Poll: 2023 MileSplit Minnesota Boys Athlete of the Year

From left to right: Noah Breker, Tyler Gunnarson, Juriad Hughes Jr. and Hayden Bills


The end of the 2023 Minnesota cross country and track and field seasons is here!! It's been a whirlwind of a year with breakthrough athletes, state records, nationally relevant performacnes, and so much more. 

Now that this season is at its end, we look back on 2023 and the athletes that had the best overall year in Minnesota and beyond. 

Now is your opportunity to vote for your MileSplit Minnesota Boys Athlete of the Year for 2023. 

Here are your candidates:


The Candidates

Robert Mechura (Roseville)

Mechura rewrote the standard for Minnesota boys cross country this year becoming the Class AAA State Champion, winning the NXR Heartland Regional Championship with a new meet record, and demolishing the Minnesota state record for the 5K with a time of 14:32. Mechura finished his season at NXN where he finished 20th overall and ranked #2 overall nationally this season with his time of 14:32 in the 5K. 

On top of his cross country exploits, Mechura had a remarkable track and field season that saw him run times of 4:16.28 in the 1600m, 9:00.82 in the 3200m, and 8:59.83 in the 2-Mile. He now ranks #10 all-time in the 3200m in Minnesota with his converted time of 8:56.70. 

Noah Breker (Robbinsdale Armstrong)

Breker kept up the momentum from the 2022 cross country season and finished his senior season strong by breaking the State Meet Record in the 3200m, running a time of 8:51.44, which is the 2nd fastest 3200m time in state history (not including converted 2-mile times). Breker also finished 2nd at the state meet in the 1600m with a time of 4:11.42, finished 3rd at Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 3000m, and finished 9th in the 2-mile and 5th in the 3000m at New Balance Indoor Nationals. His time of 8:51.44 in the 3200m ranked #32 nationally this past outdoor season. 

Hayden Bills (Rosemount)

Bills completed an undefeated campaign in the shot put and discus this past season by winning both events at the Class AAA state meet, leading Rosemount to a state title as a team. Bills set a state record at the meet, winning the discus by 34 feet with a throw of 207 feet even, which ranked No. 3 nationally among prep competitors in 2023. Bills also set a state record in the shot put at the True Team Championships by putting up a mark of 66-8.75, which ranked No. 4 nationally. At the end of the season Bills was named the Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year. 

Juriad Hughes Jr. (Irondale)

This year Hughes with his jumps of 24' 11" indoors and 24' 11.75" outdoors, set both the Minnesota indoor and outdoor records for the long jump. The previous indoor record was 23' 1" set by Josh Peter in 2016 and the previous outdoor record was 24' 9.25 set by Von Shepard in 1982. Alongside breaking the Minnesota state records, Hughes Jr. set a new junior class record in Minnesota, ranked #5 nationally for the 2023 outdoor season, ranks tied for 32nd all-time for U.S. junior boys all-time, and won both Nike Indoor and Outdoor Nationals titles in the long jump. To end his season, Hughes won the Pan American U20 Championships long jump title with a jump of 24' 11.75". 

On top of his long jump exploits, Hughes Jr. also ran a time of 10.81 in the 100m and 21.68 in the 200m. He finished 5th in the 200m at the MSHSL State Championships for Class AAA. 

Brandon Kampsen (Sauk Centre)

Kampsen capped off his high school career this spring by going perfect his senior season in all competitions during the cross country and track seasons. This spring, Kampsen won eight 800m races and ten 1600m races after winning eleven races last fall. Kampsen capped off his high school career by winning the Class A 800m and 1600m titles, winning the 800m title by three seconds and the 1600m title by 1.4 seconds. He finished his senior season with new PR's of 1:53.56 in the 800m and 4:18.50 in the 1600m. 

Tyler Gunnarson (St. Charles)

Gunnarson broke all kinds of records in 2023, breaking the state records held by his brother Peyton Gunnarson in the 100m, 200m, and 400m wheelchair events. After finishing his sophomore track and field season, Tyler now owns the state records in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 3200m. He also won four state titles for Class A in the 100m, 200m, 800m, and discus. 

To cap off his 2023 track and field year, Gunnarson competed at the 2023 World Abilitysport Games where he finished with 2 bronze medals, 2 silver medals, 1 gold medal, and a new American U20 National Record in the 200m. Gunnarson was also recently named a 2023 All-American by US Para T&F in FIVE events: 100, 400, 800, 1500, 5000. 

Sam Scott (Minneapolis Southwest)

Scott had one of the most complete distance seasons in Minnesota state and now ranks among the best all-time in state history. Scott started his track and field season off with 3rd place finishes at state in the 1600m and 3200m, ran the #8 3200m time in state history with his time of 8:54.16 (converted), and finished 9th in the 2-mile at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. 

Scott then ran a stellar cross country season that saw him win the Section 6AAA title, the St. Olaf HS Showcase title, the Minneapolis City Conference title, finish 2nd at the State Championships, finish 12th at Nike Cross Nationals, and run the Minnesota #2 5K time all-time of 14:36.40. 

Harlow Tong (Saint Paul Central)

Tong ended his junior season on a high note and showed that he might be a force to be reckoned with in 2024 after finishing the season with a 1st place finish in the 400m, a 2nd place finish in the 100m, and a 9th place finish in the 200m at the state meet. Tong went undefeated in 400m finals this season and ended up with a Minnesota #14 all-time time of 47.84 in the 400m. Tong also ran a Minnesota #18 time in the 200m this season with a time of 21.47. In the Indoor season, Tong broke the Minnesota state record for the indoor 200m with a time of 22.83.