Boys Track and Field: Stars should shine bright for Warrior boys

The Brainerd Warriors will open their season Saturday, April 1, in the Central Lakes Conference indoor championship.

Brainerd Track and Field practice Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Coach Rod Reuer checks a stopwatch during Brainerd Track and Field practice as athletes work on conditioning Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — For the first time in more than 20 years the Brainerd Warriors celebrated an individual state championship last season.

Andrew Albright captured the Class 3A state shot put title with a heave of 57-foot-1. What’s surprising is Albright’s closest competition could have been his younger teammate Dylan Gross, who as a freshman placed sixth at state with a 52-2.75 toss. Gross was injured prior to last season’s Section 8-3A meet and didn’t get to compete. However, the junior is coming off a strong football season and just set multiple records for the Sertoma Sunrise Warrior Liftathon.

“He’s healthy and that’s the first time in two years that he’s come into the season healthy,” Warriors head coach Rod Reuer said. “Even his freshman year he was coming into the season injured. Expectations are that he’ll be back to where he was when he capped off his freshman season and beyond. He’s coming in in great shape. He’s got unbelievable strength.“

Gross’s personal best shot put has him fifth on the Warrior Honor Roll. It came last year when he hit 55-0.25. Along with throwing discus, expect Gross to get time on the track.

“He’s come in in good running shape and the plan is to use him as a sprinter as well,” Reuer said. “He’s actually been working with sprinters. We’ll start with the 100 dash and see where he falls into place. He could potentially be a leg on a 4x1 relay, but we’re not going to extend him any further than that. He’s a big kid.”


Junior Mitch Wind will give Brained another one-two punch in the throwing department this year. Wind finished 14th in the section meet as a sophomore with a shot put toss of 41-1.

“Dylan is the one who is the leader of the pack there, but we’re looking to see someone like Mitch Wind step up. He showed great improvement at the end of the season last year and he’s grown into his body. That was evident in football this fall. We’re looking at him taking a nice jump as well.

“After that, it’s a wide-open race. We have a bunch of new kids trying that event.”

Highlighting Brainerd’s track presence will be junior Brandon Stark and senior Dillon MacLaughlin.

Rod Reuer
Rod Reuer
Kelly Humphrey

Stark advanced to last year’s 400-meter dash state finals and placed eighth in 50.11, which bettered his prelim time of 50.46 and placed him fourth on Brainerd’s Honor Roll. Stark was also a member of Brainerd’s 4x800 relay team that placed third at state with an 8.00.5. That time is good for second on the honor roll. Stark’s three running mates, however, graduated. Expect the versatile athlete to team up for maybe a 4x4 or 4x2 relay.

“Individually, the 400 is his main event,” Reuer said. “Just like Dylan, he’s coming into the season in great shape. Both those guys did some competitive events during the winter and had some pretty good performances at that point. They’ve both been weight room fanatics and done a great job of off-season training.

“With Brandon, it’s just about where we reign him in. He can run anything from the 100 to the 800 and possibly a field event, but he can fill a need wherever we need it. He’s lost his three counterparts in the 4x8 so that particular relay team would be a different group of individuals. It’s nice to have a kid like Brandon back.”

Gavin Hoelzel and Brandon Stark are two of the returning state competitors for Brainerd Track and Field Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Gavin Hoelzel and Brandon Stark are two of the returning state competitors for Brainerd Track and Field Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Brainerd High School. Not pictured is state returner Dillon MacLaughlin.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

A possible relay teammate could be MacLaughlin. The senior qualified for the state 200 dash. He posted a 22.69 in the prelims to finish 15th overall. MacLaughlin’s personal best time is 22.53, which has him eighth on the honor roll. He just missed qualifying for the state 100 dash as he placed third in the section meet behind two graduated Moorhead Spuds. MacLaughlin ran an 11.28 in the 100 dash at sections and a 22.65 in the 200 dash. MacLaughlin does own the school record in the 100 dash with a 10.89.


“He’s our school record 100-meter dash guy and it’s kind of nice having that guy return,” Reuer said. “He’s excited to take that next step to hopefully get back to state and be a state-type place winner. It’s hard to say. What we’re really looking for him is to be that senior leader. We have a lot of younger sprinters coming into the fold. This is probably the first time in a number of years that we may have enough pure speed to probably do something in the 4x1 and 4x2 relays. We kind of have core guys who we can put in those shorter relays.”

MacLaughlin also teamed with senior Gavin Hoelzel and junior Charlie Pikula for Brainerd’s 4x100 relay. Along with graduated Sean Baumann, the Warriors placed fourth in the section meet.

Hoelzel also advanced to last year’s state meet as he placed second in the section pole vault with a 12-7 effort. That is his personal best and has him 13th on the honor roll.

“He’ll be our top returning pole vaulter,” Reuer said. “He’s also our top 300 hurdler and a top relay guy. Gavin, right now, is probably focusing more on pole vault, but once the season gets rolling he’ll be a 300 hurdler and we’ll see where he fits in a relay. He probably won’t be in any open events. But between hurdles and pole vault, those will be his top two events and we’ll get him a relay spot.”

The senior Alpine skier placed fifth in the 300 hurdles at sections with a 42.78.

