Burke leads Minot in Day 1 of state track & field meet

Justin Martinez/MDN Minot High School freshman MaLiah Burke (5) leads the pack during the 200-meter dash on Friday in the state track & field meet at the MDU Resources Community Bowl.

BISMARCK — Elite competition. Age differential. Rain showers. None of that was going to stop MaLiah Burke.

The conditions at Friday’s opening day of the state track & field meet in Bismarck weren’t ideal to say the least, as even the fastest of runners couldn’t elude the off-and-on rain showers that poured down on the track of the MDU Resources Community Bowl.

But amongst the gloomy weather and the cloudy skies was a shining star for the Minot High School track & field team: a freshman by the name of MaLiah Burke.

The young speedster more than held her own against the top talent in the state, as she qualified for two finals events on a day where the Majettes and Magicians showcased their skills.

“I just tried to block out (the rain) and run as fast as I could today,” Burke said. “Going into finals, I just need to try to stay towards the top to finish in a good place.”

Justin Martinez/MDN Minot High School junior William Walker-Rozo races down the track during the 1600-meter run on Friday in the state track & field meet at the MDU Resources Community Bowl.

Burke set the tone for the Majettes in the fourth heat of the 100-meter dash. With light showers raining down, the gold-and-maroon blur quickly emerged from the pack and earned a first-place finish in the heat with a time of 12.73 seconds — 0.30 seconds faster than her closest competitor.

Keeping up that momentum for Minot was Triston Emke, who clawed his way into the finals of the 300-meter hurdles with a third-place finish (41.47 seconds) in Heat 1.

Emke then followed that performance up in the 110-meter hurdles, where he took third (15.68 seconds) in his heat with a time of 15.68 seconds.

“I felt good about (today’s races),” Emke said. “There were a lot of good runners in my heats, but I’m just happy to be moving on to the finals. I just need to come back tomorrow and run a better race…That’s when it matters.”

It was around this time that the skies cleared up, but the brief sense of bliss was short-lived.

Justin Martinez/MDN Minot High School junior Easton Larson (8) clears a hurdle during the 300-meter hurdles on Friday in the state track & field meet at the MDU Resources Community Bowl.

Mother Nature flipped the switch once more — this time with even more ferocity — and heavy rain came crashing down on Burke while she prepared for her 200-meter dash that was set to begin in a few minutes.

For the freshman, the sudden change in weather was just part of the battle. Burke got into position and waited for the start of the race.

The sound of the starting gun tore through the air soon afterwards, and madness ensued.

Burke rapidly pumped her hands back and forth. Her hair was soaking. Droplets were running down her face. Each step produced a splash of water as she turned the corner of the track and reached the home stretch.

Now in fourth place with about 30 feet remaining, the freshman made one last push. Burke crossed the finish line with no time to spare, as she claimed the second-to-last spot in the finals with a time of 26.71 seconds.

In the discus finals, sophomore Jenna Hardy placed fourth with a distance of 109 feet.

Also placing in the finals for the Majettes was junior Allie Nelson, who took fifth in the high jump (5 feet, 1 inch). Nelson battled her way into the finals in the 400-meter dash as well by placing fourth (1:00.67) in Heat 2.

Seniors Carson Tofteland and Cody Burke then qualified for the finals of the 400-meter dash by taking fourth (51.92 seconds) and fifth (51.99 seconds), respectively, in Heat 2.

With the preliminaries in the books, both the Majettes and the Magi shift their focus to Day 2 of the state track & field meet today at 8:45 a.m.

“A lot of it is just setting up for (today),” MHS coach Aaron Klingbeil said. “The scores don’t matter much after Day 1 because so few things are scored…We’re excited for it.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.