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Marshall earns seven medals at Day 2 of Class AA meet

Photo by Jake McNeill: Marshall distance runner Katelyn Leibfried leads the pack during the first leg of the girls 4x800-meter relay at the Class AA state meet at St. Michael-Albertville High School on Friday. The relay team was one of seven Marshall state medals on the day, including another runner-up medal from the boys 4x400-meter relay team.

ST. MICHAEL — The second day of the Class AA state track and field championships was a good day for Marshall. The Tigers had the girls and boys 4×800-meter relays and the boys 4×400-meter relay all put together top-3 finishes while three other individuals and the girls 4×400-meter relay each also medaled to close out the season.

“They worked hard, they set big goals at the beginning of the season and, man, they followed through,” Marshall girls head coach Marie Sample said. “Conference, sections and state, they really performed really well the last three weeks of the season. They’re fired up. We lose a couple of seniors on the girls side, and they’re big blows, but on the guys side everybody comes back and a lot of the girls come back so we’re excited for next year and we’re definitely going to celebrate this year.”

Marshall’s girls 4×800-meter relay team of Katelyn Leibfried, Allyson Sample, Anna Kuecker and Taleigha Bigler tied the boys 4×400-meter relay team of Keagen Anderson, Josh Leibfried, Ethan Bly and Alex Franson as the Tigers’ top finishers of the meet, each taking home runner-up medals.

The Marshall girls were coming off a state title last season in which they set a state record of 9:22.37. The Tigers bettered that mark this time around with a finishing time of 9:18.32 in the day’s first track event, making them one of three teams to break last year’s record alongside third-place Alexandria’s time of 9:21.49 and Mankato East’s winning time of 9:14.93. 

“I just think we have a really good group of girls. We’re all really good friends and we all know that we’ll fight for each other. I’ll miss this,” Kuecker, one of two seniors on the relay team alongside Sample, said.

In the last track event of the day, the Marshall boys 4×400-meter team crossed the line with a final time of 3:24.98, leaving them just shy of Mankato West’s winning time of 3:23.82 and just ahead of Totino-Grace’s time of 3:25.39. Leibfried had a particularly impactful kick, bringing the team from near the rear of the pack when he received the baton up to third when he handed it off to Bly. 

“Josh has been amazing, especially down the stretch here this season. I mean, he’s one of the best runners in the state in the 800 and the mile. Unfortunately, he ended up getting sick at sections but that kind of benefits us in our relays,” Marshall boys head coach David Sample said. “Ran two really solid legs in our four-by-eight and our four-by-four and helped propel us to the top of the podium.”

Frason — the anchor of the 4×400-meter relay — also received an individual medal in the 400-meter open. He ran a finishing time of 50.03, just beating out Totino’Grace’s Owen Lamb by .09 seconds. Jack Markstrom won the event at 47.28 followed by Darius Irvin and Austin Kehr at 49.13.

“It felt pretty smooth,” Franson said, adding that the fact that Saturday was less windy than Friday during his preliminary helped. “I got out the blocks a little shaky but I think I picked it up in the last 200, 300 [meters] so that really kind of set the tone for me in my last 100 to all-in kick.”

Franson, a junior, was one of four non-seniors to qualify for the 400-meter final. He was also one of just two, alongside Irvin, to finish within the top 7 spots in the final.

Allyson Sample tied Franson with the highest individual finish at the state meet after finishing fourth in the girls 3200-meter race in the first day of competition, crossing the line at 10:56.82.

In the 4×800-meter relay, Leibfried anchored a team of Sam Deutz, Ethan Bly and Mykel Paulson to a time of 3:24.98 to claim third place, falling behind only Mankato East’s winning time of 7:54.17 and Orono’s time of 8:01.27. Marshall raced in the heat after Orono, who finished eight seconds ahead of the next-closest finisher in its heat, Becker. The Tigers also overcame a collision with Winona State along the bend to put together an elite time.

“The fact that we ended up getting tripped up a little bit and hitting the track and then were able to bounce back and still end up with a third-place [medal] in the 800 is just incredible,” David Sample said, adding that every runner on both the 400 and 800 relays will be returning next year, giving even more hope for this team in the future.

Bigler earned three medals for the Marshall Tigers on Saturday. The two both ran in the 4×800 and 4×400 relays for Marshall on Saturday, with Bigler anchoring both, and Bigler also earned an individual medal in the girls open 800.

