Lilly Halvorson and Megan Geraets were shot out of cannon, a whole 25 meters ahead of the rest of the 400-meter field in the Section 2AA track and field finals May 31 at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
Halvorson inched ahead, then Geraets, the 2018 event champion and section record holder, came up on the Chaska junior again. In the end, one hundredth of a second separated two of fastest recorded times in the state this season.
Halvorson, a double section champion, running anchor on the 4x200 relay, edged Geraets with a winning time of 57.31 -- an automatic qualifying time.
"I just thought, I have to stay with her the whole time," Halvorson said of her race strategy. "During the 400, it sucks. Very painful. But the reward afterward, knowing the work you put in all season is paying off for this meet, it's a dream race."
How quick is 57.31 seconds? Last year's state champion, Ella Larson, ran 57.15 to stand atop the podium.
So, yeah, Halvorson was happy with the race.
"It feels pretty good," said Halvorson, who got a big hug from sister, Mara, a state qualifier with Lilly on the 4x200 relay in 2018, after the race. "After qualifying in the 4x200, it gave me the determination to make state in the 400, too."
Halvorson, joined by Keilah and Judea Montoya, and Megan Jeurissen, started the meet with a dominating victory in the 4x200 relay, an automatic qualifying time of 1:43.10.
Before sections, no other team had run a faster time than what Chaska did in the finals. Oh, and they set a school record in the process.
"This time around we really focused on hand-offs just to make sure they were perfect. I really feel like that extra work was the difference in our time," Jeurissen said.
After a dropped hand-off cost Chaska a title at the Metro West Conference Championships -- an event they still finished second in -- the Hawks worked hard to get the baton exchanges down.
In the finals, the hand-offs were right on.
"I'm so proud of the entire team. We worked really hard with our hand-offs the whole taper week coming into this meet. I guess that work paid off," Halvorson said.
Chaska, with 41 points, was ninth of 16 teams.
Jeurissen added 11 points in individual races, placing third in the 200 meters in a personal-best 25.77 seconds, while taking fifth in 12.77 in the 100 meters.
After finishing on the podium in four events at the conference meet, Jeurissen's post-season success stems down to training.
"It's about being motivated. If you don't have something to drive you to be better, you're just not going to see that improvement. For me, it was also being mentally positive. Knowing I could get through however I was feeling physically," Jeurissen said.
Judea Montoya was right there in the 400 meters as well, a season-best time of 59.16 for third place.
Chaska, ninth in the 4x100 relay (52.85), was fifth in the final race, the 4x400 relay. Kelsey Willems, Judea Montoya, Jordan LeRoy, and Halvorson combined for a time of 4:09.33.
BACK TO HAMLINE
Noah Cvetnic and John Starkey each won titles at the Hamline Elite Meet in April. Heading back to the St. Paul facility for the Class AA State Meet June 7-8, the Chaska seniors hope for more top of the podium finishes.
Cvetnic won the high jump competition with ease, hitting one jump at six feet, four inches, the only jumper to make the height.
After hitting at 6 1/2 feet and 6-8, Cvetnic went for the section record. Having topped the bar at seven feet in practice, his final attempt at 6-11 just nicked the bar.
Still, Cvetnic, on paper, is the favorite into the state meet, the only jumper to hit six feet, 10 inches, this spring.
Starkey, section champion once again in the 800 meters, ran an automatic qualifying time of 1:55.45. A comfortable pace through 600, Starkey turned on the gas, slightly pulling away from friend and future collegiate teammate Torin Christianson of Chanhassen.
"It's so nice to have someone before the races to talk to, strategize with," Christianson said of Starkey. "I did what I always do when I race with John, and that's stay right behind him. He always seems to run consistent, get good times. If I'm a couple of steps behind him, I'm going to be in a pretty good spot."
Like the girls, Chaska was ninth in the boys standings with 37 points.
Nolan Hansen was fifth in high jump at an even five feet with Jack Bury placing ninth in long jump at 19 feet, 5 1/4 inches. Senior Mike Donavan made the podium in shot put on Day One, a throw of 45 feet, one-half inch, a personal record.
Dylan Brazil was sixth in the 400 meters in 41.97. Brazil was joined by Starkey, Keith Fletcher and Jackson Davis in the 4x400 in a season-best fourth-place time of 3:27.65.
Daniel Papp, Bury, Fletcher, and Jonathan Paynter were sixth in the 4x200 relay in 1:33.25.
Meet time at Hamline University is 9 a.m. on both June 7 and 8.