Gustafson takes first in 1600-meter run, Grimm advances to state in three events

by Jake Andersen

Sports Reporter

Elk River seniors Luke Gustafson and Ava Grimm shined at the Section 7AA finals on June 1 at Chisago Lakes High School, becoming the school’s lone individual state representatives from the boys and girls team on June 7-8 at Hamline University.

Gustafson was the section champion in the 1600-meter run, while Grimm qualified for state by finishing in second in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. Grimm will also head to state in a third event with her 4x200-meter relay team, consisting of Audrey Neuerburg-Chapman, Alaina Schoenfelder and Katie Buhl.

“Overall, I’m really looking forward to participating in all three events at the state meet,” Grimm said.

“It means a lot to me to be fortunate enough to advance to the state meet. I was very excited to be able to be the section champion in the mile. I have worked very hard all season for end of the season results,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson took first in the 1600 in 4:27.98, besting second-place finisher Max Charlsen of Forest Lake by over four seconds (4:32.14).

Gustafson said his approach was to sit behind the first couple of runners for the first 800 meters and then gradually speed up until the last 400 meters when he was going to out-kick or sprint the rest to the finish line. That being said, he adjusted his strategy during the race to start his kick with 500 meters to go, realizing that other runners seemed to have a similar strategy.

The adjustment paid off.

“The first 800 was quite slow, going through in about 2:19, so I knew some athletes might be saving for a big kick, so I decided to start my kick at 500 instead of 400,” Gustafson said. “I knew I felt good and could use a good last 500 kick to try and separate myself from the rest of the field, and once I got to the last 50 meters of the race, I realized I had done it and I was ecstatic. Being the section champion was the goal this year and that I could do it was so amazing.”

As for Grimm, she held off Cambridge-Isanti’s Jacqueline Olander in the 200 by .06 seconds and Cloquet’s Alexa Snesrud by .54 seconds to claim a top-two state qualifying spot. She also took seventh in the high jump.

She said it was rewarding to return to state in the 400 — an event that she took seventh place in at state a year ago — but it was even more special to do it in the 200, given it wasn’t an event she anticipated making state in at the beginning of the season.

“I was not expecting the 200 to be one of my main events this year and I’m really excited to run it at state,” Grimm said. “The 200 is one of my favorite races because of the adrenaline and speed. … I’ve been working on my starts for the 200 and I feel a lot faster coming out of the blocks this year than I did last year.”

Grimm added it’s also special to be heading back to state in the 4x200-meter relay, which will be the fourth year in a row that Elk River has qualified a 4x200-meter relay team to state. 

“Advancing to state in the 4x200 means a lot to me as we have made it the past three years. Going as a team is a really special opportunity and it makes many good memories,” Grimm said. “I feel that we all ran very well (at sections) but we definitely have room to improve our time in our handoffs (going into state).”

At state, Grimm has some big goals, as does Gustafson, but both feel confident that they can reach them.

“My goals in heading to state is to hopefully make it to the finals day and get PRs in our relay and both individual events,” Grimm said.

“My main goals heading into the state track meet are to place as high as I can and … hopefully beat our current school record of 4:20,” Gustafson said.

Other Elks to reach the section podium included Neuerburg-Chapman (eighth in 800), Christina Babaya (fifth in 100 hurdles, seventh in triple jump), Angel Fredin (eighth in 100 hurdles, third in 300 hurdles), the girls 4x100-meter relay team (third), the girls 4x400-meter relay team (seventh), the girls 4x800-meter relay team (eighth), Buhl (fifth in triple jump, eighth in long jump), Adaeze Udalla (eighth in triple jump, fourth in long jump), Kennedy Gleason (sixth in shot put), Kevin Egbujor (third in 110 hurdles, fourth in 300 hurdles, fifth in high jump), Jared Stanke (seventh in 110 hurdles, sixth in 300 hurdles), the boys 4x100-meter relay (sixth), the boys 4x200-meter relay (fifth), the boys 4x400-meter relay (fifth), the boys 4x800-meter relay (third), Eli Bicek (seventh in discus throw, third in shot put), Schoenfelder (third in high jump) and Miranda Reierson (eighth in discus throw).

The girls team finished fourth out of 16 teams with 72 points, while the boys team finished fourth out of 15 teams with 56.5 points.

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