Meet Your Minnesota Track and Field Olympians

From left to right: Joe Klecker, Akeem Sirleaf, and Mason Ferlic


An equal amount of track and field athletes with Minnesota ties will run for Team USA and Team Liberia at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo later this month. The Olympics is the peak of track and field competition and all these athletes will look to bring home some hardware for their country and for Minnesota. 

Read on below to see what track and field athletes will be representing Minnesota in Tokyo. 

Joe Klecker
Hopkins High School
Team USA

In just a short time as a professional runner, Klecker has made his name known. Going into the trials against loaded fields, he had the seventh-ranked qualifying times in both the 5,000m and 10,000m. In just his second-ever 10k, he ran a 27:23 to qualify for the trials. 

On the first night of the trials, Klecker ran in one of the only finals of the day in the 10,000m. Klecker stayed in the main pack of runners for most of the race up until about the 6400m mark, when he started to move into the lead group of runners. He stayed in that lead pack up until about 7600m when he took to the top three positions. Going into the bell lap that lead group had quickly evolved to about 6 runners, all with a shot at making the team. 

With about 300 meters left things started to spread out, and Klecker, Woody Kincaid, and Grant Fisher all separated themselves from the rest of the pack and never looked back. Klecker stayed in the third that whole way en route to Olympic qualification. 

Being an Olympian must run in the family, as Klecker's mom, Janis, was a 1992 Team USA Olympian in the marathon. Janis placed 21st at those Olympics in Barcelona. 

Fun fact: Klecker is the first University of Colorado 10,000m Olympian since Dathan Ritzenhein. Ritzenhein is now his coach with the On Athletics Club. 

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph Fahnbulleh
Hopkins High School
Team Liberia 

We know how fast Fahnbulleh is, but the whole world found out how fast he was at NCAA Nationals, and he will have another chance for some hardware this year in Tokyo where he is representing Liberia. 

Already this year, Fahnbulleh has won the NCAA Outdoor Title in the 200m with a time of 19.91 and finished third in the 200m at NCAA Indoor Nationals. His time of 19.91 in the 200m is the 8th best time in the world this year, and he is one of only nine guys under 20 seconds this season.

Of the nine guys who have run sub 20 seconds in the 200m this year, only six of them have qualified for Tokyo. Those guys are Noah Lyles, Kenneth Bednarek, Erriyon Knighton, Andre De Grasse, Divine Oduduru, and Fahnbulleh. 

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Payton Otterdahl
Rosemount High School
Team USA

Otterdahl needed a lifetime best throw to qualify for Tokyo in the men's shot put, and he was up to the challenge accomplishing a new lifetime best throw of 71' 11" to edge out 2016 Olympian Darrell Hill who was just one inch behind him for the last spot for the shot put team. 

His throw of 71' 11" is the seventh-best throw in the world this year. It appears that it will be a battle for the bronze medal in Tokyo as Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs have by far the two best throws this year, and they are the returning gold and silver medalists. His main competition appears to be 2016 bronze medalist Tomas Walsh, Michal Haratyk, and Filip Mihaljevic. 

Otterdahl is the first former NDSU male track and field athlete to ever qualify for the Olympics. 

Akeem Sirleaf
North Saint Paul High School
Team Liberia

Sirleaf qualified for Team Liberia a long time ago, even before the pandemic postponed the 2020 Olympics. He is a standout 200m and 400m runner who holds the Liberian National Records in both events. His personal bests of 20.37 in the 200m and 45.42 are both good times, but he ran both those personal bests back in the 2019 season which is how he qualified for the Olympics in the first place. 

Sirleaf was recently a part of North Carolina A&Ts National Championship 4x400m relay with Trevor Stewart, Daniel Stokes, and Randolph Ross Jr. 

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mason Ferlic
Mounds Park Academy
Team USA

Winning an NCAA Championship is usually a career highlight for most people, but Ferlic went one step further and did what few Americans will ever do and qualified for the Olympics. His Olympic dream was realized on June 25 when he finished third overall in the steeplechase at the U.S. Trials with a time of 8:22.05. He finished only behind Hillary Bor and Bernard Keter.

Ferlic has the 24th fastest 3000m steeplechase time in the world this season (8:18.49). 

Emmanuel Matadi
Saint Paul Johnson High School
Team Liberia

The most experienced athlete out of the Minnesota Olympians, Matadi had graduated from Saint Paul Johnson High School before any of the other track and field athletes above had even entered high school.

Matadi will again represent Liberia on the international stage just as he did at the 2016 Olympics and the 2016 African Championships. He holds the Liberian National Records in the 100m (9.93), the Indoor 60m (6.58), and Indoor 200m (21.10).