Denfeld News

June 12, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Central closes its books with a state track champ
By Rick Weegman

ST. PAUL — An inner calm came over Paige Stratioti before the most important 100 meters of her high school career.

The Duluth Central senior trailed rival Bridget Sweeney of Hopkins coming into the homestretch of the 400 final at the Minnesota Class AA state meet, but had patiently waited to turn on the afterburners. She outkicked Sweeney down the stretch Saturday at Hamline University and crossed the finish line in a personal-best 54.77 seconds to win her first state title and the final one in school history, coming four days after Central’s graduation finale.

“I’m really happy that I got first, that was my goal all season,” Stratioti said. “When we hit the homestretch, I felt I had it in me. I just fought for it the whole way down, and I’m glad that I did. The only thing I thought about down the homestretch was how bad I wanted it.

“I’m still in shock, but all the hard work does pay off.”

Stratioti’s time blew away her former PR of 55.41, set in Friday’s preliminaries. Sweeney was second in 55.19.

Stratioti’s strategy of not sprinting too quickly paid off, she said.

“I’ve raced with Bridget for three years now and I know how she runs,” she said. “I wanted to stay patient and wait until the last 100, because that’s what it usually comes down to. I’m glad that I waited because usually my problem is not waiting long enough.

“When you come down here, it’s hard not to go out hard. So you have to relax and be patient — those are the two biggest things I kept in mind.”

Stratioti, pained by slow starts, finished eighth in each of the 100 and 200 finals. She ran 12.77 in the 100, well off the winning time of 12.31 run by defending champion Sasha Davis of Park Center, and 25.89 in the 200. Davis defended her title in that race as well in 24.73.

“I’m definitely not a 100 runner; I just wanted to place and make all-state,” Stratioti said. “The same with the 200. My main focus coming down here was the 400 — anything else was a bonus.”

Grand Rapids, which used two ninth-graders and an eighth-grader, finished seventh in the 3,200 relay.

Hopkins won the team title with 84 points, nearly double that of runner-up Alexandria.

Duluth Central senior C.J. Ham closed his prep career by finishing eighth in the discus with a heave of 157 feet, 7 inches. That was on the heels of a sixth-place finish in the shot put Friday.

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