Whether competing against an envisioned ghost or two evenly matched competitors, distance runners Alex Miley and Lauren Peterson found success in their different motivational methods.
Their victories in the 3,200-meter races kicked off Friday's Class 2A state meet at Hamline University.
Miley, a senior at Maple Grove, said he studied last year's race and modeled his aggressive approach after Wayzata's victorious Jaret Carpenter. On laps three and four, Miley increased his pace, hoping to rattle his opponents.
It worked. He ran unchallenged from there and won by almost 11 seconds in a time of 9 minutes, 10.82 seconds.
"I did that in conference and section races, too, and it worked out," said Miley, who will run at Duke next season. "I just had to do it to a higher degree at the state race."
St. Paul Como Park's Innocent Murwanashyaka placed second, followed by Seth Eliason of Hopkins.
Running half the race alone required Miley to pretend "like there was a ghost next to me because even though it might have looked like I was a ways ahead, a few of those guys have that kind of kick."
Miley crossed the finished line, pointed skyward and said, "That was for you." He said of the gesture, "First of all, I had to give it to God. But also to my family and friends who have supported me."
Conversely, Peterson, a sophomore at Farmington, emerged from a three-runner pack separated by less than five seconds. She traded brief leads with sophomore Emily Covert of Minneapolis Washburn deep into the race and won by just .32 seconds in a time of 10:31.50.
"I was all right with that because I was just focused on staying calm," said Peterson, who set a personal best. "And I didn't want her to get too far ahead."
Anna Fenske, Peterson's Farmington teammate and the winner of the state cross-country title as an eighth-grader in the fall, placed third.
The Tigers could clinch the distance-running triple crown with a 1,600 victory on Saturday. Fenske holds the best time in the field.
Keeping up with Keefer
No scene better captured St. Michael-Albertville senior Anna Keefer's rewarding yet rushed Friday than her hustling to the podium to get her first-place medal in long jump, still wearing her warm-up sweatpants for the 200 race starting moments later.
In all, Keefer maintained her status as the state's most versatile female track and field athlete. She won the long jump (18 feet, 10½ inches), ran to the top preliminary times in the 100 and 200 and helped the 4x200 record the second-fastest preliminary time.
Three championship medals — maybe a fourth — are in her grasp, though success comes at a cost.
"I think it was pretty successful, but I'm really tired today," said Keefer, who has committed to North Carolina. "I haven't gotten longer than about a 30-minute break. I wish I had more time because I like to think about what I'm about to do."
Where's the love?
Elk River senior Christopher Udalla wanted a boost before his third try in triple jump, so he encouraged a little crowd participation.
"I do this thing where I start a clap going, but no one really clapped, so it was kind of awkward," Udalla said. "But it still worked for me."
Unfazed by the tepid response, Udalla stuck a leap of 46 feet, 7¾ inches, which held up as the winning mark.
He competes Saturday in long jump, an event he won in April at the Hamline Elite Meet.
Class 2A notables
Eden Prairie senior Denzel Brown is positioned to become the state's most decorated male sprinter. He posted the top preliminary times in the 100 and 200 and ran a leg of the Eagles' 4x100 relay, the top seed in Saturday's finals. … The North St. Paul foursome of Alexis Pratt, Shaliciah Jones, Jebeh Cooke and J'Ianna Cager ran to the top preliminary times in the girls' 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
Class 1A notables
The north side of Minneapolis leads the way when it comes to the girls' sprints. Defending 100 champ T'Nia Riley (North) is the top seed in Saturday's finals. Sitting third and fourth, respectively, are sisters Jia and Jada Lewis, the driving force behind defending state team champion Edison.
Riley, also the defending 200 champion, returns with Jada, second, and Jia, third, in pursuit.
Edison holds the top spot for the 4x100 relay final on Saturday.