HIBBING — For two of them, it’s a nice way to end their senior seasons, and for the other two, it’s a good chance to get some experience.
That’s the way things are for Hibbing High School track athletes Lizzy Tuomi, McKenzie Maki, Kourtney Manning and Ayva Burkes.
That foursome will be competing in the State Class AA Track and Field Meet, which begins at 9 a.m., today on the campus of Hamline University.
Burkes will be competing in the open 400, and she will join Tuomi, Maki and Manning on the 4x400 relay team.
Hibbing coach Serena Sullivan couldn’t have asked for a better group of runners to take down to state, especially that relay team.
“It has such a cool dynamic of the team bonding,” Sullivan said. “It forms a lifelong bond between all of them. That’s the greatest benefit for them throughout this whole experience.”
It was also a good way to get to state.
“It was important for me to make this,” Maki said. “After I didn’t make it in my other two events, I was motivated to make it in the 4x400. I was a lot more motivated. Experiencing state last year, I wanted to go back there so bad.”
The same could be said for Tuomi and Manning, who didn’t make it in their other events.
“I knew that our 4x400 had a super good chance of going again,” Tuomi said. “That could have been my last race ever if I didn’t put my heart out there. I did. That’s why it was important.
“We have a bunch of goals going down there, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Manning leads off the relay, with Tuomi running second, Maki third and Burkes makes up the anchor leg of squad.
It’s a perfect combination of runners, according to Sullivan.
“Kourtney, she is familiar with the blocks and how to get out of them because she’s a sprinter,” Sullivan said. “She’s fast. Lizzy is a chaser. She needs to run people down and go after them. That pulls her out of her comfort zone. She needs that experience.
“McKenzie is always solid, the most consistent runner we have, and Ayva, she’s going to fight tooth-and-nail to the death. That’s why she’s the anchor.”
The Bluejackets will be starting their preliminary race in lane one, which is somewhat of a disadvantage, but in the long run, it’s still 400-meters a runner.
“Since I’m in lane one, I can see everyone in front of me,” Manning said. “When you’re in lane one, it looks like you’re in last place because you start behind everyone. I should be able to catch someone, which would be nice.
“We want to make it to finals. We want to place. We’ll try to do that.”
Tuomi loves chasing down those runners, so she’ll be waiting patiently for that handoff from Manning.
“Most of the time, I try to catch everyone, and try to get us into first,” Tuomi said. “We’re in lane one, so I’ll be behind everyone already because of the exchange zone. I’m going to have to run my hardest to try and catch everybody else.
“For me, personally, that’s not my favorite lane, but it’s all the same distance.”
If Tuomi has the lead, it’s Maki’s job to hang onto it.
“Usually, Lizzy gets us a good lead, and I have to maintain that,” Maki said. “We can do well. We have more in us still, and we can make it to finals. We have that chemistry now. We’re comfortable with each other. That’s important.
“We all like each other, so when we warm up together, we talk and bond. Our handoffs are better that way.”
If Maki is anywhere near the lead, Burkes will bring it home.
“I hope to beat the next girl, then the next girl, then hopefully, be able to qualify for the finals,” Burkes said. “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to do that, but we all have dropped a lot of time from last year. It’s possible.”
Especially if Burkes runs a her normal 400 time.
“I like that we’re going to, hopefully, break the record,” Burkes said. “I ran a 58 in the 400, then in the 4x400, I ran one minute. Had I ran what I normally run, we probably could have broken that.
“I feel like we’re all going to go faster, and be able to break it.”
Burkes is the only one who has two events, and she’s looking forward to the open 400. She was a 300 hurdler in the eighth- and ninth-grades. She placed third at the section meet as an eighth-grader, and fourth as a freshman.
She likes the change of the events.
“I had a better chance at the 400,” Burkes said. “It was more evenly spaced between the 4x800 and the 4x400, so I didn’t have to die out there. There’s no obstacles. It’s only one lap. I’m looking at a low 58 or high 57. I want to break the (school) record. I was .2 seconds off of that the last time.”
The competition should push Burkes to the limit.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where she places with that tight competition,” Sullivan said. “She’s only had one or two people lingering around her, and she’s only run the 400 a handful of times.
“We hope that she gets on the podium. That’s my goal for her. I’m not worried about time. I want her to feel like she had success in that event. Same with the 4x400. I hope they break the school record and get on the podium.”
According to Sullivan, none of this would be possible without the help of Hibbing boys coach James Plese, and assistant coaches Greg Buus, Al Gustafson, Doug Moberg, Tony Sikich, Heather Matvey, Dan Scally, Matt Hintz and Brittany Lindstrom.
“Without all of us working together, this team wouldn’t have had the success they did,” Sullivan said. “I’m grateful to all of the coaches for their help and support.”