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WARRIORS ATHLETE OF WEEK: Former stars influenced current hurdles standout

Kelsi Ring and Madison Smith were two of the best girls hurdlers to ever compete for the Brainerd Warriors.

Their status on the Warriors’ honor roll (top 15 in school history) supports that fact, as well as what they have accomplished in their post-high school careers.

Ring, now competing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, ranks first in school history in the 60-meter hurdles (9.15), second in the 100 high hurdles (14.72) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (48.39).

Smith, now competing for the University of Minnesota, ranks No. 1 in school history in the 300s (44.47), second in the 60s (9.63) and third in the 100s (14.91).

Part of the legacy Ring and Smith left on the program was the mentoring they did with then-freshman Brainerd hurdler Chloe Miller, who is now hurdling in their footsteps. Miller ranks third in the 60s (10.09) and ninth in the 100s (16.37).

“They were so great,” Miller said of Ring and Smith. “They taught me a lot. They were my friends. They helped me through my freshman year. They made me who I am as a hurdler.”

Warriors hurdling coach Howie Jacobs also credited Ring and Smith for Miller’s development.

“She really learned a lot from them,” he said. “Chloe’s probably the best at warming up of anybody. She learned a lot from those two about how to get ready for a meet.”

Miller has roared over the hurdles this year. In last week’s Brainerd Time Trials, she scored wins in the 100 hurdles and long jump.

“It was really windy that day,” Miller said. “I just did my best. I switched legs a couple times (in the hurdles) but it all worked out in the end.

“I had four (long) jumps. My first was my best one. It felt really good. It was just a good meet.”

Miller opened the season with wins in the 60s at the Huskie Classic and the Central Lakes Conference Indoor meets, both at St. Cloud State University.

“I switched lead legs this year, that’s helped me out,” she said. “It’s been a learning experience. I’ve had to work on it and it’s paying off.

“I used to go over the top with my right leg. Coach Jacobs and I found out that I was much faster going over with the left leg.”

Jacobs said the leg switch has paid dividends.

“During the first two weeks of practice we switched lead legs, which is almost unheard of for a hurdler,” he said. “It turns out she’s been much faster than she’s been in the past.”

Ring and Smith aren’t the only mentors from whom Miller has learned.

“Coach Jacobs is the best coach I could ask for and I owe all of my accomplishments to him,” she said. “... He is really a great coach.”

Warriors head coach Dan Clabo said Miller is one of the team’s hardest workers and should vie for one of the top spots in the section 100 and 300 hurdles races.

“She’s in very good shape, and our indoor meets pretty much showed it,” Clabo said. “She’s knocked off time, bettered her best in the first two meets. She’s off to a very good start.”

Miller’s work in the weight room is another reason she has made improvement this spring.

“Coach Jacobs puts an emphasis on squatting,” she said. “That’s helped with the 300 hurdles, endurance-wise.”

In June, Miller hopes to return to the section finals in the 100s for the third straight year. She finished sixth last year and eighth as a freshman.

“It would be awesome to have an opportunity to go to state,” Miller said. “I will have to improve but I think it’s a possibility.”

Other notable efforts:

• Jackson Walters, boys track and field, won two events and were on a winning relay in the Brainerd Time Trials meet.

• Cole Smith, boys track and field, won two events and were on a winning relay in the Brainerd Time Trials meet.

• Nikki Anderson, softball, pitched 10 scoreless innings, including a one-hit complete game, against Moorhead.