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Aaron Johnson Amongst State Elite in Hurdles

Rebel Hurdler One Of Several Area Athletes To Earn Hardware At The State Meet

HAMLINE UNIVERSITY/ST PAUL - Aaron Johnson said that just a few years ago he wasn’t even interested in running the hurdles as a rookie 7th grade track and field athlete.  Nearly a handful of years later, not only is he enjoying it, he earned a spot on the podium at the Class A State Track and Field Meet at Hamline University last weekend.  The Rebel junior advanced past the preliminary round on Friday and dashed and leapt his way to a 7th place finish in the finals.  When asked if he thinks he’ll return as a senior, Johnson said, “For sure!”.

By the slimmest of margins, Johnson was the last runner to qualify in the preliminary round on Friday and earn a spot in the Saturday final.   He needed to either place first or second in one of the two preliminary heats or have one of the next best five times if he wanted to run in the championship on Saturday.  His fifth place finish in heat number two was the ninth fastest time in the two heats, just a mere .01 faster than Braeden Benz of Pipestone Area, and enough to earn him a spot in the medal round.  Johnson said his nervousness level was at about a 6 or 7 on a scale of one to ten.  “Coach (Bobledyk) told me to focus on myself, not the other runners.  Run my race and control myself.  I just tried to do the same thing I have been doing all season and have fun.”  After finishing the preliminary he heard his name over the p.a. system and threw his hands into the air.  After just missing state last season, despite a personal best finish at sections, he knew his efforts in the weight room working on flexing his hips and developing speed had gotten him what he was after.  In the finals on Saturday, the junior wasn’t able to break 16 seconds once again as he had been doing in the postseason, (15:47 at sections) but times were up just a “smidge” for most everyone in the finale.  Only the winner, from Providence Academy was able to set a new personal best.  Johnson’s 16.05 moved him from the 9th seed to the 7th finisher.  Immediately after the race he took the podium and received his medal along with the other eight best in the state.  Johnson said he’s already excited about next season, his senior year.  “I know I’ll have to work hard again to make it back and I’m not afraid of what it will take.  I really want to continue with this in college also.”  Johnson capped off his junior season in spectacular fashion and should be a force in a number of events as a senior for the Rebels next spring.   

There were some other area athletes that were able to shine at Hamline.  Morgan Gehl of Heron Lake Okabena/Fulda hasn’t missed qualifying for a state meet in cross country or track since she started in 7th grade.  For the second year in a row she earned a spot on the starting line in both the 1600 and 3200 meter runs.  Last season the sophomore placed 4th in both races and in 2019 she moved up a spot to finish 3rd in both distance events.  Sisters Grace and Lauren Ping from Cotter, a private school in Winona, were first and second in both races.  Gehl posted a personal best 10:58 in the 3200 on Friday and proceeded to blister the track on Saturday with another incredible performance in the 1600 where she crossed the line in 5:02.64.  There’s certainly no shame in finishing behind the “Pings” whose reputation precedes them in running.  Gehl, who runs cross country for the Rebels in the fall, will most likely see them again at St. Olaf in November for another shot at getting by them at the highest level.    

Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton’s, Kaitlyn Schuur, earned a bronze medal in the pole vault as she cleared another school record 11-00.  The record she continues to break is her own.  Jordan Munson of Tracy/Milroy, just an eighth grader, qualified in both the 200 and 400 meter races, but was unable to advance to the final round. 

Pipestone Area, Ellsworth, SWMNC/Edgerton and Windom were a few of the other schools that saw their athletes make finals and bring home medals.  It was Luverne, however earning the only state title in the area.  Their 4x800 relay team backed up last year’s title by doing it again and breaking their own record.   

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