by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
District 728 athletes Cassi Ortberg and Madeline Schaeffer each capped an excellent track season with a personal-best, medal-winning effort in the 300-meter hurdles on Saturday at the state meet.
Ortberg, Zimmerman junior, was runner-up with 44.29 at Hamline, giving her school a silver medal, and highest-ever state track finish, in its first year of Class AA. Ortberg beat her 44.69 prelim time which beat her section runner-up 45.42 time.
Schaeffer, Rogers senior, grabbed fifth place with 45.34. which beat her prelim time of 44.69, which beat her section gold medal time of 45.26 — like Ortberg, three straight PR’s to end her prep career.
The champion was Thief River Falls eighth-grader Meleah Biermaier with 43.48 seconds.
“I’m very happy with this. I was so scared coming into double A this year,” said Ortberg, who placed fifth in Class A last year with 45.86 and 13th as a freshman.
Ortberg said she wasn’t sure why but her steps between hurdles were right on the mark.
“Every hurdle felt right. Every hurdle was in just the right spot, except the last one that was a little off.”
“Well, that makes me very proud then,” said Ortberg when told of that extra distinction.
Ortberg made state as section runner-up by .02 behind a Forest Lake runner who didn’t make state finals. The state medalists are the ones who can deliver at the end.
For Schaeffer, this was her first state meet, a trip she earned by winning the Section 5AA finals in what would have been her final high school race otherwise.
“I didn’t even expect to make the finals,” said Schaeffer. “I just wanted to get to state, and I wound up fifth.”
She got fifth by running her best race, with her improvement mainly on the front end.
“Maddie usually wins between 200 and 300 yards,” said coach Chris Miller, “but today she got a huge kick start in the first 100 and that’s what did it.”
Schaeffer said she managed to clear her head.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just ran and hoped for the best.”
She added that she was more nervous for Friday’s prelims. “Today, I knew no matter what, I was going to get on the podium.”
Schaeffer’s section final was quite a thrill by itself as she won a race with three girls beating state qualifying standard.
“That was an awesome race,” she reflected, after the state finals. “In the sixth to seventh hurdles we were literally in step with each other, and I was able to pull ahead”
Schaeffer, also a volleyball player, and Rogers’ Triple-A nominee (arts, academics, athletics) said it was a “bittersweet” day, winning a medal but know that high school sports are now over.
“But I’ve still got college track next year,” said Schaeffer, who’ll run at Minnesota-Duluth.