“It was really fun. Just from the team aspect, we all did really well today and it was fun doing all the relays together,” Bigler said. “Even for the 800, I had girls warm up with me, which helps with my nerves… I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches. Throughout the whole season, we’ve had each other’s backs and it’s been really fun. You have to trust the process. You have ups and downs throughout the season and in the end, it all worked out how it’s supposed to.”

In the individual 800 meters, Bigler ran a time of 2:20.32 to earn an eighth-place medal. It was a particularly young field, with three other sophomores and a freshman in the final. Pequot Lakes senior Calia Chaney won the event with a time of 2:15.02 and Winona’s Calla Pike finished second at 2:15.54.

In the 4×400 relay, Peyton Boeck, Katelyn Leibfried, Avery Schneekloth and Bigler ran a time of 4:02.19 to place seventh, just behind North Branch’s time of 4:01.93. Pequot Lakes set the Class AA record in the event at 3:58.17, followed by Byron’s 3:59.94 and Mankato West’s 4:00.46.

Sophomore jumper Autumn Deutz medaled for the Tigers in the pole vault. She reached a height of 11-00 in the event, tying Perham’s Gracie Morris. Yet, Morris earned the tiebreaker over Deutz after needing one attempt to make the previous bar while Deutz had needed two.

“I’m happy with how I did,” Deutz said. “I just moved my standards up too much because of my jumps before, I made it in the pit a little bit further, but that’s okay. Next time I’ll get it.”

Milaca’s Taylar Bockoven won the event at 12-00, edging out Mankato East’s Rylie Hansen via a tiebreaker, followed by Becker’s Lauren Woelfel and North Branch’s Ella Dick at 11-06. Woelfel is the only top-six finisher in the event that is graduating after this season.

Jack Meier finished just shy of a medal in the boys high jump. The Marshall junior reached a height of 6-00 to place 10th in the event. He had the height to get up and over the bar at 6-02 but couldn’t quite contort his legs to get them above the bar on his way down.

The Marshall boys finished with the 14th-most team points at the event, tying Mankato West with 24. Fridley won the boys side with 59 points, followed by Mankato East and Rockford with 57 and 47.

On the girls side, Marshall finished 16th with 25 points. Alexandria won the meet with 79 points followed by Monticello with 68.5 and Providence Academy with 62.

Marshall doesn’t graduate any of its boys participants in the state meet, though they will lose senior section meet participant Chase Werner. 

“It’s really amazing. The other day in the prelims we got a couple of sophomores that didn’t quite make it into finals, but we’ve got a really young team,” David Sample said. “Chase is a solid character on the team, keeps us level-headed, but a lot of guys are coming back next year so even more to build on.”

Sample added that the group has been very consistent with its training all year round, something that’s been a major contributor to the team’s success.

“That’s part of why they are where they are, because they do see the value in that [offseason training] and they’ve gelled together to kind of push each other along in the offseason,” Sample said. “That’s the perfect kind of lead-in to summer training. You guys know how you got here, let’s keep it going.”

On the girls side, state participants Allyson Sample and Kuecker will both be graduating, as are section meet participants Gracelyn Foster and Cameen McFarquhar.

“Their finishing times and all of that, we’re going to miss that… but we’re especially going to miss their leadership,” Marie Sample said of the team’s seniors. “I know Ally’s my daughter but Ally really helped build last year’s cross country team. I don’t think Landry [Graven] would have been out, I don’t think Oakley [Schneekloth] would have been out and both of them were key players. Just giving kids rides to practice and writing encouraging letters and picking them up when they’re tired. 

“Anna also does that in a more quiet way, but she also brought some of that to the table too, especially in track. We just didn’t get her as long in cross, and she was involved with soccer too so she wasn’t able to be with us all the time but what she did bring, we’re really going to miss that. She’s a great teammate and a great human. They’re going to go on to do great things but we’re definitely going to miss them next year.”

RESULTS

Girls 4x800m relay: 2-Katelyn Leibfried, Allyson Sample, Anna Kuecker, Taleigha Bigler, 9:18.32. Boys 4x400m relay: 2-Keagen Anderson, Josh Leibfried, Ethan Bly, Alexander Franson, 3:24.98. Boys 4×800-meter relay: 3-Sam Deutz, Ethan Bly, Mykel Paulson, Josh Leibfried, 8:02.86. Boys 400m: 4-Alexander Franson, 50.03. Girls pole vault: 6-Autumn Deutz, 11-00. Girls 4x400m relay: 7-Peyton Boeck, Katelyn Leibfried, Avery Schneekloth, Taleigha Bigler, 4:02.19. Girls 800m: 8-Taleigha Bigler, 2:20.32. Boys high jump: 10-Jack Meier, 6-00.

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