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State track and field: Luverne 4x800 girls win second straight state crown

Looking like a flashback from 2018, the 2019 Luverne girls 4x800-meter relay team poses on the victory stand at the Minnesota Class A track and field meet. Repeat champions are (from left) Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklynn VerSteeg. (Dominic Burns/The Globe)

SAINT PAUL -- It must have seemed like deja vu all over again for the Luverne High School girls 4x800-meter relay team.

One year ago on Saturday the fantastic foursome of Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklynn VerSteeg took their places on the victory stand at Hamline University in St. Paul. They’d just won the event in the Minnesota state Class A event in 9:29.56, by more than eight seconds against the second-place team while setting a new school record in the process.

So there they were again on a sunny afternoon at Hamline -- back where they belonged.

Feit, Anderson, Nelson and VerSteeg toured the course in 2019 in 9:22.92, well ahead of second-place Minnewaska Area (9:27.33) and third-place Albany (9:29.85). It was another school-record time for the Cardinals, and just like 2018, their emotions ran wild.

“I almost started crying when I was giving the last pep talk,” said Anderson, the senior of the group. “Then I started crying not just ‘cuz we were so far ahead (in the race), I just started crying because it was the last time for me in the 4x800.”

Feit finished her sophomore year of high school this year, Nelson her ninth-grade year, and VerSteeg her ninth-grade year, as well. Jadyn, being the oldest, and also because of her nurturing instincts, has always been the one to remind her partners to wear their sunscreens, or to drink lots of water on hot, sunny days like Saturday.

“Jadyn’s the mom of the group,” said Brooklynn.

At this year’s 4x800-meter final, lead runner Feit set a good tone, placing her squad in second place by only six feet when she handed the baton to Anderson, who moved into first place on the backstretch rounding off her first lap. The Cardinals had the lead by 16 feet when the senior gave way to Nelson, who stretched the lead further. VerSteeg maintained the margin throughout her final leg, though she collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line and had to be helped off the track.

“The last 200 was all heart,” she said later, as if her hefty lead over Minnewaska Area wasn’t an issue.

“Not in my mind. We had to finish that. No coasting,” she explained.

Moments after stepping down from the victory stand, Feit was still struggling to put the accomplishment into proper words.

“To do it once is amazing. To say we’re going to do it again is just out of this world,” she said. “Like, the littlest thing can mess you up.”

Indeed. A relay race requires timing and coordination that other running events don’t. The handoffs must be smooth. All four runners must be operating at optimum efficiency. This year, the Luverne girls also knew that, by virtue of their 2018 championship, other teams would be gunning for them. It is always said that repeating is more difficult than winning a championship the first time, and the Cards had to deal with that kind of pressure throughout the spring.

The first win was exciting, because it wasn’t promised. The second win is different, said Anderson, because the mind plays tricks.

“It’s hard to dare to dream to win,” she said. “Because if you don’t, your heart is crushed. But you gotta put all of your heart into it, otherwise you can’t push yourself to win.”

Anxious to hear what Nelson thought about all this, the reporter asked her to say a few words. She tried, but before she could get any words out, her face began to scrunch up and tears began to form around her eyes. So she just cried.

Well said, Tenley. Well said.

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