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Jaden Thompson brings home 200-meter title at 1A state championship showcase

COURTESY PHOTO: ST. PAUL TRACK AND FIELD - The St. Paul girls relay teams of Stella Koch, Gracie Koch, Mary Davidson and Helsie Hempfling took home state titles in both the 4x100 and 4x400 events.St. Paul High School athletics is synonymous around the state for its state champion volleyball and girls basketball teams and its perennial title contending football program. But in track and field circles, the Buckaroos' girls relay teams have been as consistent of a barometer for success as one can find in the 1A classification.

The St. Paul girls continued that excellence at the 2021 1A state track and field championship showcase at Eastern Oregon University on May 22, winning both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays to pace the girls team to a 4th place finish overall in the final standings.

It was the second consecutive season the girls have won both relay events at the state championships, having done so two years ago at the 2019 finals. Remarkably, the four student athletes who combined to win this year's titles — Halsie Hempfling, Stella Koch, Gracie Koch and Mary Davidson — are a completely different quartet than the four who previously won relay titles for St. Paul.

That's by design, according to St. Paul head coach McKayla Fricker, who emphasizes the relays as a way to get more athletes to compete at the state event each year and to help build a team atmosphere in a sport where everyone competes individually in all the other events.

"When (assistant coach) Chris Smucker and I started coaching seven years ago under (former) coach Jess Turner, there was a huge emphasis on the relays," Fricker said. "Just that excitement and vibe that everyone on the team knew — the relays were important. The realys are teamwork."

The emphasis on the program's relay teams passed from Turner to head coach Todd Swan (2016-18) to Fricker, who grabbed the baton two years ago and continued the tradition with her coaching regime.

"We kept that tradition and that focus on the relays, because we saw the athletes be so happy to be on a relay, excited to be on a relay and to see it create more opportunities," she said.

The last time St. Paul didn't send a girls relay team to the state meet in either the 4x100 or 4x400 was 2004. In the 16 meets since, the Bucks have sent their 4x100 girls relay team to state 14 times — only missing out in 2015 and 2017 when St. Paul was a 2A program. The short relay team has won the state title on five occasions in that span (2005, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021). The 4x400 relay team has pulled in 10 medals in that span, and two states titles in 2019 and 2021.

Fricker said the focus on relays helps draw those student athletes into other indivdual events on the track, such as the short sprints, mid-distance events or hurdles — which often translates to strong performances at the state championship meets.

"Part of that is creating a team atmosphere – a team culture that we talk about," Fricker said. "We are a championship team, we have that background and we have that success and we want to continue being a championship team by winning districts and placing top four at state."

As if to emphasize the point, each of the Buckaroos' four relay champions went on to place in other events at the state meet.

Davidson took home medals in both sprints, placing fourth in the 100 (13.71) and fifth in the 200 (28.65). Hempfling followed behind Davidson in the 200 with a sixth-place finish (28.72), and added an eighth-place medal in the 400 (1:06.11).

Gracie Koch took fourth in the 100 hurdles and seventh in the 100 (13.81). Stella Koch added a fourth-place finish in the triple jump (31-01).

Genevieve Hurliman rounded out the team with a 15th-place finish in the 800 (2:57.51).

COURTESY PHOTO: ST. PAUL TRACK AND FIELD - St. Paul's Jaden Thompson won the state title in the 200-meter dash, while teammate Hunter Naumann placed fifth, helping the Buckaroos place eighth overall in the final team standings.Boys

The boys team saw success individually, in part due a missed opportunity in their own relay attempt at the state meet.

The Buckaroos' 4x100 relay team of Adam Cook, Hunter Naumann, George Pohlschneider and Jaden Thompson were unable to finish the race after failing their final handoff.

Instead of dwelling on the disappointing result, Fricker said the four channeled their frustration into success elsewhere at the meet, helping the boys team place eight overall in the final standings.

"the relay team could have given up, but they were able to take that adversity and utilize it and perform even better than what they were doing going into state," Fricker said.

Thompson powered to a state championship performance in the 200, claiming victory in the event with a PR-time of 23.40 to clip Powder Valley's Kaiden Krieger by 0.29 seconds. The St. Paul senior went on to post another PR in the 100, placing third with a time of 11.40.

"I think Jaden took all those emotions and frustrations and just lit up in the 200, which was extremely impressive for a seasoned runner to be able to approach that adversity with the best mindset," Fricker said.

Thomspson rounded out his day with a 10th-place leap of 39-01 in the triple jump.

Cook took home a pair of sixth-place medals in the 100 (11.66) and 110 hurdles (17.22), both personal bests for the senior.

Naumann placed fifth in the 200 (24.21) and seventh in the 110 hurdles (17.70), also PRs for the sophomore. And Pohlschneider grabbed a sixth-place finish in the long jump with a PR-leap of 18-10.75.

Rounding out the boys team, senior Broden Lear placed 11th in the 3,000 with a time of 10:33.76, and Jackson Cook placed 13th in the 800 with a PR-time of 2:15.68.

Passing the baton

The St. Paul track and field program has sent a representative to the state meet in at least one relay event every year since 2005.

2021

Girls 4x100 – 1st

Girls 4x400 – 1st

Boys 4x100 – DNF

2019

Girls 4x100 – 1st

Girls 4x400 – 1st

Boys 4x100 – 3rd

Boys 4x400 – 11th

2018 (2A)

Girls 4x100 – 4th

Girls 4x400 – 2nd

Boys 4x100 – 3rd

Boys 4x400 – 6th

2017 (2A)

Girls 4x400 – 2nd

Boys 4x400 – 3rd

2016 (2A)

Girls 4x100 – 2nd

Girls 4x400 – 7th

Boys 4x100 – 4th

Boys 4x400 – 6th

2015 (2A)

Girls 4x400 – 5th

2014

Girls 4x100 – 2nd

Boys 4x400 – 4th

2013

Girls 4x100 – 1st

Girls 4x400 – 6th

2012

Girls 4x100 – 1st

2011

Girls 4x100 – 2nd

Girls 4x400 – 2nd

2010

Girls 4x100 – 4th

Girls 4x400 – 2nd

2009

Girls 4x100 – 2nd

Girls 4x400 – 4th

2008

Girls 4x100 – 7th

2007

Girls 4x100 – 7th

Boys 4x100 – 4th

Boys 4x400 – 4th

2006

Girls 4x100 – 8th

Boys 4x400 – 8th

2005

Girls 4x100 – 1st


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