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Packers seven seniors focused on strong finish at state track meet

It will all be over soon for Austin’s seven state track qualifiers.

They just hope to have a happy ending.

The Packers are sending three relay teams to the Class ‘A’ boys state track and field meet this Friday and Saturday at Hamline University and those squads are composed of seven seniors.

“We definitely want to leave it all out there. There’s nothing to hold back now,” said Tim Erickson, who is on the 4 x 400-meter and 4 x 800-meter relay teams.

The 4 x 800 team, which also includes Christian Folken, Jacob Larson and Jacob Bentley, will automatically race in Saturday’s finals as there are just nine teams in the field. Austin is the second-seeded team going by section times, but its seed-time is four seconds slower than the top team from Buffalo.

“We’re right in the mix with the 4 x 8 team and they’ve got a couple of seconds we can shave off,” Austin head coach Tony Einertson said. “We’re looking good there.”

The 4 x 200 team, which includes Will Darling, Bentley, Mike Hirsch and Henry Darling, and the 4 x 400 team, which includes Will Darling, Erickson, Bentley and Henry Darling are both seeded sixth. Both teams will have to finish in the top nine out of 13 in Thursday’s preliminaries to get to Saturday’s finals.

The 4 x 400 team’s section time was three seconds slower than top-seeded Stillwater, but the Packers have run the race faster when they broke the school record earlier this season.

“I think we should be up there,” Henry Darling said. “It’s going to be close, but at state it always is because there’s so many schools that have a lot more depth than us.”

While the 4 x 400 team took fourth at state last year and the 4 x 800 team took sixth, the 4 x 200 team didn’t go to state last year. Einertson thinks all three relays have an excellent chance to get to the podium.

“Hopefully we can bunch ourselves into the top three in our relays,” he said. “If we can do that and maybe go a little bit higher, that would be a nice accomplishment.”

Before they start thinking about top-three finishes, the Packers will have to advance from Fridays prelims, which begin at 9 a.m.

“We are in that first heat and that’s a disadvantage. We’ve got to run hard in that first heat and if we can beat three teams we’re in good shape to get to the finals,” Einertson said. “Any time we step on the track we run hard. We never take anything for granted and you never know if it’s going to be the last time on the track for all these seniors.”

When Austin has gone to state in past years, the team usually goes up on Thursday and checks out the track. But this year will be different.

With six of Austin’s seven qualifiers having made it to state before, the team will just fill up at the Olive Garden and rest in the hotel Thursday night.

Will Darling, a three-time state qualifier, said that the state experience should benefit Austin.

“It’s easier to focus this year, because it’s not our first year,” he said. “A little of the excitement is less but that kind of helps us out so we can stay more focused.”

Either way the weekend ends it will be the last time these seven seniors run together, and Folken hopes it will end up being a good memory.

“We’ve had a really great season and this is the best way to finish it,” he said. “We all have a strong bond on and off the track. Hopefully it will be a mix of happy and sad emotions on Saturday.”

The state track and field finals will be begin at 9 a.m. and the 4 x 800-relay team will run at 9:13 a.m.

Class ‘A’

There are three area athletes who will compete in the Class ‘A’ meet, which will also be held at Hamline University. Preliminaries will be held Friday at 3 p.m. and finals will be held Saturday at 9 a.m.

Grand/Meadow/LeRoy/Ostrander freshman Danielle Hanson is a returning state-qualifier in the 300-hurdles. Her section time is seeded eighth and is 1.7 seconds behind the fastest qualifying time.

Hayfield Hunter Anderson is making his first trip to state in discus. Anderson’s career best 146 feet, two inches throw is seeded ninth.

GMLOS senior Jeff Schlichter is making his first trip to state in the triple jump. Schlichter’s qualifying jump of 43-0.5 is seeded seventh and is just over a foot shorter than the longest qualifying jump.