-place guy but he didn’t quite catch him.”

Carlson also wasn’t fresh later Saturday for the mile but he did slice five seconds off his preliminary time and finished 16th in 4:26.09.

“Sam ran a great race but he was tired,” Sneide said. “It’s tough to come back after running 1:54.9 in the relay.”

Also placing 16th on Saturday was Brady Schmidt in the long jump. The senior sailed 19-9.25 in the preliminary round and didn’t qualify for the finals.

“Overall, our kids had a great state meet,” Sneide said. “I think we turned some heads at Hamline and made people take notice of northern Minnesota.

“I’m proud of the team,” the coach continued. “We have a good crew in Bemidji and we’ll keep building on it. If you want to dedicate yourself and work hard, you can accomplish many things. And that is what this group did.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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