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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Most track athletes heading to State Championships since 2008

  • Behind the efforts of seniors Aryn Eckstrom, Emily Hurley and Johnathan Surber, SJA will send athletes to compete in six events.
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  • Last Saturday the Saints took their largest contingent of track athletes to the Section 2A Finals since 2007 and the results Saturday gave the Saints the largest number of tracksters going to state in the most events since 2008.
        Behind the efforts of seniors Aryn Eckstrom, Emily Hurley and Johnathan Surber, SJA will send athletes to compete in six events.
        Aryn won the 3200 meter race and placed second in the 1600 meter race and will compete at state in those events.
        Emily placed second in the discus. Johnathan placed second in the 3200 meter run and was part of the 4 x 800 relay team that placed second behind defending state champs Madelia-Truman.
        Running with Johnathan on the relay team were underclassmen Zuriel Chacon, Luke Tonsager and Noah Pinke. The team will also send two additional athletes as alternates for the relay team and they are Carlos Marquez and Adam Bruton.
        Blake Collier will compete for the Saints at State in the wheelchair shot put division.
        According to Head Coach Scott Allen, Aryn has taken her running to another level this spring. “Aryn’s performance has surprised me this spring. I knew she was going to be good, but she has really excelled. She’s a throughbred.
        “Part of her succes is she takes well to coaching. This spring I should have just told her  to run faster.”
        Aryn broke a nearly 30 year old school record in the 1600 meter race earlier in the season. On Saturday she knocked another four seconds off her own school record when she finished with a time of 5:17.85.
        She won the 3200 meter race by 3/10s of a second over Emily Mantor of United South Central. The senior described the race as exciting as the lead changed hands several times.
        “The 3200 was a great race,” Coach Allen said. After she took the lead down the stretch, Aryn was not aware it was that close. She was focused on the finish line and did not know the USC girl was just behind her.
        In the fall Aryn made it to State as the Saints number one singles player. I asked her, “What’s your favorite sport? I won’t tell the other coach.”
        “Ummmm, I actually really like both,” she said.
        Emily has had a great spring throwing both the discus and the shot. She’s going to State in the discus having thrown it 124’2” which was a personal record for her.
    Page 2 of 3 -     Earlier this week Emily talked like an athlete who believed her best efforts were still ahead of her. She expressed mild disappointment that some of her throws in the middle of the weather abbreviated season were not up to her expectation even though she was winning just about every discus event this spring.
        Emily said, “I started out the year PRing (Personal Record), but then I kind of digressed. Section was really kind of good. I had a good round of throws,” she said of her efforts last Saturday.
        “I always want to try and beat myself. I am my biggest competitor,” she said. That attitude paid off when she punched her ticket to State. “I’m really, really happy to make it to State.”
        Johnathan’s second place finish in the 3200 and the second place finish as part of the relay team means he’s going to State a second time.  He’s also gone to State six times in cross country.
        He said he lost focus in the 3200, but he set a personal record in the race. His time was 9:59.13.
        Seniors setting personal records and school records in the 2A Section Final is what a coach hopes for. “I think all but a couple of our athletes did their PR on Saturday.  We can't ask for anything better than that,” Coach Allen said about all of the Saints who competed on Saturday whether they made it to State or not.
        Sophomore Zuriel Chacon is now one of the ‘old men’ of the 4x800 team as he was on the Saints team that went to State last year. It was the only event the Saints participated in at State in 2012.
        Running on Saturday with Surber and Chacon were sophomore Luke Tonsager and freshman Noah Pinke.
        The Coach praised the team’s effort at the Section Finals, “If we would have run our time  from the week before (at subsection) we wouldn’t have made it to State. Pinke shaved five to six seconds off his time and Tonsager cut a couple of seconds off of his.”
        While three seniors may headline the Saints going to State, there are now three underclassmen on the relay team who have a bright future ahead of them.
        However, the immediate future is Saturday. The top nine finishers in an event medal, and the Saints have a good shot at collecting some medals.
        Based on the Section Finals times from around the state, Johnathan was seventh in the 3200. Emily was in third place in the discus, Aryn was fourth in the 3200 and was seventh in the 1600.
    Page 3 of 3 -     The 4x800 team’s time was in tenth place among team’s going to State. However, there’s a pack of four teams who finished less than two seconds ahead of SJAs time of 8:18.28, so medaling in the 4x800 is a definite possibility by the relay team Saints.    
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