Denfeld News

April 19, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

Friends’ rivalry makes for an exciting 400
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.

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