KASSON, Minn. (KTTC) — Every spring, high school track and field athletes showcase their skills at an elite meet at Hamline University. While the best of the best compete, there are talented junior high athletes who don’t get that chance. At least, that was the case until one Kasson-Mantorville coach had a brilliant idea.
Junior high athletes on high school teams is nothing new, but when the season ends some are left at the finish line.
“There’s sections and state for varsity, but the season kind of ends for the junior high kids abruptly, so we just try and see if we can put something together for them,” said Erik Myran, the head coach of the Kasson-Mantorville High School track team.
Myran is not only a track coach, he is the man behind Minnesota’s one-of-a-kind elite meet for junior high athletes.
“He kind of threw it out there to some of the area coaches, and they had some real interest in it, and just kind of went with it, and it was a hit,” said Kasson-Mantorville Track and Field Assistant Coach Pete Wyttenbach.
For those students who qualify it can be just the start they need.
“If they make that elite meet, that’s a confidence booster, and that excites them,” said Wyttenbach. “They want to work harder, and they want to stick with track.”
The meet prepares these students for high school success.
“It will get us more comfortable with how the meet is run and how to do things,” explained eighth grader Kelli Schneider who competes in multiple track and field events.
It gives them a glimpse of future rivals.
“I’d really like to be in that because it’s like the best athletes that are in that, so it really pushes me to try my best, and get through it,” said Kinsey Koebele who is also an eighth grader competing for Kasson-Mantorville.
With this new meet comes new and unique technology.
“We have kids at the finish line, and as everyone is crossing they are holding up a cell phone,” explained Myran while demonstrating. “They take it over to the TV, and it transfers from the iPhone to the TV itself, so we can go in slow motion frame by frame, and they can watch themselves cross the finish line.”
Myran is pulling out all the stops to ensure athletes across the state stick with the sport he loves, a sport off the beaten path.
“We try and give them that big stage feel, so it’s one more thing that keeps them hooked on the sport,” said Myran. “It makes sure they come back as freshman, and love the sport of track and field.”
It appears, so far, his inspiration is taking flight.
“Last year we had teams from the cities, western Minnesota, northern Minnesota, some local teams, and I watched the kids as they cross the finish line giving high fives shaking hands, walking over to the slow motion finish and how excited they were,” said Wyttenbach with a smile. “They didn’t even know each other.”
With the end of the regular season around the corner these athletes will have no reason to hang up their shoes. Myran and the rest of the Kasson-Mantorville coaches are already tweeting their players work out schedules and results. They will be sure to keep it up when the elite meet kicks off May 22 at Kasson-Mantorville High School.