Ann Stalboerger has seen a lot of athletes pass by over 21 seasons as head coach of the Blaine girls’ track and field team.
What makes this year’s Bengals team unique is the fastest group of sprinters that Stalboerger said she has ever coached.
Led by sprinters Kiersten Falck, Courtney Purcell, Taylor Morgan and Hailey Lachinski, the four has set a new school record with a time of 1:43.52 in the 4×200 meter relay.
“This is the fastest sprint team I’ve ever coached,” Stalboerger said. “I wish I could take credit for it, but I have four or five girls that are just naturally fast.”
Ironically, the fastest girl on the team wasn’t part of the record-setting 4×200 meter finish. Ninth-grade sprinter Britney Monteon has missed the last couple of meets due to a sprained ankle suffered earlier this season.
With arguably the fastest athlete on the team out with injury, Lachinski was inserted into the record-setting relay team and Stalboerger said she has filled in well for their top sprinter.
“Lachinski keeps getting better and is doing a real nice job,” she said. “Monteon would be in that group if she wasn’t hurt. The last sprinter to make it to state was Nicole Murphy two years ago and Britney is faster than her when healthy.”
Monteon set a new school record of 24.5 in the 200 meters April 17 at the Robbinsdale Armstrong meet.
Blaine’s 4×400 meter relay team of Falck, Lachinski, Hannah Stratton and Ashley Pafko also has a chance of making some noise at this week’s conference and next week’s section tournaments.
Pafko is a junior who has verbally committed to compete for the University of Minnesota in 2014.
As good as her sprinters are, Stalboerger said there are other areas where the team lacks depth.
“We only have one good thrower in the discus in Hayley Kytta,” she said.
Kytta set a personal best 125-foot throw in the Armstrong Triangular in which the Bengals finished second.
“We have a couple of good hurdlers in Alex Williams and Mikaela Shepard, and Marissa Eggerichs is our best long jumper,” Stalboerger said.
Boys aim for three-peat
While the girls are aiming for a strong showing from its sprinters, the Blaine boys are looking for their third consecutive Section 5AA Northwest Suburban Conference title.
Senior Ayuk Tambe is the defending state champion in the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.96. Tambe and junior Patrick Mendin, who runs the 200 and 400 meter, should have the best shot at a state tournament appearance, according to boys head coach Rob Nick.
“Tambe and Mendin are the two kids other teams know about when they face us,” Nick said. “When healthy, Kunle Ayinde is a really good high jumper for us and has a shot at state.”
Ayinde set a personal best 6-foot-5 jump earlier this season at the Pony Relay Classic at Stillwater. Twice he’s come close to beating his own record but both times skinned his heel on the bar jumping at 6-foot-6.
Nick said a highlight of the year came in Prior Lake when the team won that meet with five regulars missing due to injuries.
“Rosemount is the defending state champions and they were one of three really good teams at that meet,” Nick said. “We also had a good showing at the Section 5AAA True Team Meet finishing second to White Bear Lake by three points.”
With a score of 1,035, the Bears finished three points higher than Blaine’s 1,032. “We had a hurdler fall and a few other things that cost us from winning that meet. To finish second by three points was tough, but we still feel good about that meet.”
With a healthy team heading into Tuesday and Thursday’s conference tournament, Nick is optimistic about another shot at defending their title, but he said it will not come easy with other top teams competing.
“Andover is really good,” he said. “Our distance runners did well this season, but Andover has a phenomenal distance team. They will be out biggest challenge in conference and Mounds View, Spring Lake Park and us I see coming down to five points or less in sections.”