Joe Klecker walked Thursday evening at his Hopkins High School graduation. On Friday morning, he ran to a coronation.
Klecker, long regarded among the state's top distance runners, captured his first state title with a time of 8 minutes, 57.76 seconds in the 3,200-meter run at the Class 2A state track and field championships at Hamline University.
Success required patience. Injury kept Klecker, who took third in the state cross-country championships as a sophomore, from the state track meet later that school year. An injury last fall hampered his ability to train for track season and he settled for fifth in the 3,200 at state.
This time was different. More than a year of health and solid training fueled Klecker's rise. He posted the nation's fastest time (8:50.1) in the 3,200 at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in South Dakota. The momentum carried Klecker to a Section 6 record time of 8:54 last week.
"It's kind of strange to me that I still hadn't won one because I feel like I've been up there for so many years," Klecker said. "It is a big hump to get over to finally put together a complete race and win it."
One for her sister
Before Friday, Alexandria's talented Hasz twins, Bethany and Megan, were never far apart in big races.
They went 1-2 at the two previous cross-country state championships. Bethany won as a freshman and took second to Megan last fall. Last year at Hamline, Bethany placed third in the 3,200, one spot ahead of Megan.
An injury forced Megan to watch Friday, so Bethany ran for her. Hasz, a junior, won the 3,200 in 10:26.40 "She's my best friend and I wanted to make her proud," Bethany said.
The 3,200 races were the only event finals on the track Friday. But state and meet records fell in four preliminary races.
The Lakeville South girls' 4x400 relay team of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery set a state standard of 3:51.24, cutting two-hundredth of a second off the old mark.
The Eagan boys' 4x200 relay crew of Josh Brown, Joseph Williams, Troy Brown and Sam Zenner clocked a state record time of 1:26.91, eclipsing the previous record by .01 seconds.
Zenner and the Browns, along with Dallas Krech, led the Wildcats' 4x100 relay to a meet-record finish of 41.70. Zenner also edged out Armstrong junior Evan McClellon for the top preliminary mark (10.83) in the boys' 100.
Thief River Falls junior Meleah Biermaier set a Class 2A meet record of 42.87 seconds in the 300 hurdles. She is in reach of a long-standing state record, the 42.62 ran by Liesa Brateng of Roseau in 1987.
In the field event finals, Eden Prairie senior Benjamin Ose set a meet record with a pole vault of 15 feet, 8 inches. Delano senior Marissa Bartels repeated as the girls' wheelchair division discus throw champion with a record toss of 53-8.
Visions of 1A glory
Season-long visualization helped St. Croix Lutheran hurdles standout Jon Tollefson prepare for the Class 1A state meet.
"A lot of the times I'll just imagine myself here so when I am here it's no different," said Tollefson, a senior at the West St. Paul school.
Tollefson swept the 110 and 300 hurdles the past two seasons. He will try to win titles No. 5 and 6 Saturday.
Happy to win her first championship was Breck seventh-grader Morgan Richter, who took the Class 1A girls 3,200-meter race with a time of 11:18.61.
Ready to repeat
Edison won the Class 1A state title last spring, the first for a Minneapolis public school girls' track and field program.
The Tommies are better positioned to repeat. Sisters and catalysts, Jada and Jia Lewis, both qualified for finals in the 100. Jada Lewis took seventh in the long jump Friday and qualified for the 200 final.
The 4x100 relay, featuring the Lewis sisters and state newcomers Linda Senephanh and Mariana Cress, posted the second-best preliminary time (49.77 seconds).
"We're ready for a repeat this year," Jia Lewis said. "We're coming on strong."