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Track and Field: Nevis' Jade Rypkema wins state title in two distance events

The Tigers' Ayo Ogundeji and George Bjorklund also compete at the state Class A meet.

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Nevis' Jade Rypkema, shown running at the Section 8A meet, defended her title in the 3,200-meter run and won the title in the 1,600-meter run at the state Class A girls track and field meet, which concluded on Friday, June 10, 2022, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Contributed / Jodi Sandmeyer<br/><br/>
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ST. MICHAEL – Jade Rypkema was confident of repeating as the state champion in the 3,200-meter run, but wasn’t as sure about winning the state title in the 1,600-meter run at the Class A girls track and field meet at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

The Nevis junior left no doubt about who was the best Class A female distance runner in Minnesota.

Rypkema opened her third state meet by winning the 3,200 in 10:36.99 on Thursday, June 9, and followed by leading the field in the 1,600 with a 5:04.16 on Friday, June 10.

“I felt like my chances were good in both events. Of course, with racing anything can happen and the competition at state is a different caliber,” said Rypkema. “However, a lot of my workouts have been going great recently and pointing in that direction.”

As far as strategy going into this year’s state meet, Rypkema just wanted to run her race in both events.

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“My strategy going into both races depended on what my competitors decided to do. For the 3,200, I wanted to keep the race at an honest sustained pace. Then, nearing 800 meters to go, I switched gears to try to separate from my competition,” said Rypkema. “The 1,600 was quite similar, but I decided to sit until 800 to 1,000 meters and then just kick it in from there. I feel like I executed both quite well. If anything, I sat a little bit longer than I should have in the mile, but it worked out in the end.”

In the 3,200, Rypkema was favored to win the state title after entering as the No. 1 seed with a 10:40.78 that shattered the Section 8A record. Rypkema led from start to finish in that race, clocking a 1:19.41 opening lap and following with splits of 1:20.67, 1:21.28, 1:23.15, 1:21.98, 1:20.64 and 1:17.81 before closing with a final 400 of 1:12.05 in defending her state title. Murray County Central’s Amanda Overgaauw was second in 10:51.56 while Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Natasha Sortland was third in 11:05.75 in the 16-runner field.

“After winning the 3,200 last year, I knew I could win it again. One of my main competitors, Amanda Overgaauw, was also returning to the race, but that just made it more exciting,” said Rypkema. “Like my coach always says: ‘The hay is in the barn.’ Running is all fun and strategy, so I just get to go and enjoy it. Racing is the easy part.”

Winning the 3,200 gave Rypkema plenty of confidence to win the title in the 1,600 as well. Rypekma was also the No. 1 seed in that race after winning the Section 8A title in 5:19.74.

Rypkema was in fifth place with a 1:16.06 on the first lap before taking the lead with a 1:21.67 second lap. Rypkema maintained the lead with a 1:16.90 split on the third lap before closing with a 1:09.43 to run away from the competition. Sortland followed in 5:07.36 while St. John’s Prep’s Olivia Pauly was third in 5:15.51 in the 16-runner field.

“After winning the 3,200, I just had to reset for the mile,” said Rypkema. “I was not as nervous going into the mile because I had already accomplished half my state goals. I really wanted to go out and just enjoy the race.”

“Jade ran extremely well at the state meet, setting her personal best time in the 3,200. She watches the times of the other runners all year, so she knows what she needs to do to win. She took the lead in the 3,200 and never looked back. The mile was a different story. She ran in a pack for the first 800 and then broke away the last 800 to bring home the championship,” said Nevis head coach Jen McNamee. “Jade is a very dedicated runner who puts in many miles during the season and offseason. All her hard work has paid off and she reached her goals of becoming a double state champion.”

Those two finishes gave Nevis 24 points to share 10th place in the girls team standings. Eden Valley-Watkins won the state title with 81 points.

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The two state titles gave Rypkema four state medals (including three golds) in her career. Rypkema won the state title in the 3,200 in 10:54.32 and was sixth in the 1,600 in 5:13.11 last season while placing 16th in the 3,200 in 12:00.63 in her state debut in 2019. The 2020 track season was canceled because of COVID.

Now Rypkema is headed to Eugene, Oregon, for nationals this week before training for the start of cross country season this fall. Looking ahead to next spring, Rypkema will be looking to win all her races again and defend her two state titles.

“This summer, I have track nationals this upcoming week. After that, I will just start summer training again and get ready for cross country,” said Rypkema. “Next year's track season is far away, but I would love to set some time records and continue an undefeated Minnesota season.”

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Nevis' George Bjorklund (left) capped off his senior season by winning the Section 8A title in the 1,600-meter run and placing 16th in that race at the 2002 state Class A meet.
Contributed / Jodi Sandmeyer

Nevis’ Ogundeji, Bjorklund compete

ST. MICHAEL – Nevis senior Goerge Bjorklund and freshman Ayo Ogundeji were also looking to join Rypkema and bring home medals from the state Class A boys track and field meet.

Ogundeji was able to fulfill that goal in his second state trip while Bjorklund fell short in his first and final state meet.

Ogundeji entered as the No. 19 seed out of 21 qualifiers in the 100 with a runner-up 11.60 at the section meet and as the No. 16 seed out of 20 qualifiers in the 200 with a section runner-up time of 23.33.

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Nevis' Ayo Ogundeji (middle), shown competing at the Section 8A meet, qualified for the 2022 state Class A boys track and field meet in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Ogundeji placed ninth in the 200 at the state meet.
Contributed / Jodi Sandmeyer

During Thursday’s preliminaries, Ogundeji finished 14th in the 100 in 11.13 as Luverne’s Ashton Sandbulte won the state title in 10.91. In the 200, Ogundeji earned the final spot in the finals by placing ninth in 22.59. In Friday’s finals, Ogundeji placed ninth in 24.83 to give Nevis 1 point in the team standings as Sandbulte topped the field in 21.94.

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Ogundeji finished sixth in the 200 in 22.76 and 11th in the 100 in 11.26 at last year’s state meet.

“Ayo raced to two new school records and personal bests at the state meet. We changed some things up with this start before state and it made a difference in him getting out of the blocks quickly,” said McNamee. “His hip flexor was bothering him in the finals, but we were happy he finished and was able to get on the podium. Ayo has an extremely bright future ahead of him.”

Bjorklund entered his first state meet as the No. 14 seed out of 17 qualifiers in the 1,600 after winning the Section 8A title in 4:38.83. Bjorklund finished 15th in 4:39.93 during Thursday’s preliminaries as Perham’s Jacob McCleary won the state title in 4:21.12.

“George was very happy with his performance at state time wise. He was one second off his personal best time,” said McNamee. “Obviously, like all athletes, he would have loved to have made it to the podium, but he was very happy with the time in his last high school race and loved the experience of racing at the state meet.”

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Winning Section 8A title, placing in three events at the state Class A meet highlighted season.

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