COLERAINE — The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin (G/N-K) boys track and field team will have good representation at the 2019 Minnesota State Class A Boys Track and Field Meet which will open today at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Leading the Greenway contingent will be sophomore distance runner Geno Uhrbom who is seeded first in both the 1,600-meter run (4:21.57) and the 3,200-meter run (9:40.87).
Meanwhile, junior Dylan DeChampeau will be participating in three events at the state meet as he will compete individually in the 100-meter dash (11.24 seconds) and high jump (6-feet, 2-inches) and as a member of the Titans’ 4 x 100-meter relay.
G/N-K’s 4 x 100-meter relay is comprised of DeChampeau, Matt Jeska, Jajuan Hall and Eli Conaway and will enter the state meet after placing second in the section meet with a time of 46.11 seconds.
Alternates for the relay are Brock Stram and Isaiah Austad.
Uhrbom placed third in the 3,200-meter run as a freshman at state last year and he also placed seventh in the 1,600-meter run and G/N-K coach Will Floersheim said the runner is seeded first in both events entering today’s state meet. Floersheim said Uhrbom has been nothing short of phenomenal this season and is coming off a state title in cross country last fall.
“Honestly, you take seeding out of it. You can’t have seeds reflect somebody’s makeup,” Floersheim said. “They might tell you what somebody has done in terms of past performances but what is on a piece of paper doesn’t reveal necessarily what somebody is made of.
“I think the coaches around the region that have seen (Uhrbom) for years now would agree with me in that he is just made up of something that is a little more special than what you see in a typical high school athlete. Probably the best thing about him is that he hates to lose even more than he enjoys winning. When you get to this level of competition and you match that with a fitness level like what he has right now, it is just a really, really potent combination.”
Floersheim said what gives him the confidence that Uhrbom can win both events is that the young runner feels he can win. He said special relationships are formed between coaches and athletes who have been together for years and he added that the runner’s performance speaks for what he wants to accomplish.
“You gain more confidence when you see kids perform at a certain level and Geno has earned the right for me to say as a coach that when he says he wants to do this, I believe it,” the coach explained. “You are never going to see me the rest of his career ever doubt something that that kid says. It isn’t necessarily that he has proven me wrong, it is that he has proven himself correct and that’s quite a thing to say about a sophomore.”
Floersheim said DeChampeau is talked about as both a football and basketball player, but the coach said his best sport may actually be track and field.
“Dylan is just a great, great all-around track athlete,” Floersheim said. “For two years he has probably been our best point-scorer overall on the team. He has been a banner kid for us in that regard.
“He was undefeated for most of the season in the 100. Jericho Peterson of Mt. Iron-Buhl has come on in the last few weeks and looks really strong. But Dylan is right there with him and if he runs well he should have a chance to make it to Saturday and get in the finals.”
DeChampeau’s height of 6-2 in the high jump has him seeded in the lower half of all jumpers in the competition. But Floersheim said if DeChampeau can match that height or maybe clear 6-3, things could break good for him.
“When you get down there, there are a lot of kids that are in it for the first time and they might not perform the same in the state meet with some of the pressure and the things that go into that. Dylan has been playing basketball all spring and he necessarily hasn’t had a chance to truly get his legs under him in terms of that part of the sport.
“We have had a little more time for him to work now and hopefully his best performance is going to come at the state level.”
Floersheim said this is the first sprint relay that has qualified from G/N-K since he has been coaching in the program. He said he is proud of the members of the relay for the work they have put in to be so successful.
“We were lucky to finally get the right combination of guys in the right relay. Every coach struggles to do that sometimes; you have different pieces and you are trying to plug the right ones in where you can be successful,” Floersheim said. “We finally found the right match of our sprinters for the right relay at the right time of the year.”
The Titans’ relay has the last seed in the state meet but Floersheim said the good thing about that is the fact that the relay’s goal is to beat its state seeding and it has nowhere to go but up.
“The sprint relay teams coming out of our section literally didn’t stack up very well compared to the rest of the state,” Floersheim said. “But the thing to keep in mind is we are talking a 4 x 100 and one second and you are talking about almost every team in the field. A lot can happen between handoffs, kids, nerves and everything that goes into it. I feel good about my guys, I feel good about where they have been in practice this week. We made some little tweaks with handoffs and where they are at in the exchange zone.
“We will see how we do.”
On a side note, Matt Jeska, a member of the state relay team for the Titans, is also the valedictorian for the Class of 2019 at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School. He was slated to speak at the graduation ceremonies but he elected to record his speech and instead compete at the state meet.
“Matt bought enough into track and field this spring that he is foregoing giving his speech as valedictorian Friday night to be running in the prelims of the state meet at the same time,” Floersheim said. “He will be having a taped speech playing while he is running in the state meet.”