Track: GMLOS’s Magnificent Seven

Published 6:55 pm Friday, June 1, 2012

The Grand Meadow LeRoy-Ostrander-Southland girls track and field team is sending seven athletes to the Class ‘A’ state track and field meet this year. From left: McKenzie Kirtz, Elizabeth May, Addison Tapp, Morgan Schmitz, Danielle Hanson, Betsy Oswald and Sydney Bendtsen. -- Rocky Hulne/

GRAND MEADOW — The Grand Meadow-LeRoy-Ostrander girls track and field team has always been a dominant regular season team.

They’ve always won plenty of regular season meets, but in the past few years they’ve only had one state qualifier. That came to an end this year as GMLOS will be sending seven athletes to the Class ‘A’ state track and field meet, which takes place at Hamline University Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m.

All seven of GMLOS’s state qualifiers attend Southland High School and all seven of them have been pushing to get to state since they started running track.

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“I’m really, really excited,” said Addison Tapp, a junior who runs on the state qualifying 4 x 200-meter relay team. “This is something we’ve worked up to since we were in seventh grade.”

GMLOS’s state qualifiers vary in age like they vary in skill sets. There is the senior — Betsy Oswald, the juniors — Tapp, Danielle Hanson and Elizabeth May, a sophomore — Morgan Schmitz, a freshman — McKenzie Kirtz, and an eighth grader — Sydney Bendtsen.

Bendtsen, who runs on the 4 x 200-meter relay team and the 4 x 400-meter relay team said she doesn’t have to look any further Oswald to see where she wants her track career to go.

“I’ve learned to work hard because it’ll pay off and you’ll get there eventually,” Bendtsen said. “Betsy’s been training so hard and she’s there.”

Oswald wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to run in a state meet, but Thursday’s Section 1A meet was a culmination of the past few years for her. She almost enjoyed watching GMLOS’s other state qualifiers as much as she did getting to state herself.

“Whenever one of us finished at sections, we were all lined up screaming and cheering,” Oswald said. “(Getting to state) was my main goal this whole year. It’s huge and I don’t think it’s really set in exactly yet.”

Part of the reason GMLOS has been so competitive in the past few years is that they don’t let up on each other. Hanson, who qualified for her fourth straight trip to state in the 300-meter hurdles and is running on the 4 x 400-meter relay team, finds plenty of motivation to run harder every day in practice and she hopes it’ll help the team prepare for state.

“We always try and push each other’s times to get better and better. We get competitive,” she said. “(Having teammates going to state) makes practice a lot easier because there’s a lot more people and it feels like a regular practice. They also push you further and further.”

While the Section 1A meet was an exciting day for GMLOS, May found it to be a little nerve racking. She ran on both state qualifying relay teams and she qualified for state in the 400-meter dash by running it in under a minute for the for the first time this season.

“I was really nervous, but the adrenaline helped me out too,” May said. “(The relays) worked up to it the whole year and finally we got it. We’re going to state.”

Kirtz, who advanced to state in the 1600-meter run, was a little more confident but she still felt the joy of a first-time state qualifier.

“I was kind of expecting to go and it was really exciting. I’ve worked hard and hopefully it pays off at state,” Kirtz said.

Schmitz also came in as one of the favorites in the discus, but she wasn’t about to let it get to her head.

“You never underestimate anyone because a lot of girls just didn’t throw well at subsections. I came in ready to go,” Schmitz said. “I wasn’t too pleased with what I threw, but it got me to state so I can’t complain. Hopefully I do better at state.”

This group of state qualifiers has never been short on work ethic and they’ve always been willing to go the extra mile. When they run at the state track and field meet, they’ll finally feel the full reward of the time they’ve put in.

“They’ve always been hard working and they’ve always had that drive to work in the offseason,” GMLOS head coach Andrea McKichan said. “This year, all those years of doing that came together and it all worked out for us really well.”

The Class ‘A’ preliminaries will be held Friday and those who finish in the top-nine will compete in Saturday’s finals.