STATE TRACK MEET: Relays rule the day for Arrows, Huskies

ST. PAUL -- Getting exceptional performances from all four runners, both the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Pipestone Area Arrows won relay races Saturday afternoon at the Minnesota State High School League's (MSHSL) state track and field...

PA's Casey Kooiker
AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Pipestone Area's Casey Kooiker (3) sprints to a first-place finish on the Arrows' winning 4x200-meter relay team during the Class A state track meet.

ST. PAUL -- Getting exceptional performances from all four runners, both the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Pipestone Area Arrows won relay races Saturday afternoon at the Minnesota State High School League's (MSHSL) state track and field meet at Hamline University.

JCC, which was seeded a close second to Minnehaha Academy, took an early lead in the day's first event -- the 4x800-meter relay -- and then received an outstanding anchor leg from junior Justin Cook to win the gold medal with a new school record time of 8:09.18.

Fifty-two minutes later, PA sprinted to victory in the 4x200-meter relay, clocked under 1:31 for the second straight day.

The Arrow foursome of senior Colin Cooper, sophomore Aaron Kozlowski, senior replacement Shandon Jones and junior Casey Kooiker blazed the two laps in 1:30.49 -- improving by .50 on its second-fastest preliminary time of 1:30.99 on Friday.

"I really thought that we could run under 1:31 and if we did that, we would have a shot to win the state," exclaimed PA head coach Todd Tinklenberg. "We had a great run Saturday by all four guys, each one of them running their best splits of the season"


In a very close race, the Arrows crossed just before Glencoe-Silver Lake (1:30.65) and Caledonia/Spring Grove (1:30.88).

"They are all heroes," beamed an exuberant Shelli Kozlowski, Aaron's mother after the finish results announced the Arrows as the winners.

"These guys really did come together nicely," said Tinklenberg. "Each one of them ran with great determination."

Jones, who later came through with a clutch performance and captured a second-place silver medal in the long jump (21-8), had some extra desire after hitting the fifth hurdle in his first event of the day -- the 110-meter high hurdles.

Jones had qualified for the finals with the second-fastest prelim time (15.11), but after knicking the barrier and losing stride, he finished ninth in the finals (16.76).

Kooiker, who had run fast enough to make the 200-meter dash finals on Friday but was disqualified for running on the line in his lane, was also motivated for a maximum effort Saturday.

"Casey sure did a strong job down the stretch, outrunning some exceptional anchors," declared Tinklenberg. "All four guys showed a lot of heart."

Jones, who was a state meet replacement for junior Tyler Evans (who pulled a hamstring while running the 4x100 in the section meet) rallied with a remarkable leap on his last attempt in the long jump.


"Shandon was in third place with a 20-10 after the prelims," explained Tinklenberg. "Then two guys passed him in the finals and he was back in fifth. Then he popped a 21-8, which matched his best ever, and ends up getting second."

While Jones was having a good day Saturday, so was Cook.

JCC senior Matt Kocak gave the Huskies an early lead in the 4x800 and senior Sam Hendrickson's strong finish put them back near the front.

But the exchange between Hendrickson and junior Marc Strom was not clean and Minnehaha Academy's third runner was able to open up the gap on the Huskies.

"My heart skipped a beat," said Strom about the bobble. "But I knew that I had to run my best and stay close."

With Strom keeping the distance within reach, Cook took over and ran a tremendous anchor leg, chasing down the MA anchor runner and giving the Huskies the victory by 1.45 seconds.

"I was just thinking about closing the gap and finishing hard," Cook said about his anchor lap. "All three of the guys ahead of me did a great job and gave me a chance to chase him (the MA anchor runner) down."

"That was intense," summed up Hendrickson about the race.


"Our goal was just to get here," said Kocak, who capped a stellar running career for the Huskies. "But once we compared our times with some of the others, we thought maybe we could win this race at the state meet."

"I am so proud of those boys," exclaimed Matt's mother and JCC assistant coach Kerri Kocak. "They have worked so hard and improved so much over the years. This is a super way for them to run their last race together."

Cook later came back and nearly won the open 800-meter run.

In a three-way sprint for the finish, Cook was closing, but could not quite catch the leaders -- Brian Saksa, a senior from Dassel-Cokato and Ryan Swenson, a junior from Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd -- as he finished third, clocked at 1:58.32.

Saksa (1:58.11) and Swenson (1:58.29) finished just ahead of Cook, while two runners finished right on his heels with times of 1:58.56 and 1:58.91, respectively.

"It was a close race," summed up Cook. "I had a good day."

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Dalton Kirk also earned a state meet medal Saturday by finishing sixth in the 110-meter high hurdles, clocked at 15.53, just .11 from third place.

Windom senior Bryce Quiring competed in the discus, whirling a best throw of 136-4, which placed him fourth in the first flight and 13th overall.


Class A Boys Results

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