April 19, 2011
Friends’ rivalry makes for an exciting
By Rick Weegman
Lindsy Mattson and Paige Stratioti’s rivalry
doesn’t extend off the track.
The seniors are good friends, but make no mistake — once on
the oval they are gunning for each other. That’s helped make
the 400-meter race the highlight of the high school girls track
and field season.
Mattson, of Grand Rapids, won the Section 7AA
title last year and has finished second and third in that event
the past two Class AA state meets. Stratioti, of Duluth Central,
was second in the section last year and fifth in the state meet
each of the past two seasons.
“I always know that she’s there, so
it helps me push myself,” Stratioti said last week, before
heading to Texas on a spring break trip. “I try not to look
at her times, just to not mess with my head, but it’s good
to know you’ve got somebody out there just as good as you
or better. It keeps you wanting to work harder.”
Mattson faded in the 2009 state meet, losing by
22-hundredths of a second, then ran a personal-best 55.18 seconds
to finish .09 behind the winner last year. Stratioti’s time
of 56.27 would have won the 2009 race.
The top nine state finishers all return, making
the 400 one of the most competitive races. Being able to play off
each other should help both runners.
“She doesn’t like to lose anytime,”
Grand Rapids coach Kevin Johnson said of Mattson, “so whenever
she races (Stratioti) she says, ‘I gotta beat her. She’s
always right on my heels and I have to keep ahead of her.’
“She’s motivated to (beat) her. They push each other.”
Johnson says Mattson, who is headed to the University
of Colorado, generally starts the year slowly and doesn’t
run the open 400 too often during the season.
“She’s looking strong and training
well,” he said. “We’re not blazing yet, but I
want her to be fast at the end of the year.”
Stratioti, a North Dakota State signee, has been
timed in 57.3 for the 400 and 26.0 in the 200, well ahead of last
year’s times. Stratioti doesn’t expect a head-to-head
battle with Mattson until the section meet, which is fine by her.
“It holds the suspense and gets us more
competitive,” she said.
Both also are competing in the 100, 200 and the
long jump. Stratioti missed out on qualifying for the state 200
by .01 last year, while Mattson fell .04 short in that race and
by a quarter-inch in the long jump.