ST. PAUL — Lauren Ping made it two in a row.
The Cotter eighth-grader ran away from the field as she successfully defended her state championship in the 3,200 meter run in 10 minutes, 39.34 seconds at the MSHSL Class A State Track and Field Championships on Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul.
And her sister, sophomore Grace Ping, was solidly in second in 10:50.19. And then after they finished first and second, the rest of the field trickled in. Third-place finisher Morgan Gehl of Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda finished in 10:58.15 and Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Natasha Sortland was fourth in 11:10.53.
On a hot and sunny day that saw temperatures creep into the 90s in St. Paul, the Cotter distance duo wanted to conserve their energy early and both hung around near the pack for the first 800 meters.
“It was really hot, but everybody in our race had to run in the same conditions, so we’re all in it together,” Grace Ping said. “We were both just trying to not lead in the first 800 and just pick it up after that so that we wouldn’t get heat stroke.”
But once Lauren Ping turned it on, she pulled away. And kept putting more and more distance between her and the rest of the pack as the race wore on.
“At one point I just decided to go and I just stayed in the lead from there,” she said.
Lauren Ping is a perfect 2-for-2 in the 3,200 in state meets as a varsity runner with state titles as a seventh grader and an eighth grader. Last year she won the race in 10:29.77. And Grace was third in 10:38.96. Grace won the event as a seventh grader in 2016.
The sisters are also favored to finish first and second in the 1,600 on Saturday. Lauren is the top seed after winning the race at the Section 1A meet and Grace was second. Grace won the 1,600 at the state meet last year and in 2016 as a seventh grader. And Lauren was second last year.
Rushford-Peterson’s Triton Meldahl doesn’t want his track season to be over — and he just keeps beating the odds to extend it.
Meldahl finished eighth in the prelims of the 110-meter hurdles on Friday with a time of 15.70 seconds to qualify for Saturday’s finals.
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“I don’t like the thought of my track season being over,” he said. “It’s my favorite sport so I don’t want to have to wait six months to come back. So I would like to make it go as long as it can go.”
Meldahl didn’t enter the final heat of the Section 1A meet as a favorite to advance to State, but he got the job done finishing second to take a place at state. And he entered the state meet with the 13th-fastest seed time and blew that finish out of the water by five spots.
“If you ask any of my family members, they’ll tell you I’m probably the most competitive person they know,” Meldahl said. “Actually anybody that knows me know that everything is a competition with me. I like that it is a team sport, but in the events I’m in, it’s all on my shoulders.”
Meldahl’s R-P teammate Luke O’Hare was 10th in the 3,200 with a time of 10:03.43. And he’ll compete in the 1,600 on Saturday.
St. Charles long jumper Lindsey Root has set and reset the school record several times this year, but she just missed taking it down again on Friday as she finished fourth with a jump of 17 feet, 3.25 inches. Blake’s Robbie Grace won the event, beating everybody else by more than a foot with a jump of 19 feet, 1.5 inches.
The Saints’ Korrigan Diercks was 11th in the 800-meter dash prelims with a personal-best time of 158.98.
And pole vaulter Jett Thoreson was 14th with a 13-foot vault.
Lewiston-Altura’s Evan Daley and Marcus Weaver were 13th and 15th in the triple jump on Friday.
Daley jumped 41 feet, 0.25 inches and Weaver jumped 40 feet, 0.75 inches.
Daley also ran as part of the 4x400-meter relay team — along with William Funk, Charlie Kaczorowksi, and Aidan Ellinghuysen — that finished 11th with a time of 3:30.96.