Trio set to storm into WIAA track finals
LA CROSSE, Wis. — There’s a storm at this year’s WIAA track and field championships in La Crosse.
Three of them, actually.
Three members of the Northwoods Storm, the co-op track and field team for Niagara and Florence, were set to attend the state finals on Friday and Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Stadium Complex on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
The trio includes senior Blake Smith and sophomore Kamdan Johnson from Florence, and Niagara’s Morgan Borchardt, also a senior.
Borchardt qualified for the long jump, where she is seeded 15th overall.
“As an athlete, Morgan has been a dream to coach the last several years and she has set an example and been a leader within the team,” said Storm coach Pam Jensen.
Johnson, who was recently honored as the Storm’s 2023 Female MVP, is set to run the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash. Johnson is seeded third and 12th, respectively, in the two events.
Then, there’s Smith, who qualified to compete in three events — the 110-meter hurdles, the 300-meter hurdles and the triple jump — at the state finals.
“Overall the team had a pretty decent year, (but) like all spring sports we fought with the weather, then of course spring break and prom and all of the other academic and end of the year recognition events,” said Jensen. “But our athletes trained hard and we had a lot of personal records throughout the season.”
Indeed, Smith and Johnson have already had a record-setting season for the Storm, even before heading to La Crosse.
According to his coach, Smith set a new school record in a winning time of 15.52 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles at the North Dickinson Invitational on May 8.
That was after he’d broken the school record in the triple jump at a meet in Gillett on April 14 with a jump of 41 feet, 7.5 inches. If that wasn’t good enough, he reset the record with a jump of 41 feet, 11 inches at the sectional meet in Marathon on May 25, where he placed fourth.
But Jensen said it isn’t necessarily Smith’s successes that drives him. Instead, part of his motivation comes from not qualifying out of the 300-meter hurdle preliminaries at last year’s state finals.
“After that, I remember him saying, ‘That’s not going to happen next year,'” Jensen added. “He made goals for himself to become a stronger athlete throughout the offseason, to come back this season with the ultimate goal of not only being a school record holder, but getting on the podium in all three of his main events at our state meet.
“So far, it looks as though he’s right on track to achieve them.”
Like Smith, Johnson also holds a school record, having run the 100-meter hurdles in 15.35 seconds at the M&O Conference Meet on May 12 in Suring.
“Kamdan Johnson is surely one to keep your eye on,” Jensen said. “She has had an incredible season this year in all of her events, becoming stronger and faster at every meet.”
And, it was at Suring that Smith, the team’s 2023 Male MVP, replaced his old record of 41.22 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles with a new mark of 39.74 seconds. Heading to La Crosse, Smith was seeded seventh in 110-meter hurdles, fifth in the 300-meter hurdles and 10th in the triple jump.
“I don’t have enough good things to say to about this athlete,” Jensen added.