Olson brings home gold

Ely junior wins state track championship in Class A 800 run

by Tom Coombe
The state champion in the 800 meter run came right out of centerfield.
Instead of chasing fly balls, Luke Olson was being chased by his opponents in track all spring long - all the way up to last weekend’s state meet in St. Paul.
But nobody ever caught the Ely junior, who won the Class A title late Saturday afternoon with a blazing time of 1:55.48.
Olson, an all-state cross country runner who converted from baseball to track this spring, made history in many ways.
Not only did he win a state title in his first year of action, but he is believed to be Ely’s first-ever boys state track champion. Larry Berkner was the closest, finishing second in the 1,600 run in 1975.
Olson, who won the Section 7A title a week earlier, had the top seed entering the state meet and was first after the June 7 preliminaries.
In Saturday’s final, he was bound and determined and didn’t let up.
“He really showed a desire for winning the state championship and took care of business on the track,” said Ely Head Coach Will Helms. “I won’t say that it looked easy--the 800 race at Luke’s level is ridiculously hard--but Luke never showed any struggle or weakness on the Hamline track. Not a bad finish to his first year of track and field.”
Olson, who set a goal of winning the section championship during his first season, met that goal and kept right on going to St. Paul. A look at the section times of his opponents made him realize even bigger things could be in store.
“When I got the number-one seed for state I realized that I could win the meet,” Olson said Thursday. “I focused up and told myself that I am the best runner on the track. I stuck with the same plan I had done all year, that being getting to the lead and holding it. It worked out that way and I was able to control the whole race.”
Olson recorded a personal best of 1:55.8 in 90-degree heat in the preliminaries.
It stayed hot for Saturday’s final, but Olson seemed locked in
“Heading in to finals, we knew there was at least one runner from the other prelim heats who had a very strong finishing kick,” said Helms. “Luke knew that he basically had to run the same race as prelims, but be prepared this time for a runner to come off his shoulder in the final straight. In the finals, Luke was ready--and even held something in reserve going out a tiny bit slower in lap one at 56.3--but the attack never came, as Luke was the one to surge at the end and pull away from the second place runner.”
Olson’s time not only was a personal best but a school record, and he had a narrow margin of victory over second-place Jaden Maanum (1:56.18) of Morris/Chokio-Alberta.
Also medaling was Virginia eighth-grader Cameron Stocke (2:01.07), who placed ninth.
Olson also qualified for two Ely relay teams that made it to state, but Helms replaced him with alternates in both events so he could focus on the 800.
“We cleared the deck for Luke going into the meet,” said Helms.
Olson responded with strong showings in both the preliminaries and finals, and became Ely’s first state track champion since 1999, when Letitia Dusich won the 300 hurdles in the State Class A girls meet.
Helms said Olson appeared to be on a mission, with the Ely junior overcoming the heat when otheres appeared to wilt.
“Luke’s preparation was excellent all weekend,” said Helms. “He stayed out of the heat and away from the crowds, warmed up properly. and ran both races with an icy determination..”
Olson was part of a state-qualifying Ely baseball team in 2017, while last fall he gained all-state status while taking seventh in the Class A boys cross country meet.
Saturday, however, marked a new level of success.
“Winning a state title has always been a dream of mine so to actually do it is pretty unbelievable and still setting in,” said Olson.