For many of the Waconia track and field athletes at St. Michael Albertville Saturday, it was their first time competing at a state meet. But for a group of Waconia runners, it was not their first time participating at the year-end competition, as Wildcats have been volunteering at the Class AA State Meet for years.

“[It was] surreal - it didn’t feel real,” said Jamie Sorenson. “It’s just funny how it all came together, it’s funny to look back.”

Sorenson, Maya Lindstrom and Aubrey Mair were several Waconia athletes that had been on the track at state volunteering before, helping with the starting blocks, intimidated by the elite athletes competing at the state meet. This time around, they were the elite athletes competing while a new batch of volunteers helped out.

“I remember standing on the blocks watching the athletes, I was so scared because I didn’t want to mess up,” said Mair. “Now we’re the athletes out there and they’re probably intimidated by us.”

The Wildcats chatted with the younger volunteers and got lots of compliments on their jerseys, as they were told they had the best jerseys at the meet. They made small talk and joked around with the youngsters that took over their roles.

“In the 4x400, the person holding my blocks and me were joking about how I didn’t have anyone in front of me and that I had no one to chase, so we made some small talk there,” said Sorenson.

In addition to the journey of going from volunteer to taking a starring role, the Wildcats finally got to get their time in the spotlight after a stellar year and other years of hard work. The Waconia runners have been putting in the hours to train in cross country and track and field, with that effort paying off last Fall in the form of a section champion in cross country. But due to COVID restrictions, there was no state meet. This Spring, several of those runners finally got their state meet when they qualified for the track and field competition.

“After running since seventh grade, to finally make it there was awesome,” said Lindstrom.

Sorenson, Lindstrom, Madeline Lage and Adorisa Kaeding were on that championship cross country team and competed in the 4x800 meter race (with cross country teammate Mair as an alternate) and took 10th place with a time of 9 minutes, 39.12 seconds. Lindstrom, Lage and Kaeding also teamed up with Carrigan Mair in the 4x400 to take 15th with a time of 4:10.17.

In addition to the distance runners, Waconia sent numerous sprinters to the state meet as well, as they qualified in the 4x100 and sent Jordan Grell to the individual competitions in the 100 and 200.

“It shows we have the strength and we have the underclassmen that will bring us back for years to come,” Jordan Machacek said of the team qualifying in three relays. “It shows that we have coaches and kids who are willing to work hard at everything.”

The 4x100 relay team placed 12th, as Machacek, Grell, Amber Kellen and Bethany Langer posted a time of 50.67 seconds.

“We did good,” said Langer. “We tied our [record] pretty much, so that was good.”

Grell had a personal record in the 100 and a season best time in the 200, posting times of 12.76 and 26.68 to take 15th and 17th. In her first state meet, the junior was just happy for the experience to compete at state, but did achieve her one goal – not taking last place.

“I ran as hard as I could, so I was still happy with my performance,” she said. “I gave it all I had, so I was happy.”

In addition to the girls sending 13 athletes to the state meet, Travis Reighard represented the boys, taking fourth place in the pole vault when clearing 14 feet, giving Waconia their highest finish at state.

In total, Waconia sent 14 athletes to state - Jordan Grell, Jordan Machacek, Bethany Langer, Amber Kellen, Brynley Theis, Maya Lindstrom, Carrigan Mair, Addy Kaeding, Madeline Lage, Laney Meyer, Aubrey Mair, Jamie Sorenson, Emily Gustafson and Travis Reighard. The Wildcats credit the depth of their team for how many athletes they sent to state, and said the roster could have been made up of any number of names. During this season they would run several relays against each other and all post fast times.

“We could probably put in four different girls in each relay and still make it,” said Lindstrom.

And after a long year, it was a nice celebration for all of the hard work and the dedication through the unknown.

“I feel like earlier in the year, none of us knew if we would get to for track just like how cross country was,” said Sorenson. “Being a senior, it’s cool to end it like that.”

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