Something happened Saturday at Robbinsdale Cooper High School that hadn't happened in 50 years. A conference championship win for the Chaska boys track and field team.
With a score of 147, Chaska outpointed Chanhassen (128) and Bloomington Jefferson (120) for the program's second-ever league title; the first since 1971.
The Hawks scored points in 16 of the 18 events, winning the championship despite just one first-place finish from junior Colton Rada in shot put.
A true team effort.
Nate Foss, head coach for Chaska, part of the track and field program since 2004, said the banner in the gymnasium won't be as "lonely" with a 2021 added.
"It was a complete team effort in every sense of the term. The boys rallied around the fact that every place/point mattered and they were willing to stretch thin and in some cases run three individual events, give up spots on relays, double back with the mile/two mile, etc," Foss said.
Rada and teammate Ryan Mercer did what they have been doing all spring in throws. Post top distances in shot put and discus. Often times just feet away from each other.
At the conference meet, Rada hit 50 feet, eight inches, for first place in shot, with Mercer finishing second at 45 feet, 1 1/2 inches. Mercer was ahead of Rada, 130 feet to 128 1/2 feet, the duo placing second and third in the discus event.
"That's what it feels like. We're back and forth, close, especially in discus. He beat me once," Mercer said of Rada. "It's nice and friendly between teammates. You cheer for them to do as well as they can obviously."
"It's really nice to have everybody at practice. To come everyday and compete with each other, and make each other better," Rada said.
Rada and Mercer have been throwing in the high school program since eighth and ninth grade, respectively. They also would have been linemates together in football this season.
Rada, though, needing surgery on his shoulder, elected to get the procedure done last summer when the season was scheduled for spring of 2021. When football was brought back to fall 2020, Rada missed out on his junior year.
Healthy, Rada enjoys the camaraderie with fellow football players in the throwing group with Ryan Mercer and sophomores Leo Smalley and Kaleb Rector.
"I think sitting out with football gave me a different perspective, a different point of view to see how I handled sports. It feels good to be back. I love to compete," Rada said.
What has developed is team chemistry among the group. Coaches Steven Stern and Cheri Lerdon have fostered that bond, and the results have been impressive across the board.
"It's the great coaches. Everyone is willing to put in the work," Rada said.
"Practices are fun and they actually make us better," Mercer said.
Chaska scored well in distance races, getting 33 points from 1,600 and 3,200 meter runners. Senior Ethan Leonard was second in each race, times of 4:39.01 and 10:05.23; both season-best efforts.
Freshman Nolan Sutter followed, shaving five seconds off his one-mile time (4:43.41) and 20 seconds off his two-mile time (10:18.47). Junior Dylan Austad blew past four runners over the last lap, sprinting to fourth place in the 1,600 meters in a career-best 4:48.25. Austad dropped 25 seconds from his seed for eighth place in the 3,200 meters.
In hurdles, senior Andrew Dial (44.392), and freshman Zach Schmidt (44.396) and Isaac Chock (45.89) all posted career-best times to place between second and fourth in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Chock and senior Jacob Vandergon (19.28) were fifth and eighth in the 110 high hurdles.
Senior Jack Cox was third in the 100 meters (11.82) and fifth in the 200 meters (24.00) with Cameron Walle adding points with times of 12.09 and 54.12 in the 100 and 400 meters, placing seventh and sixth, respectively. Senior Lucas Schmidt added a sixth-place personal-best time of 24.06 in the 200 meters.
Chaska recorded 19 points in relays, led by a season-best effort in the 4x100 relay from four underclassmen, Elijah Ybarra, Gerardo Trevino, Noah Paulson, and Reese Turner, in a time of 47.32 seconds.
Underclassmen led the way in multiple field events as well, including high jump where Zach Schmidt and Dhany Tetekpor hit 5 1/2 feet for sixth and seventh places. Sophomore Aaron Stavnaw reached a career-best nine feet, three inches, for fourth place in pole vault. Seniors Reid Mather and Brannon Westover were next at nine feet.
Lucas Schmidt posted a career-best triple jump attempt of 34 feet, 10 inches, for sixth place.
"The throwers kept their composure and continued to show dominance in the shot and disc. Pole vault was a group of green kids who picked up a pole for the first time this season. The hurdlers stepped up in their events and snagged points that other teams just didn't have the bodies and numbers to go after. Every Chaska boy scored in at least some aspect of the meet with the exception of two throwers who both earned ninth in the shot and disc stepping in as alternates. They all played a part and earned this one," Foss added.
Relays have been events of strength over the years for the Chaska girls track and field team, helping them to a Metro West Conference title in 2019.
A new year, new runners, but the Hawks continued to finish strongly passing the baton.
Seniors Sydney Grossklaus and Aniya Burnett were joined by junior Daneyah Hughes and freshman Kelli Streetar to post a season-best time of 52.27 to a championship run in the 4x100 event.
"We worked really hard on pulling that off," Burnett said.
"We worked a lot on our hand-offs, on our speed," Hughes said.
Hughes, Burnett and Grossklaus were a team two years ago as underclassmen. This year all that was needed was Streetar to complete the relay.
"It feels good to be back; just exciting to have a season, competing in races like this," Burnett said. "When I crossed the finish line, there was this feeling of excitement. This rush. It felt really good. I was proud of the girls. I was able to watch them all run first, and when I got that baton I just went as fast as I could."
Chaska was second in the 4x200, the team of Grossklaus, Kendall Thom, Synia Montoya, and Annalise Bury, combining for a time of 1:51.62. Season-best efforts were also achieved in the 4x400 (4:15.19) and 4x800 (10:36.09).
The 1,600-meter team of Montoya, seventh grader Noella Ross, Thom, and Bury carried the baton around the track four times in a three-second victory.
Hughes and Burnett led Chaska to a strong start in sprint events. Hughes posted a winning time of 17.50, a victory of two hundredths of a second, in the 100 intermediate hurdles.
She doubled back in the next event, the 100 meters, for a third-place run of 13.74. Burnett checked in at 13.72 for second place in the event.
"It felt great to win (the hurdles). I wasn't very good at it as a freshman, so to see where I am now I'm very happy," Hughes said.
POINTS ALL AROUND
Chaska's girls team scored points in 14 of 18 events including a runner-up throw from Daniyah Hughes -- Daneyah's twin sister -- in shot put at 30 feet, 2 1/4 inches. Daniyah also hit 90 feet for the first time in discus for fifth place.
Natalie Roth (4 1/2 feet) and Zoe Cutler (4 feet, four inches) were fifth and seventh in high jump with Erin Kubik hitting seven feet for the first time in pole vault for seventh place.
Natalie and Erika Roth posted 100-meter hurdle times of 18.35 and 18.98 for fourth and seventh overall, while Natalie Roth and Bury were second and third in the 300 low hurdles in 50.36 and 51.00.
Other top finishes came from Grossklaus in the 200 meters (28.38/fifth place), Ross in the 400 meters (1:04.58/third place) and Grace Marek in the 800 meters (2:39.92/seventh place).