Blake Aller, a junior at Litchfield High School, started track late but is performing well after two seasons.
It’s a growth he’s seen in practically every 200-meter race since joining Litchfield’s track team last year, including the biggest race of his life at the State Class AA Track and Field Meet Saturday at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Nervous. Slow start. Amazing acceleration. Win.
Aller won the state championship with a 21.5-second time.
Aller stated his triumph felt amazing. “Today ended the season well.”
Aller also became the first LHS track and field state winner since Natalie Devine won the girls high jump title in 2006.
State champion. That’s huge!” Shane Satterlee, Litchfield head coach. “He’s my first state champion. Another year.”
Satterlee’s “experiment” went well.
After years of tennis, Aller joined the track squad last year. Football quickness and explosiveness were his goals. He didn’t know what events to run.
Satterlee tested him in numerous areas.
“I accidentally put him in the 200,” Satterlee said. “I probably would have tried him there eventually, but that first meet was kind of an accident. He likes it now.”
Understandably. He is usually the 200 favorite due to his second-half pace. He might become a better sprinter if he keeps practicing starts and soothing his anxieties.
Saturday’s 200 finals nervousness from Aller had the Dragons coaching staff on edge.
Satterlee took over as pole vault coach for Dragons senior Raina Kaping, who finished fourth at state. Assistant coach Bill King watched Aller warm up across the track complex.
Satterlee called Aller nervous. Bill King texted, “He’s pretty nervous.”
Satterlee visited Aller after Kaping completed his final vault.
Satterlee stated they strolled and spoke. “I tried to tell him, ‘Hey, you’ll do fine. You’re anxious. It’ll be amazing. You’ll go once that gun disappears.
Before that, Aller crouched into the blocks.
I recorded his start, and his butt moved. Satterlee commented, “Oh, you can tell he’s nervous,” and hoped Aller could settle down to avoid a false start. “He started slowly.”
Aller said he was nervous until he exited the blocks.
“The blocks were twitchy. After chatting to his 1,600-meter relay partners, Aller remarked, “I know I was, and I felt it.” “It felt good, but they said it was bad.”
Aller noted earlier this season that if he gets out of the bend within a step of the runners in his lanes, he’s okay. He finished sixth or worse Saturday. He stated his teammates said he was last.
Like many previous 200 races this season and last, he found another gear in the closing 100 meters. He overtook everyone, including Red Wing’s Thomas Lamkin, who pulled up with a hamstring issue on the home stretch. Aller’s finish looked to increase his advantage.
Aller stated he sees and hears “it just goes black” in the final mile. No sound. Then it’s my lane, finish line, and first place.”
He felt awful for Lamkin but didn’t think the injury harmed his outcome.
Aller wished Lamkin well. “But in that instant, I would have taken it.”
Satterlee said Aller “was on a mission.” He now anticipates his star sprinter’s future.
Aller was set to visit Rockford this week for a USA Track and Field event, trying to qualify for a regional competition in Wisconsin later this summer and the nationals in Oregon.
Satterlee said Blake wants to increase his coach exposure. “He’s got a lot to show.”
4×400 relay fifth
After winning the state 200, Aller kept shining. Aller joined Lukas Kuehl, Xander Chvatal, and Garrison Jackman in the 1,600 relay 23 minutes after the 200. Rest entirely.
Aller’s sub-50-second anchor leg split moved Litchfield from eighth to sixth by the finish line.
The relay team first won in Rockford earlier this season.
“We clicked at Rockford,” Kuehl added. We knew we were decent then. We began improving.”
The quartet has targeted school records since late in the regular season. In the Section 5A preliminaries, the 4×400 team shattered a decades-old record, and they’ve smashed it every race since.
They qualified for the state meet finals on Friday with the eighth-fastest prelims time, 3:27.94, reducing their school record. Saturday’s finals were even quicker at 3:26.82.
“We get a little bit faster every time,” Jackman added. “Trying to beat the school record every time we go.”
“We’ve done it like four times,” Chvatal remarked.
More awaits the crew. Aller, Kuehl, and Jackman are juniors; Chvatal is an eighth-grader.
They’ll all return next season when Litchfield drops to Class A for playoffs.
“They broke the school record again,” Satterlee said. Every run is a school record. It began at 3:29 earlier this year. They ran 3:26. That’s massive… and everyone’s returning.”