Motivated Pirates ready for chance at state glory
In his years coaching the Crookston boys' track and field team, Wayne Folkers has sent as many as 10 athletes and as few as one to the state tournament.
One thing hasn't changed: Folkers always tries to get as many athletes to St. Paul as possible.
Running-wise, Folkers likes to build his teams around relays. He views it simply: only two athletes in any given event can qualify for state via the section meet. So Folkers won't put three runners in the 100 meters, for example, and block one of them from having a chance. Instead, he'll get his fastest guys together in the 4x100, 4x200 or the like. The more the merrier.
This season, Folkers plans to rely on that strategy even more.
The Pirates, who placed third in Sub-Section 31A and sixth in Section 8A in 2019, their last season, won't be competing for a True Team state appearance or stacking up to the deeper teams they'll face. They aren't able to field a full team — they have no hurdlers as of now — and they're quite young, especially when it comes to throwing events.
But that doesn't mean they're short on athletes capable of representing Crookston at this summer's state meet.
"I think we're gonna be competitive all the way across the board, we're just gonna lose points in the hurdles and so forth," Folkers said. "When I look at it, just because of the way the state high school league is set up, I look to advance as many as I can from sub-section to sections and give us a chance to go to states."
Only one Pirate on this year's team has done so before. Noah Kiel, a senior sprinter, placed second in Section 8A in the 100 meters in 2019 and first in the 200 meters, where he finished 11th and 14th, respectively, at state.
But Crookston has other returners to count on. Junior Brady Wisk was a member of two section meet-qualifying relay teams in 2019, while senior Easton Tangquist made up one leg of the 4x100 relay two seasons ago. Folkers expects them to play roles in the relays, as well as Kiel, freshman Caden Boike and senior Andrew MacGregor, among others.
In the field, the Pirates have a number of athletes with experience as well. Folkers singled out senior Gabe Montieth in the triple jump, as well as MacGregor in the pole vault. Karsten Isaacson, a senior, placed sixth in the high jump at sections in 2019.
With an understanding of his team's makeup, Folkers said that COVID-19 guidelines, rather than any difficulties fielding a team after a lost season, are likely to be the biggest challenges faced.
Athletes are likely to have to wear masks during competition, with exceptions being field and jumping events where social distancing is possible.
"Some of the kids have been playing (other sports) in masks," Folkers said. "Nothing new, but that's gonna be a challenge for every team too."
Speaking last Monday afternoon during practice, Folkers did take a bit of time to think about what could have been last season. The Pirates' top relay teams will be younger than they would have been in 2020, when they had a wealth of experience.
But in a way, that lost season goes hand-in-hand with Crookston's mentality this year, in Folkers' view.
"The one thing I really noticed about the kids is that they're — I don't wanna say more motivated, but they are," he said. "They lost the chance last year, so they're happy to be here and with a little more motivation to show what they can do."
And if things go well enough for the Pirates, a number of them will be able to do so at state.
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