Denfeld News

May 18, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

Hermantown, Denfeld/Central take track honors
By Rick Weegman

Perhaps the most competitive matchup at the Lake Superior Conference track and field championships Tuesday was the one that didn’t materialize.

Proctor teammates Romeo Benish and Matt Welch have alternated beating the other in 3,200-meter nail-biters this spring, but this time went their separate ways individually after joining forces to set a new conference record in the 3,200 relay at Corey Veech Field in Hermantown.

Benish outkicked two rivals down the stretch to win the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 28.68 seconds and then watched his teammate put it in cruise control to win the 3,200 in a meet-record 9:58.67.

“Coaches thought we could get more points if we split up,” said Welch, a sophomore. “So he picked the mile and I picked the two-mile. We’re pretty equal in both.”

Benish won by one-tenth of a second earlier this year and Welch outkicked him by a second as both broke 10 minutes last week in Virginia.

“Matt and I like to push each other hard, even at practice,” said Benish, a junior who celebrated his 19th birthday Tuesday. “We like to compete with each other. He either beats me by a second or I beat him by a second.”

Welch says their rivalry pushes him to do better.

“He makes me do all the work, he’s always on my shoulder the whole race,” he said.

No one was on Welch’s shoulder Tuesday as he won by more than 20 seconds.

That wasn’t the case with Benish, who had to run by Shane Holmes of Superior and Matt Kero of Duluth Central in the final straightaway.

“I was just trying to hang with those kids — I know they are faster than me,” Benish said. “They boxed me out (with 200 meters to go) so I had to go around them. It took a lot of work to sprint past them.”

Central eased to the boys team title with 164 points, helped by senior C.J. Ham’s double in the shot put and discus. Winning both events wasn’t the surprise, it was how Ham did it.

Fifth place in the discus going into his final throw, Ham unleashed a 159-foot, 1-inch heave to break his own personal record by two feet and set a meet record by nearly 10 feet. He hadn’t even reached 150 feet this year.

“This year I’ve been struggling a bit, but it only takes one throw to get one out there,” he said. “I finally got one down.”

Ham won the shot put despite throwing four feet below his personal best.

Central also was helped to the team title by triple-winner Luke Johannessen, a member of the 400 and 1,600 relays who also set a meet record by winning the 300 hurdles (40.80), and double-winner Jeff Ohaju (100 meters and 400 relay).

Girls: Stratioti continues to excel; Hermantown wins team title

Paige Stratioti was easy to pick out on the track for the uninitiated spectator.

She was the long-legged runner with the gazelle-like stride who was first to the finish line in all three of her events.

As she’s been doing most of the spring, Stratioti swept the sprints and set personal-bests in the 200 (25.77) and 400 (56.06). The 400 time set a meet record and is the fastest in Minnesota this year. It also puts her in good shape to reach her goal and contend for a state title in one of the most competitive events.

“My ultimate goal is to run 55 flat or under so I can qualify for junior nationals,” she said. “There’s been the same five girls every year that I’ve been there (at the state meet). We’re all good friends, but on the track it’s a different story.”

Stratioti cruised to a 12.83 in the 100, and her 200 time puts her among the top half-dozen in the state. She was just as excited that the Trojans pushed Hermantown for team honors.

“I’m really happy with our whole team, we toughed it out,” she said. “It’s been hard getting used to new coaches and new people on the team, but we pulled together and get along great as a team.”

The Hawks posted 189 points, 26½ clear of the runner-up Trojans, aided by as many quality finishes lower in the scoring order as outright victories.

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