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TRACK AND FIELD: Bemidji’s 4x800 posts ‘amazing’ relay for 5th at state finals

Bemidji's 4x800 relay team -- featuring Regan DeWitt, Mia Hoffmann, Mary Beth Mathews and Lauren Berg -- stormed into fifth place in the state finals with a time of 9:28.50. They shattered their previous best by 11.5 seconds and recorded the program’s second-best state placement for a relay team since at least 2005.

061522.S.BP.BHSTRACK Mary Beth Mathews
Bemidji senior Mary Beth Mathews takes over from Mia Hoffmann in the 4x800 relay during the Class 3A state meet on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in St. Michael.
Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service
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ST. MICHAEL -- By pulling in a piece here and a piece there, the Bemidji High School girls track and field program assembled a serviceable 4x800 relay team this spring.

But after Saturday’s Class 3A state finals in St. Michael, “serviceable” is definitely not a strong enough adjective to describe that group anymore.

“Things went amazing,” BHS senior Mary Beth Mathews said. “I was never, ever expecting to join a 4x8, but it just kind of got thrown together last minute. It was a really pleasant surprise to see how well we performed.”

The Lumberjack quartet -- featuring Regan DeWitt, Mia Hoffmann, Lauren Berg and Mathews -- will now elicit fiercer characterizations like “elite” and perhaps even “historic.” And then there’s the most appropriate descriptor: top-five.

“It’s honestly amazing that it was put together so last minute, and then we ended up being top five in the state,” Mathews said. “I really think it shows how strong our distance program is here in Bemidji. The coaching is amazing, the athletes put in the hard work and it’s really exciting to see the program thriving off the amazing coaching.”

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061522.S.BP.BHSTRACK 4x800 relay.jpg
Bemidji's 4x800 relay team featuring, from left, Regan DeWitt, Mia Hoffmann, Mary Beth Mathews and Lauren Berg show off their hardware after placing fifth in the event during the Class 3A state meet on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in St. Michael.
Courtesy / Heidi DeWitt

The 4x800 relay team stormed into fifth place in the state finals with a time of 9:28.50. They shattered their previous best by 11.5 seconds and recorded the program’s second-best state placement for a relay team since at least 2005.

“It was amazing. They all ran really, really well,” girls head coach Brian Berntsen said. “You always want to run your best and have the best time (possible). That’s what they did. They can be extremely happy.”

“We went way beyond our expectations,” Mathews added. “Everyone ran stellar legs. Everyone PR’d in their splits. It was just overall a great day for everyone on the relay.”

DeWitt opened the race and finished her leg in 2:21.94. Hoffmann followed and posted a 2:20.98, while Mathews ran the third leg in 2:26.03. Berg anchored the group, crossing the finish line in 2:19.55. It was the kind of race that distance coach Ryan Aylesworth envisioned early in the year.

061522.S.BP.BHSTRACK Mia Hoffmann.JPEG
Bemidji sophomore Mia Hoffmann, left, races the second leg of the 4x800 relay during the Class 3A state meet on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in St. Michael.
Courtesy / Brian DeWitt

“Aylesworth had an idea the whole season about it,” Mathews said. “When he finally convinced us to try it (in late April), we absolutely rocked it. Ever since then, we’ve been dropping massive amounts of time. … We did not start the season out thinking that it was going to be strong.”

Eagan’s relay team won the state title by more than 8.5 seconds, finishing in 9:14.93.

Elsewhere for Bemidji in the state finals, Mady Schmidt placed last out of nine runners in the 100-meter hurdles despite a season-best time of 15.19. Roseville’s Ava Fitzgerald won the event with a state-record time of 13.81. Schmidt, meanwhile, ends her stellar prep career with seven individual state berths across three sports: two in track and field, two in gymnastics and three in diving.

061522.S.BP.BHSTRACK Regan DeWitt.JPEG
Bemidji junior Regan DeWitt, far right, leads a pack of runners in the 4x800 relay during the Class 3A state meet on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in St. Michael.
Courtesy / Brian DeWitt
061522.S.BP.BHSTRACK Lauren Berg
Bemidji senior Lauren Berg anchors the 4x800 relay during the Class 3A state meet on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in St. Michael.
Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

In the 300-meter hurdles, Berg ended last out of nine runners with a time of 45.94. Ava Cinnamo of Rosemount won the event in 43.10. Berg, who was named Bemidji’s Female Athlete of the Year this spring, made 12 state appearances in individual events between track and gymnastics throughout her career. She also tallied three more state appearances between the soccer and cross country teams.

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“They’ve done a lot for Bemidji sports,” Berntsen said of Schmidt and Berg. “They’re both multiple state participants, multiple team captains. It’s leaders like that who can help shape your program and other programs for years to come, just by their work ethic and their leadership. You can’t say enough about what they’ve done for us.”

The Rosemount girls won the Class 3A team state championship with 93 points, while Minnetonka (81) and Edina (63) rounded out the top three. The Lumberjacks finished in a tie for 31st with seven points.

Girls Team Results (Top 10)

1-Rosemount 93; 2-Minnetonka 81; 3-Edina 63; 4-Wayzata 56; 5-St. Michael-Albertville 39; 6-Rochester Century 36; 7-Maple Grove 35; 8-Roseville 32; T9-Eden Prairie 31; T9-Prior Lake 31; T31-Bemidji 7.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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