Class A Girls
1. Ping Power
Having finished 1-2 in almost every race they've competed in together for Cotter, it came as no surprise that Grace and Lauren Ping once again swept the Class A distance events on Friday and Saturday. But that doesn't make their doubles any less impressive, especially considering the grueling heat. In a near carbon copy to what happened in 2018, each of the sisters captured a State title. Lauren broke open the 3200m with a blazing 5:15 first 1600, and led the race wire to wire with Grace in tow. Lauren would come through the line in 10:39 to defend her title, with Grace following in 10:50. On Saturday, it was Grace who defended her 1600m title with the only sub-5:00 time of the day in Class A. Like in the 3200m, Lauren took the race out hard, leading for the first two laps with Grace on her shoulder. With about 500m to go, the elder Ping burst into the lead, holding that position through the line. After some pressure from Maddie Kelly, Lauren would surge to a clear second place finish. To top it all off, for the second consecutive year, Grace and Lauren scored every point for their team as Cotter took 2nd overall behind Blake in the team competition.
2. By The Grace Of Robbie
Robbie Grace first burst onto the track scene as just an 8th-grader, then still competing for Minneapolis Southwest, when she took 3rd at State in the Class AA 400m championships in a time of 56.23 (although she did run some notable sub-60 times in the event as a seventh-grader too). But as she struggled to finally earn that State title in the 400 meters (placing 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd the following three years, with last year being the most challenging as she was passed in the final stretch by Kya Phillips), she began flourishing as a jumper, and leaped over the 20-foot mark in her very first jump of the season. Grace went on to easily defend her long jump title with a leap of 19-1 (her ninth meet that she managed to clear 19 feet this year), but her busy meet wasn't over yet. While going back and forth between the pit and the track Grace wound up taking second in the 100m, fourth in the 200m (which was won by her freshman teammate Anisa Thompson), and then finally at long last got her first State title in the 400m dash. Between her heroics, Tompson's win, and several other top preformances, Blake managed to take home their second consecutive team title. With her MSHSL career concluded, Grace will be heading to Wake Forest next year where she will be finally focusing on just one event, the long jump.
3. Luverne Leaves No Doubt
The Luverne girls 4x800 had a mission as they returned all four runners from last year's State title winners, and that was to repeat and leave no doubt, and perhaps even outperform the winners from Minnetonka from the morning. But while they were less than two and a half seconds from Minnetonka's time (and less than two seconds behind the Class A record), Luverne easily pulled away in the latter stages of the race thanks to a 2:19 split from Tenley Nelson and a 2:17 split from Brooklynn VerSteeg to cross in 9:22.92. Three of the runners will be back next year as well (graduating senior Jadyn Anderson says, "I'm replacable," though her younger teammates may disagree), so they may yet be able to to both get the record and outshine their AA counterparts.
4. Smaller Than Her Competitors, Bigger Than Her Competition
Desera Engholm of Pequot Lakes proved to be a model of consistency in the throwing events for her senior year, losing just one shot put competition (coming second at the Hamline Elite Meet) and two discus competitions all year, and nearly always bettering her best marks from last year. In particular, Engholm's ability in the shot put was on full display at State, as five of her six tosses bettered the best toss from runner-up finisher Monica Johnson, and the sixth was less than three inches shy. However, Engholm had a more difficult time in the discus in trying to collect the title. Shorter than the majority of her competetors at 5'2", Engholm has managed to use her quickness (she's also a solid 100m runner with a PR of 13.35) and strength to achieve her success over bigger and taller athletes, and despite going into her final throw in second place behind Elizabeth Pahl, she unleased a toss of 131-4 to earn the title by four feet.
5. Hokanson Soars To New Heights
At the Hamline Elite Meet, Ashley Hokanson had the performance of her life. With a few lucky bounces on her side, Hokanson cleared 12-6 to set a nine inch PR, finishing second to Julia Fixsen. On Saturday, Hokanson eclipsed that performance, cruising to 12-7, well above the previous Class A record of 12-3. That jump was the highest of the day, in either class. Perhaps the most impressive part was that Hokanson only missed once on her way to that height (at 12-4), and she made 12-7 on her very first attempt. Though Hokanson would miss all three attempts at 12-10, it was a monumental finish for the NDSU signee. After being an integral part of Perham's cross country team for years, Hokanson decided to focus on the pole vault in her senior season. That move paid off enormously, as her State-winning jump was exactly a foot higher than her best last spring.