Naatjes takes third at state meet

Lakeville North coaches believed Mikelle Naatjes had the potential to be a future state pole vault champion. It almost happened sooner than any of them expected.

Making her first appearance in the state meet in the vault, Naatjes finished third in the Class AA competition Saturday at Hamline University. She set a personal record and tied the school record by clearing 11 feet, 9 inches.

For most of the season, the Class AA girls pole vault was thought to be a done deal. Mounds View senior Julia Fixsen, the defending champion and state meet record holder, was the prohibitive favorite until she failed to clear a height at the Section 5AA meet and didn’t advance to state in the event.

Suddenly the competition was wide open. Twelve of the 16 state qualifiers cleared 11 feet. Eight made it over 11-6. The bar went to 11-9 and only Naatjes, Alexys Berger of Rosemount and Char Morke of Cambridge-Isanti could make it.

Morke cleared 12-0, while Berger and Naatjes each missed on three attempts. That made Morke the winner, and she eventually cleared 12-4. Berger was state runner-up for the second year in a row, getting second place over Naatjes on the basis of fewer missed vaults.

“I cleared 11-6 in practice before, so I wanted to get that,” Naatjes said. “And the school record is 11-9, so I was hoping to either match or break that.”

With so many vaulters having a chance to win, Naatjes said it was difficult not to notice what others were doing. But, “I tried to stay focused on me and not get caught up in what other people are doing, so I don’t get nervous,” she said.

The North sophomore finished second to Berger in the pole vault at the South Suburban Conference meet last month. She also competed in long jump and spring relays at the SSC meet.

But the vault will get a lot of her attention going forward, just as it grabbed her attention when she was younger.

“I have four older sisters and they all vaulted. I’ve been watching it for a long time and I always wanted to do it,” she said. “One of my sisters vaulted in college. She holds the school record.”

That sister, Nicole Naatjes, won the pole vault at the 2011 state Class AA meet and later competed at Brigham Young University. Her winning vault in 2011 was 11-9, and it’s that record Mikelle tied.

They might not remain tied for long because Mikelle has two years of high school track and field remaining. “I think maybe by senior year I’ll hit 13 (feet),” Mikelle said. “We’ll see.”

Naatjes scored eight of Lakeville North’s 13 team points at the state Class AA meet. The other five came from senior thrower Kate Battaforyen, who placed fifth in the discus at 128-5. Josie Liebl, a sophomore, competed in the 100-meter hurdles preliminaries but did not advance to the finals.

Lakeville North athletes scored in two events at the Class AA boys finals Saturday at Hamline. Two Panthers, brothers Bryce and Brandon Stachewicz, finished seventh and eighth in the 800 meters. Bryce, an eighth-grader, was clocked in 1 minute, 58.96 seconds. Brandon, a junior, finished in 2:00.96.

Panthers senior Tyler Osen was eighth in the 1,600 in 4:20.47.

Jack Kocher competed in the 300 hurdles preliminaries but did not advance to the finals. Logan Freeburg, Evan Peterson, Seth Pond and Eustace Awere reached the finals in the 4x100 relay but did not complete the race. Will Mostaert, a senior, finished 13th in the shot put at 47-3.

Lakeville South

Lakeville South junior Daniel Attoh reached the finals in two boys sprints at the Class AA finals, taking seventh in the 100 dash in 11.08 and ninth in the 200 in 22.93.

The girls 4x800 relay team of Cassie Jenny, Avery Heinz, Annabelle King and Brianne Brewster finished 12th at state in 9:38.10. Jenny and Brewster are juniors, Heinz is an eighth-grader and King is a seventh-grader.

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