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TRACK AND FIELD: 6 in the mix: Lumberjacks aim to break records and more at state

From left to right are Bemidji High School's state track participants: Jordan Mann, Matthew Arel, Gemini Ellis, Ryan Bieberdorf and Jacob Kelly. Mann will run the 100-meter dash. Arel, Ellis, Will Falldorf (not pictured), and Bieberdorf will run the 4x100. Bieberdorf will also compete in the 200-meter dash. Kelly will participate in the 110-meter hurdles. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
From left: Matt Arel, Gemini Ellis, Ryan Bieberdorf and Will Falldorf will represent Bemidji High School at state after qualifying in the 4x100 relay at the Section 8AA Championship meet in Willmar on June 1. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Ryan Bieberdorf has gone 3-for-3 in pushing Lumberjacks to state this year.

This weekend’s Class AA state track and field meet is the latest state-tournament foray for the Bemidji High School senior, who will compete alongside five teammates at Hamline University in St. Paul beginning Friday, June 7.

Having already represented BHS at state as a receiver on the football team and a guard on the boys basketball squad, Bieberdorf will now go for glory in the 200-meter dash and the 4x100 relay.

“It’s been a really crazy year,” Beiberdorf said. “It’s gone by really fast though. It feels just like yesterday we were still in school and playing football in (U.S. Bank Stadium). But it’s been a lot of fun with these guys.”

Bieberdorf, who will play football at Minnesota State Moorhead in the fall, put his speed on full display during football and basketball season. That has translated to the track this spring, Bieberdorf said, though he only began competing in sprinting events recently.

“The sprinting events I really didn’t do until a little bit last year,” said Bieberdorf, who previously qualified for state in the triple jump as a sophomore. “I had just started running them. And then this year, more of my focus was to get better in those sprinting events. It’s kind of worked out.”

“We wanted to put all our chips in the 4x100,” boys head coach Steve Sneide said. “I wanted all those guys to be fresh for the 4x100. So I went to (Bieberdorf) and we debated going 100 or 200. And I said, ‘Well, I think you have a better chance in the 200 as far as breaking the school record.’ And he exceeded that expectation.”

His dedication paid off with a school-record time of 22.61 to take second in the 200 at the Section 8AA Championships last weekend.

“He’s going to battle and see what happens,” Sneide said. “And maybe lower that school record a little more.”

The 4x100 relay team of Bieberdorf, freshman Gemini Ellis, and sophomores Matt Arel and Will Falldorf also secured a spot at Hamline with a second-place time of 44.12, only 0.3 away from breaking the school record. The team aims to take down the record in St. Paul.

“They’re real close,” Sneide said. “If they clean up a few of their handoffs, they should be able to break it down at state.”

The Lumberjacks will need to rise to the occasion to beat a Hopkins 4x100 relay team that broke the state record in the event earlier this season, but the school record is well within their sights.

Rounding out the BHS boys contingent is freshman Jacob Kelly, who will line up in the 110 hurdles. Kelly’s state-qualifying time of 14.82 at sections was the fastest ever run by a freshman in Minnesota history.

Kelly’s time also puts him in rare air nationally. He ranks tied for 12th among the fastest freshmen in the event in the country, according to MileSplit.com.

Even as a freshman, Kelly has a chance to advance out of Friday's prelims and onto the finals on Saturday.

“He’s actually in the mix,” Sneide said. “If he has a great race, he could make finals. But the biggest thing is to just get down there and see the great competition and just compete to the best of his ability.”

Another Lumberjack with state experience as a freshman is Jordan Mann. Now a senior, Mann -- the lone member of the BHS girls team to qualify for state -- will compete in the state 100-meter dash for the third time after making appearances as a freshman and a junior. Mann topped the podium at sections with her first-place time of 12.18.

“It feels really good to achieve this much, especially in this sport that I really love the most out of every sport I’ve done,” said Mann, who will join the track team at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., this fall.

“Jordan has definitely been one of the top sprinters through Bemidji High School,” girls head coach Chris Lehman said. “She’s had a phenomenal career for us. She’s really dedicated herself the last two years, especially this year as well. … She’s seeded fourth right now, so definitely the first and foremost goal is to make finals. She should be able to do that as long as she’s patient and goes through her drive phase on the start.”

The Class AA state meet begins with prelims at 9 a.m. Friday, June 7. Finals are set for 9 a.m. Saturday, June 8.

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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