As a freshman, Anna Keefer wasn’t certain she was really into track and field. Denzel Brown, meanwhile, longed for success as a sprinter while never imagining the emotional marathon ahead.
They departed Saturday’s Class 2A state meet at Hamline University with a combined five championship medals and left no doubt of their place in the sport.
“He’s one of those kids that comes along once in your coaching lifetime,” Eden Prairie coach Bruce Kivimaki said of Brown.
“She’s the perfect combination of talent and hard work,” St. Michael-Albertville coach Jason Massmann said of Keefer. “She gets what she deserves and she deserves the very best.”
Brown won the 100-meter dash in 10.5 seconds. He repeated as the 200 champ in 20.97, becoming the fourth runner in state history to break 21 seconds. Both are school records.
“It means so much to me to have a spot on the record board,” Brown said.
Brown, who attended Hopkins and Edina before Eden Prairie, lost his mother last June. He struggled in the classroom. With the support of coaches and teachers, Brown will head to a Texas junior college this fall.
Keefer, who signed with North Carolina, also set personal bests while winning the 100 (11.73) and 200 (24.13). She defended her long jump title Friday. Earlier this season, she made a breakthrough with her state record leap of 20 feet, 1¼ inches — no previous Minnesota high school female went 20 feet — while holding top marks in her sprint events.
“All that stuff really got me hyped up, like, ‘I’ve got to perform now; I’ve got to keep going and finish out at the state meet,’ ” Keefer said. “Everything went well and I’m really thankful for that.”
Three-peat for Finley
Atop the podium a third and final time to collect a medal for her mastery of the 400, Bloomington Kennedy senior Honour Finley stood with her hands on her hips.
A conqueror’s body language fit considering Finley leaves with three consecutive 400 state titles and the state’s fastest time (53.96).
Finley said competitors have approached her before races to check if they are in her heat. More than a few exclaimed, “Yes!” when they found out Finley wasn’t.
“It gives me confidence in my capabilities, but I also smile because I’m like, ‘You guys never know what you can do,’ ” Finely said.
North St. Paul’s girls’ relay of Alexis Pratt, Shaliciah Jones, Jebeh Cooke and J’Ianna Cager blazed to titles in the 4x100 and 4x200, the latter in a state record time of 1:39.20.
“It felt really good, one of those really proud, almost crying moments,” said Cager, who anchored both events and also placed second in the 100.
Edina senior Henry Adams qualified for state as the top seed in 110 hurdles and pole vault. Favorite status meant little Friday when Adams did not post a single successful vault.
“It honestly scared me because I’ve never no-heighted before,” Adams said. “I thought it might make me choke [in hurdles], too.”
Putting the thought of failure out of his mind Saturday morning, Adams rebounded with a state title in hurdles in a personal-best time of 14.07 seconds.
Fenske finds it
Trailing down the stretch of the 1,600, Farmington eighth-grader Anna Fenske said she told herself, “‘I’ve got to go if I want it,’ and I wanted it really bad.”
Determination brought Fenske victory in 4:55.20, edging Edina junior Emily Kompelien by 32-hundredths of a second.
Fenske, who won the cross-country title last fall, said of Saturday’s performance, “I think that’s the hardest I’ve kicked in a race.”
Winning the boys’ team championship gave East Ridge, which opened in 2009 in Woodbury, its first team title. The Raptors’ scored 51 points and placed ahead of Lakeville South (44) and two-time defending champion Wayzata (43).
On the girls’ side, St. Michael-Albertville won its first Class 2A title. The Knights scored 54 points, followed by Farmington (48) and North St. Paul (43). They previously won the 1A title in 1998.
One relay and four other athletes defended their state championships: the Edina girls’ 4x800 relay, Amanda Anderson of St. Francis (discus), Alexandrea Hurst of Armstrong (shot put), Jake Kubiatowicz of North St. Paul (discus) and Allyson Weiss of East Ridge (triple jump).
Weather no concern
Worries about Saturday’s forecast high temperature were never realized. No incidents were reported.