Saturday, April 25, 2015

Joe Klecker and Justin Hyytinen Create a Classic; Hamline Elite News, Notes, and Results

The last time Joe Klecker ran on the Hamline University track in the rain, he had to crawl across the finish line.  Friday night the Hopkins senior crossed that line upright having led from start to finish to set a meet record of 4:10.51.  In second was the runner whose record he broke, Farmington senior Justin Hyytinen, who also broke his mark by almost two seconds running  4:12.62.

Klecker's goal for the race had been to run even faster.  "4:06," Klecker said when asked what he was hoping to run, and the weather conditions--cold, wet, rainy, and windy--didn't deter Klecker from trying to achieve that goal. The conditions didn't intimidate him, he said.  "It's all in your mind," he said of the potential negative thoughts runners often have in adverse weather conditions.   Looking effortless, he tore through the first half mile in about 2:05.  The pace felt easy, he said, his only concern being what was behind him.

"I knew (Hyytinen) was there.  I could hear him."  Remembering the year before when Hyytinen had caught and blown past Richfield's Obsa Ali on the backstretch of the last lap of the 1600, Klecker did not want history to repeat itself.  Hyytinen, who would later finish second in the 800, and run an impressive 400 meter leg  that propelled Farmington from near last to third place when he handed off the baton in the mile relay, said he has a 400 meter relay leg PR of 49.1.  Not the sort of guy you want on your heels on the home straight.

Klecker seemed to surge on the backstretch of the third and the final laps opening up some daylight on Hyytinen that he held to the finish.  Hyytinen said he felt tight during the last lap, perhaps having the sting of his finishing kick drained from him by the fast pace.  When Joe's dad Barney Klecker was told that he son ran "awesome," he replied: "Yeah, but he still has some work to do."  Then added: "But (Joe) now has the fastest mile time in the Klecker family."

A student of the sport's history, Joe is not going to be content with that.  While 4:06 was the goal Friday, Joe also had an auxiliary goal--Stillwater grad Ben Blankenship's 2007 Klas field record of 2:09.10.  He'll have another shot at that later at the June MSHSL State championships where one of the most prestigous feats in Minnesota high school distance running occurred in 1968.  At that year's State Championships,  Twig's Garry Bjorklund ran a 4:05 mile  to leave Harding grad Mike Slack in his wake on Macalester's track.

If Klecker, Hyytinen, and two-time 1600 defending champ, Stillwater's Eli Krahn can get to the starting line healthy for this year's MSHSL Championship race, it could easily develop into another epic contest in the already impressive history of Minnesota State Meet competition in the distance events. Last year Klecker on a rainy afternoon, Klecker gave all he had in an effort to overhaul Krahn and Ali in the MSHSL State Meet 1600.

So intense was the effort that he tripped and fell to the track tantalizingly close to the finish.  He pounded the track in frustration, realizing that he had to get across that finish line as Hopkins was also fighting for something, the team title.  So Joe finished on his hands and knees to make sure he salvaged some points for the team, all of whom took inspiration from Joe's effort.  This year he'll have a chance for an encore.

Joe wasn't the only Klecker who excelled on Friday.  His sister Elizabeth finished second in the girl's 1600 with a PR of 5:02.96. She also ran the third leg on the third place finishing 4 by 400 relay.
St. Croix Lutheran's Jon Tollefson thought he had his second double at the Elite Meet, having won the 110 hurdles and was the first across the finish line in the 300 hurdles.  As he was walking to get his sweats on the infield, two officials pointed to his grey leggings, informing Tollefson that he'd better change or not wear that color leggings in the State Meet.  MSHSL rules they told him mandate a single color below the waist.  Some friendly advice that would prevent a disqualification for a "clothing violation."

As he was finishing an interview the meet referee came up to him and told him he was sorry to have to tell him this, but he had been DQed.  Not for the clothes, but for a trail leg violation.  Tollefson told his coach who went to the referee to find out what had happened.  Tollefson had been experimenting early in the season on switching lead legs.  As a result he almost didn't qualify to be in the nine man field.

As a result of the slow qualifying time, he was assigned to lane nine.  That wasn't a problem he said.  He'd just work the curve then take it in hard on the straightaway.  He didn't need to see his opponents or key off of anyone else, just execute his race.  The difference of being in lane nine, aside from not seeing your opposition until or if they are passing you, is that there is no hurdle on what could be your trail leg side.  Thus instead of always having your trail leg clearing the hurdle, it was possible to go over the hurdle with the lead leg while the trail leg does not have to clear the hurdle.

Your right foot on the trail leg can dip below the top of the hurdle, which creates the violation.  The referee demonstrated to Tollefson's coach what the violation was by putting a stick out from the right side of the board that is the top of the hurdle.  Foot goes over the stick, you're OK.  Foot goes below the stick you are disqualified.  "We didn't know that,"   said the coach.  They do now, and while Tollefson is not likely to be in lane 9 or any other outside lane he's learning the rule book so that he won't lose another title for a reason aside from another runner being faster than he was on the day.

Rules learned, Tollefson can now concentrate on his goals. Foremost of which is to get under 14 seconds for the 110 hurdles.  He broke his own meet record in the 110 hurdles on Friday, running 14.16 and has already run faster, 14.14, earlier this season. So getting under 14 appears to be a realistic goal.
A reason for the popularity of the Elite meet is that athletes from the small schools get to race against those from the big schools.  In the boy's 400 the top two finishers were from Class A--Jonathan Webb from Minnehaha Academy was first, followed by Kyle Groven from Pine Island.  Webb may come from a small school, but he has big school ambition.  When asked what his goals were, he said he wanted to run low 48s, hopefully dip under 48.
A lot of the runners were experimenting, tying to determine, for example, whether or not double or tripling was a viable option for the State Meet.  Hyytinen began with the 1600, added the 800, and ran a leg on the Mile Relay.  Wasca's Shane Streich ran an 800 meter leg on the 2-mile relay because he promised the other relay team members he would.  He then ran the 3200 going for the Waseca school record of 9:17, and finished the day with a 400 as part of the mile relay.

Others came into the meet to use it as prep for State, but it didn't work out that way.  Rosemount's Rachel Schow said she had been sick, in bed most of the week, so her hurdle double, 110 and 300, just showed her how much she'd lost from a week of illness.

Cretin Derham Hall's Brieasha Hunter won two of the three sprint events at last year's State Meet, losing the 200 to teammate Megan Linder, as the duo went 1-2 in each event to place second in the team standings.  This year, Linder has graduated and Chanhassan's Jedah Caldwell demonstrated that she will be a force to be reckoned with as she won the 100 and 200 at the Elite Meet. Hunter was second in the 100 and 400.

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