Rosemount girls are Class AA champions; boys team is state runner-up; Peterson, Otterdahl are multiple gold medalists
If Saturday wasn’t the best day in Rosemount track and field history, you’ll have to search long and hard to find one to top it.
A victory in the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, sent the Irish girls past Alexandria and to the top step of the awards podium in the Class AA finals Saturday at Hamline University. Rosemount trailed Alexandria by 10.25 points going into the relay, so only a first-place finish would give the Irish the team championship (Alexandria did not have a team in the 4x400). The victory by Ava Cinnamo, Lauren Peterson, Amber Johnson and Jenna Johnson, along with two victories by Peterson in distance races, helped clinch Rosemount’s second state girls title and first since 1984.
Hopkins faced almost the identical situation in the boys meet, needing a second place in the 4x400 relay to tie Rosemount for first in the team standings and a victory to be solo champion. The Royals came through with first place, edging Rosemount by two points.
It was the Irish boys’ best finish at state since winning the 2008 Class AA championship.
Rosemount was close to sweeping the Class AA boys and girls team championships in the same year for only the second time since the girls meet went to two classes in 1976. The only team to accomplish that feat was Mounds View in 1976.
The Irish have an ironclad case as the best girls track and field team in Class AA for 2019. They won section and state True Team championships, the South Suburban Conference championships, and the Section 3AA and state Class AA meets. All after finishing third in the Class AA state meet and second in the True Team finals last year.
“It definitely meant a lot to us,” said senior Alexys Berger, who finished second in the pole vault. We’ve been working toward it for so long, and it’s nice to see it pay off. We wanted to come back and give it our best shot and try to win, or try to get top two at least.”
Rosemount and Wayzata were running side-by-side in the first two legs of the 4x400 relay, with Monticello a close third. Amber Johnson’s 58.4-second split on the third leg gave the Irish the lead, and Jenna Johnson held it with a 56.113-second anchor leg.
“It was a 10.25 difference going into the last race. We went and talked to the 4x4 and said, ‘Hey, the good news? We have a chance. We’re not out of this,’” coach Sara Hatleli said.
Rosemount finished with 71.75 points to Alexandria’s 70. The Irish are the third South Suburban Conference team to win the Class AA girls championship since the conference started in the 2010-11 school year. Lakeville South won the other two in 2012 and 2015.
The relay championship was one of three events the Irish won at the state finals. Peterson, a senior, grabbed the other two in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter races. A longtime track and cross country standout at Farmington High School, Peterson moved to Rosemount shortly before the start of the 2019 track and field season, making her immediately eligible to compete for the Irish.
Peterson won the 3,200 for the second time in three years, finishing in 10 minutes, 38.03 seconds in Friday’s race. She led the entire way, holding off second-placed Analee Weaver of Stillwater. Defending champion Emily Covert of Minneapolis Washburn challenged early before dropping back to third place.
On Saturday, Peterson broke away from Wayzata’s Emma Atkinson in the final lap of the 1,600 to win in 4:52.69. It was the first state championship in the 1,600 for Peterson, who will run for Furman University in the fall.
“Coming into today I knew my legs were going to be a little bit tired,” she said. “I was really focusing on my form and staying relaxed and calm when Emma Atkinson was staying on me.”
The 1,600 championship “means a little bit more to be because it’s been my goal since freshman year. I’ve always been like third in this event.”
Berger cleared 11 feet, 9 inches – her season best – to take second in the pole vault. The only athlete to top it was Char Morke of Cambridge-Isanti, who cleared 12-4. Berger, who has signed with the University of Minnesota, set the school pole vault record of 12-0 in 2018.
Two more seniors, Arianna Passeri and Tierra Doss, also picked up important points in field events. Passeri finished third in the long jump at 17-11, just a half inch out of second place. Doss was fifth in the shot put with 41-1.25.
Lauren Preiner, a junior, was in a four-way tie for third in the high jump, clearing 5-4.
Cinnamo, a ninth-grader, was fourth in the 300 hurdles in 44.00, just .08 out of second place and .002 out of third. Rose Sieve, a senior, was ninth in the same event in 45.85.
Keeping track of the team standings was at times excruciating for the Irish. “I wasn’t trying to know until after I was done competing, but after I was done I was keeping track for sure,” Berger said.
“We said going into it that it was going to be tight, and if things went our way we could win,” Hatleli said. “I think our athletes are gracious winners and gracious losers, but regardless, they’re competitors. They really wanted this and went after it.”
Hatleli – whose husband Jay is head coach of the state runner-up Rosemount boys team – said the Irish girls had more than athletic ability going for them.
“In general it’s the work ethic, the desire to be great – not just average, but really, truly, be great,” she said. “They’re competitive with one another in that they push each other and want each other to do the best they can.”
A double state championship in the throws by Max Otterdahl helped put the Irish on the doorstep of the Class AA team championship. Jonathan Mann was second in the 110 hurdles and Luke Labatte finished in the top five in two distance races to give Rosemount 76 points, a total Hopkins didn’t exceed until the final race of Saturday’s state finals.
Otterdahl confessed to having some issues with technique the week of the state meet, but threw a career-best 64-4 in the shot put and approached his lifetime best with 191-4 in the discus to walk away with two more first-place medals to go with the two he won in the same events last year.
He holds the school record in shot and discus, no small feet because his older brothers, Payton and Trevor, also threw at the state meet. Both are now on the track and field team at North Dakota State, where Max is headed in the fall. Payton, a senior, finished second in the discus and fourth in the shot put at the NCAA Division I championships last week.
“It’s been a good week for the Otterdahls,” Max said after receiving his first-place medal in the discus.
He won the shot put, where he was defending state champion, by more than 7 feet. For perspective, the difference between second and ninth place also was 7 feet. Otterdahl already had the lead in the discus with one attempt remaining, then had his best throw of the competition to win by nearly 25 feet.
“I’m starstruck right now. I feel accomplished,” he said. “Everything I worked so hard to do, all the throws I’ve taken in practice, the hundreds of thousands of throws, all the weights, all added up to this moment. It’s not even done yet. I have five more years of college, where it’s only beginning.”
Mann was third at state in the 110 hurdles last year and moved up one spot this year. He ran 14.53, cutting about three-tenths of a second off his time from last year’s state finals, even though he said he wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
“Right now I’m not getting any faster,” he said. “I got hurt in the middle of the season so I lost some speed, but my technique got better.”
Mann, a junior who has verbally committed to play football at the University of Minnesota, also ran on the Irish’s 4x200 relay, where he and teammates Prince Nti, Mason McDonald and Brian Boakye-Ansah were third in 1:28.63.
Labatte, one of the state’s most consistently successful distance runners the last three years, was third in the 1,600 in 4:14.74 and fourth in the 3,200 in 9:20.66.
“I feel great about my races,” he said. “I did what I wanted, went top five in both. There are so many good guys in my class, and I’m glad I got to compete with them one last time.”
Labatte was fifth in the 1,600 and eighth in the 3,200 at the 2018 state meet.
Boakye-Ansah, a sophomore, took third in the 400 in 49.30. Also placing third was the Irish 4x800 relay of Ekane Leon Vianney Mooh, Payne Freske, Daniel Cox and Getinat Asfaw, who finished in 7:53.46, less than three seconds behind first-place Wayzata.
Nti placed fourth in the 100 in 11.04.