Hoelzel also led off Brainerd’s 4x200 relay with Bennett Bernander, Pikula and Baumann. That team placed fifth at sections. One sprinter who was hurt last year, but showed promise is Isaak Malay Reuer said.

“It seems like Charlie has been around for a long time, but he’s still only a junior, Reuer said. “He had a really great offseason and showed well at the liftathon. We’re excited to see him take that next step up. Charlie is maybe a little bit later in maturing than some of these other guys were so we’re excited.

“Bennett is just blossoming into being a very good athlete. Last year was his first year that he came on and he had a great soccer season and turned out to be a pretty good kicker for the football team. He’s coming back bigger and stronger, too, so it’s going to be exciting to see these kids.


“That’s the case for most of these guys. We only have six seniors on the team, which is the smallest group of seniors that I can remember having in my career here, but we have really solid numbers all the way through. We’re right around 60 athletes.”

The Warriors graduated a strong core of distance runners from last year’s team that placed second in the Central Lakes Conference, third in the Section 8-3A and 13th at state.

The lone returning distance runner is senior Nolan Thiesse who is coming off a strong cross-country running season and a state appearance for swimming and diving. Thiesse placed 10th in the 3200 run at sections.

“He’s kind of grown into his own,” Reuer said. “I won’t say he’s been a second fiddle, but he’s run with some pretty strong veteran kids. He was always right there. He showed potential down the stretch.

“The thing about Nolan is he is an unbelievable leader. He will do anything he needs to do to help out his team. He’s just a tremendous kid to lead that distance crew.”

Albright won the section triple jump title last year. Bernander was 10th with a 39-6.25 effort and Ty Nelson placed 19th with a 34-5.5. Nelson is coming off a football injury, but should be at full strength for postseason.

Senior Cole Fjeld placed 14th in the long jump at sections with a 17-10 effort. Jake Merseth was 16th with his 17-6.25. Fjeld also competed in the section high jump as did sophomore Ayden Wheeler-Carranza.

Sophomore Kyle Peterson placed 17th in the 100 high hurdles and sophomore David Herath also competed in the 300 hurdles last season.


“It’s going to be somewhat of a rebuilding year,” Reuer said. “It’s going to be a fun year because, again, we show that we have some high-end talent coming back, but then we’re going to have to fill in with some new kids along the way.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Warrior schedule

Saturday, April 1: Central Lakes Conference Indoor Championship, St. John’s University 9 a.m.

April 13: Brainerd Quadrangular 4 p.m.

April 21: at Sartell Triangular 4 p.m.

April 25: Bainerd Trianagular 4 p.m.

April 28: Hamline Elite, St. Paul 5:30 p.m.


May 5: at Wayzata Relays 3:30 p.m.

May 9: Section 8-3A True Team meet at Brainerd 3 p.m.

May 16: at Sauk Rapids Triangular 4 p.m.

May 23: Central Lakes Conference Championship at Sartell 3 p.m.

May 31: Section 8-3A Prelims at Brainerd 3 p.m.

June 3: Section 8-3A Finals at St. Michael-Albetville 11 a.m.

June 8-10: Class 3A State Track and field meet

Prelims 9 a.m. Thursday, June 8


Finals 5 p.m. Saturday, June 10

Warrior roster

Seniors: Cole Fjeld, Eli Hallgren, Gavin Hoelzel, Dillon MacLaughlin, Joey Oto, Nolan Thiesse

Juniors: Andrew Adamson, Ben Allord, Bennett Bernander, Jaxon Fasching, Dylan Gross, John Hagen, Leif Hoffman, Jorey Jackson, Isaak Malay, Jake Merseth, Charles Pikua, James Rabasco, Preston Siebolds, Brandon Stark, Sebastian Tisdell, Derron Tumpkin, Matt Toews, Mitch Wind

Sophomores: Jordan Davis, Gabe Hallgren, David Herath, Matthew Lekatz, Alex Lelwica, Carter Mielke, Ty Nelson, Joe Neumann, Kyle Peterson, Kaden Schilling, Tucker Schwartz, Ben Stadum, Axton Svir, Ayden Wheeler-Carranza, Drew Wood

Freshmen: Travis Albrecht, Austin Asher, Bradyn Booth, Wyatt Brown, Logan Daniels, Jason Feigum, Daxum Hastings, Dylan Helmin, Michael Jentsch, Grant Johnson, Benedict Laube, Rhett Lemmerhirt, Hunter Litzinger, Preston Miller, Austin Nichols, Ashton Peterson, Kaiden Raske, Sam Renner, Joe Smith, Weston Thiesse, Alex Yeager

Boys track and field

Head coach: Rod Reuer, 41st year (3 years head coach at Page, N.D., 1 year head coach at Napoleon, N.D., 1 year as a graduate assistant coach at NDSU), 23 years head coach at Brainerd, 8 years assistant at Brainerd, 4 years Brainerd junior high coach)
Boys 2022 finish: Second in CLC, third in Section 8-3A, 13th at Class 3A state
Assistant coaches: Kris Smith (long and triple jumps), Dave Herath (middle distance), Ashley Rutman (long sprints), Robb Kolodziej (pole vault), Landon Brainerd (high jump), Kelsi Brusehaver (hurdles), Travis Raske (sprint), Will Riley (throws), Tracy Riley (throws), Brady Rutman (volunteer distance)

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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