NDHSAA T&F STATE: NR-S' Belquist, Devils Lake 4x400 team big winners on final day
A long-awaited track season came to a grand finale Saturday at the Bismarck Community Bowl as teams from all corners of the North Dakota made one last push to finish with elite company, some even being crowned the best in the state. Six lake region prep squads made the two, three, and in some cases four hour trek down to Bismarck.
While a handful of athletes were out and about for the first time this weekend, others were finishing up long hauls that started yesterday. However, for a few, what seemed like non-stop running paid off in the end.
New Rockford-Sheyenne freshman Kelsie Belquist, who ran in eight heats over two days, cashed in big time on Saturday, winning the state champion crown in the 300 meter hurdles and 400 meter dash. She would also pick up two fourth place finishes in the 100 meter dash and the 200 meter dash.
"It feels really good to be done running and I'm happy with where I ended up in all my events," Belquist said. "I feel like I'm really good at the not distance, but not sprinting events, and gaining my speed along the way. I also just like the events I won today."
Both of Belquist's state winning finishes set personal records, seeing her finish at 44.41 in the 300 hurdles, a 0.20 improvement from her last PR, and 57.33 in the 400, 0.17 improvement. Prelims in the 200 on Friday saw her set another PR of 25.59, a 0.39 improvement.
Belquist has had a standout season this year as a freshman, winning two state titles and qualifying for finals in all her events, and she had fun doing it too. Belquist said that she enjoys competing against familiar faces in every heat. Similar to her, a lot of them are still underclassmen.
"It's just nice to finish races with them," Belquist said. "I just like it more than running against people that you've never met."
One of those familiar faces was Langdon/Edmore/Munich senior Lexis Olson, who faced off against Belquist eight times these past two days and has had a heavy workload as well. Olson said in an interview Friday that she wanted to have a strong finish in the 300 hurdles final, and she would keep her word. Olson would be the state runner-up in the event with a time of 45.08, smashing her old PR by 0.54 seconds.
In seeing a lot of the same people at the highest level, Belquist said that she's learned to keep pace with her counterparts at the top. Heading out of this meet with two state crowns and four state qualifications, Belquist is setting the bar high in her next three seasons with NR-S
"I want to go for the meet records in the events I state qualified in," Belquist said. "That would be really fun to get those."
Victories come in all different ways in the track and field world. It might actually be first place, a personal record, or even just getting to the state meet. For the Devils Lake girls, 4x800 team of eighth grader Gabby Tangedal, junior Kiya McLaurin, senior Ramsey Brown, and sophomore Annika McCarthy their victory came in the form of lucky number seven.
The Firebirds were ranked 10th coming into state and thrown into the slower of the two Class A heats. In not being able to races against the faster teams, Devils Lake was going to have to work within itself to find a way onto the podium. The effort started early on for the team as they would spend a long time warming up and getting into a similar mental mindset.
In the race, Tangedal and McLaurin would run tight with Shanley but managed to not break out of the top three. The second legs of Brown and McCarthy would turn on and build a two second gap between the Deacons. Devils Lake would PR by five seconds to win the heat with a time of 4:09.87, but they still didn't know if it'd be enough.
"We were in the slower heat, so it was guaranteed we were going to make it," junior Kiya McLaurin said. "We literally had to give it our all."
"When the second heat was going, we were watching the clock to see if we were going to place or not," Brown said.
As McCarthy came in with a whole two seconds separating her a Shanley's Noelle Friederichs, the waiting game began for Firebirds and the pressure wasn't off just yet. The four of them were huddled watching those in the faster heat trade-off. Some of them couldn't look at the clock as the suspense heightened.
"We couldn't look," McLaurin said. "The last runner went and we saw Sheyenne dropped their baton, so we were all crossing our fingers because it was going to be really close. None of us really looked at the clock in the end."
It wasn't really until the Firebirds were right behind the podium and were asked to line up in the seventh position that they realized they had done it. Brown said that herself, McCarthy, and McLaurin have been chasing a placement since middle school. With this being Brown's last year, Tangedal said that they wanted to place for Brown.
In being a smaller school, if not the smallest, school in Class A, Devils Lake has neared podium finishes but wasn't able to get onto the stage throughout the weekend. It wasn't until the 4x800 team, who had been together for so long, was able to break the streak. They would be the Firebirds' only podium placement of the entire meet.
"A lot of our people came close to getting on the podium, but to have finally gotten up there is a lot of excitement," Brown said. "We already know that when we get up to that tent that everybody is going to be hyping us up."
The 4x800 was the final race for not just Brown, but Devils Lake, as the meet drew to a close. With the season coming to an end and some careers, the 4x800 squad said that finishing out like this was the best way to finish out the state meet.
"There no other three other girls I'd rather do it with," Brown said. "Throughout the entire season we've tried to PR and now we've PRed by five seconds. It's just so exciting."