Courtney West leads the chase pack of 1600 meter runners in Saturday’s MSHSL track and field championships. West finished in third in a time of 5:10.35.
By Track Coach Bruce Huber,
The ultimate goal of high school track athletes is to be a state champion in their event. Triton had three athletes that qualified to pursue that very goal.
Sophomore Nell Graham, junior Courtney West and senior Leif Bungum qualified to run against the best at the Minnesota State High School League's Track and Field Championships this past weekend.
Graham made a repeat appearance in the state meet in the 800-meter run. Her first attempt as a sophomore gained her valuable experience on the big stage. That experience helped her to navigate her sophomore season and the challenges that it presented.
After missing a month of the season with an over-use injury, Graham, healthy again, made great strides at the end of the season, lowering her own school record with a 2:18.37 mark in the section meet at Elgin.
In the preliminary rounds of the 800 at the state meet, her goal was to make the finals. That was accomplished by winning her heat in 2:19.79 to move on to the finals on Saturday. She used the opportunity of the final race of her sophomore year to finish third in a personal best and school-record breaking time of 2:18.27.
West, making her first appearance in the state meet, was seeded among the top athletes due to her performances in the section meet. She qualified for the 3200-meter run, which was run as a final on Thursday.
Our strategy for Courtney in this race was for her to run HER race and not get caught up with the fast pace at the beginning of the event. She planned to run her splits that we established before the meet and worked on in practice the past month.
True to form, the pack took off behind state-leading Tierney Wolfgram of Woodbury's Math and Science Academy, and Courtney was at the very back of the 16-runner field. Slowly but surely, Courtney moved up through the field not because she got faster, but because everyone else slowed down. At one point in the race, she was 200 meters behind the leaders, but Courtney ran consistent laps of 1:23 to 1:25 for each 400 meters.
Going into the bell lap, she was still 100 meters behind second place Brynnan Covington of Perham and 150 meters behind eventual winner Wolfgram. That's when Courtney hit the afterburners on her kick and turned in a 1:14.7 for the final lap to pass Covington in the last 50 meters, finishing second in a new school record time of 11:02.99.
Courtney became the seventh Cobra to finish runner-up at the state track meet.
Courtney continued her spectacular season on Saturday evening with her final race of the 2017 track and field season, the 1600-meter run. Once again, Courtney stuck to her pace and in the first lap seemed to be behind. As the race continued, Courtney maintained her pace and began to pass the other athletes.
With 200 meters remaining in the race, she was in a tight lead pack with Wolfgram, Byron's Taylor Kreitinger, and Covington. Unfortunately, in a tangle of feet, she and Covington went down, which allowed Wolfgram and Kreitinger to gain a lead.
Despite the fall, Courtney still finished in an impressive time of 5:10.35, earning a third-place medal.
Bungum competed in the 100-meter dash at the state meet in his sophomore season, and returned this year as a senior in the same event. He had the biggest challenge against a loaded field of sprinters.
Leif was hobbled by an injury his junior season and started this season coming off a broken ankle sustained during the first game of the football season last fall. Months of rehab brought him to this point, but despite his best efforts, his time of 11.56 didn't qualify him for the Saturday finals.
The girls finished 10th as a team with 28 points, their highest finish ever. Byron's girls placed fourth in the meet with 38 points, two points shy of Belle Plaine's third place finish.
Minneapolis Edison won the state meet with 48 points.
Thanks to all our track athletes for an exciting and rewarding track season. Our hope is that you had fun and got better each and every week. The memories that you created will stay with you for a lifetime. Thanks also to the folks who helped us host so many track meets. We appreciate your time and expertise in making Triton the "gold standard" for hosting meets. Lastly, thanks to our athlete's parents for supporting your sons and daughters in an activity that we believe helps them grow individually and as part of a team. We are already looking forward to next season.