Panthers make their mark at state track meet
Senior Derrek Pedersen, junior Maddie Skaalrud and sophomore Brett Johnson all made their marks on the St. Croix Central track program this season, capped by appearances in the 2009 WIAA State Track and Field Championships over the weekend.
Pedersen is the state meet veteran, competing in his second straight state track meet. He and Johnson were also part of the Panther cross country team that competed at state last fall.
Skaalrud and Johnson were making their first attempts at the WIAA state track meet.
Pedersen ran late on Saturday, after a day of heavy rain in La Crosse. Pedersen was hoping to reach the 1:59 mark in his 800-meter race, but like many runners, the wet conditions slowed his pace slightly. He was able to place 13th in the race, with a time of 2:01.53. This is an improvement over this 14th place finish last year, when he ran a time of 2:01.94.
"He would have gotten there," Central coach Amanda Webb said of Pedersen's 1:59 goal. "There's nothing you can do about the weather."
Johnson attracted many people's attention with the way he approached his 3,200 meter race on Friday. Johnson was the bottom seed in the race. That didn't stop him from going out and running with the lead pack for the first half of the race.
Johnson ran fearlessly. His goal was to complete the race in fewer than 10 minutes and he achieved that goal, finishing in 9:58.74. He took ninth place, beating six runners who had entered the race with better sectional times.
Johnson came back and ran in the 1,600 meters on Saturday. The race was run at the height of the downpour, with Johnson finishing 12th among 15 runners. His time was 4:50.01.
Webb said she thought Johnson's ambitious race on Friday left him with little energy for Saturday's 1,600. Johnson was one of two sophomores in the state 1,600 and he was one of two sophomores in the 3,200.
Skaalrud is the first Central girl to qualify for the WIAA state meet since Keely Tharp was a multiple state champion for the Panthers a decade ago. She went on to be a NCAA Division 1 track standout at Brown University.
Skaalrud reached the state meet in the 100-meter dash. She finished with a time of 13.21, which wasn't enough to get her into the state finals.
Webb said reaching state was a big accomplishment for Skaalrud and gives her incentive to aim higher for next season.
Last year Pedersen was the first Panther to reach state in several years. With three Panthers reaching state this year, the Central coaches believe that the program has adjusted to competing in Division 2. A weight program has been started at the school to keep the success going. The lifting program will be run over the summer. Webb said the goal is to have every SCC athlete lifting every day.
"We're working as an entire athletic program to get kids into the weight room," she said.