by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
One month ago, Kalvin Diekman ran the 110 high hurdles for the first time. Saturday, the Spectrum senior grabbed the silver medal at the state track meet in the event.
Sting junior Kayla Zimmerman also medaled, placing fourth in the 800 meters, in the Class A meet at Hamline. It was probably Spectrum’s best sports day in its seven-year history.
“We just started the track program two years ago, and we have come a long ways,” said Diekman, who took second behind Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran. “We doubled the number of section qualifiers this year over last year, and now we got two medals at state.”
Diekman, already Spectrum’s best guy in the 300 hurdles and long and triple jump, was asked by coach Rick Peterson to run the highs in a meet at Columbia Heights a month ago.
“He just missed state in the 300 last year,” said Peterson, “so we put him in the 110 to work on his 300 start and hopefully set a school record in the 110’s as well.”
Peterson was astonished that Diekman’s hand-held time was about 14.8, which usually means low 15′s on automatic timing, good enough to place at state. He thought perhaps the hurdles had been set too low, but when they examined a photo of the race the next day they saw that the hurdles were at the correct notch.
“So we both figured, we better leave him in the high hurdles,” said the coach.
Diekman won the Section 5A race in a personal-best 15.14 seconds at St. John’s on May 29. His 15.53 at state prelims Friday was the third-best time, and he moved up a notch with 15.34 in the finals. Tollefson won handily in 14.72 and Diekman beat everyone else.
“The state meet was only the seventh time that Kal has run the 110,” said Peterson, adding, “A special challenge is that we don’t have a track at Spectrum so we practice on the grass and have to estimate the distance between hurdles.”
They were able to use the Princeton track before sectionals and state.
Diekman was asked how he picked up a new event so fast.
“My dad told me I’m maybe not the fastest runner, or the highest jumper, but I’ve got a lot of flexibility, and some speed. And I’ve been able to pull it all together in the 100 hurdles.”
Diekman, also a soccer player (defenseman), has the Sting records in the 300H (41.25), triple jump (39-1 1/2) and long jump (19-1 1/4) as well.
“Kal is a tremendous athlete,” said Peterson.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, has been running the 800 for three years, and this was her breakout year. Her previous personal record was 2:25.
“The last two years, I did not get a PR at sectionals and was bummed out,” she said. “But this year I got a PR at sectionals to go to state, and then got a PR again at state …. I think I had more determination this year, and focus. I trained a lot better.”
Zimmerman won sectionals with 2:20.62, then chopped almost three seconds off that with 2:17.76 in prelims, the third-best time. In finals Saturday, she took fourth in 2:18.06 after going hard (1:07) to lead the first lap. Cannon Falls junior Emi Trost won in 2:15.05.
She said the first day was “a lot more draining” because you don’t know what to expect, and for the finals she was a lot less nervous.
This was the second state meet of her junior year. She was lead runner on the cross country team that qualified for state with a section runner-up finish and placed 13th at state.
“Kayla is a classic front runner,” said Peterson. “She prefers not to have anyone in front of her – ever. This year she has also discovered that she no longer needs to lead the race to finish strong. She has matured greatly as a runner in the past couple years and runs with much more confidence.”
How good was Zimmerman’s time? Well, in Elk River’s very successful and long-established program, their team record is 2:17.75 (by Emma Bates), just .01 better.
Zimmerman plans to keep running in the summer.
“We’ll have captain’s practices to stay in shape,” she said. “If you don’t run you lose all you’ve gained and have to start over.”
Meanwhile, Diekman said he might not be done with track-and-field. He had intended to go to Anoka-Ramsey as just a student, but has heard from some college coaches after the state meet.