EVELETH — Lining up for the 1600 meter state championship last month at St. Michael-Albertville High School, Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke didn’t have much when it came to nerves.
He did, however, have a positive attitude and knew that it was time to go out and run the best race of his life. Stocke did just that, winning the 1600 with a time of 4:12.94, a new personal best and less than a second off the Class A record. Leading for almost the entirety of the race and winning by over three seconds, Stocke summed up the entire experience fairly easily.
“It was just amazing,” Stocke said Monday at Fayal Pond in Eveleth, a popular workout spot for the Wolverines track team. “Winning a state championship is great enough but then getting a PR on top of that, well that’s all anyone wants.”
Stocke, who will be entering his junior year at Virginia High School in the fall, claimed a state title in only his second state track meet after finishing the 1600 meter run in third in 2019. After the loss of the 2020 season, Stocke said he couldn’t help but be excited when it came to running in this year’s meet.
“We didn’t have it last year so I was just very excited to be back at state. I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be so I had some confidence going in.”
Stocke attributed some of his level mind set on that day to the training leading up to the meet, as well as realizing it was his last mile-run of the season.
“I knew training had been going very well and I thought that since this was my last race of the year, I better make sure I go all out. There’s nothing to lose at this point.”
Coming up on the final lap of the four-lap race, Stocke realized he still had plenty in the tank and was able to give it his all in the final stretch. Already out in front, the then-sophomore cruised to the win and made Rock Ridge history in the process.
Jon Wagner, co-head coach of the Wolverines, knew Stocke had it in him to win the 1600, but he also thought it could’ve been done even faster.
“Through practice we can assess a runner’s abilities,” Wagner said. “We were able to see what he was able to do in practice with good form, proper technique and good recovery and we were able to use that to figure out how fast he might be able to run. The numbers we see in practice showed us that he can be the 4:12 runner that he is, but in my mind, he’s a 4:08 runner right now.”
His day wasn’t finished just yet, however, as Stocke later had to run in the 800 meter finals. Stocke eventually took second in that race.
“It was a pretty hot day and I just didn’t feel very well after the mile. My legs felt good but my lungs didn’t feel like they had a lot left.”
While Stocke says there were some things limiting him in his 800 run, Wagner thought it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
“I think he was just lacking a little confidence early in that race,” Wagner said. “At the state meet, us coaches are forced to sit in the stands far away but I wish I could’ve been talking with him. You’re not going to feel good running an 800 on a hot day. You’re going to feel lousy. I try to teach all my runners that your body will carry you. Whether you feel good or bad, your body is still there to do the work for you.”
Still, a second place finish to go with the gold medal isn’t so bad. Stocke, however, knows that with a bit more training, the double win at state is certainly possible.
“Winning both would definitely be the goal. I like running the 800. It’s shorter and you need some more of those fast twitch muscle fibers. It’s a competitive race and I like racing right next to other people, which the 800 lets me do.”
A three sport athlete, Stocke also plays basketball for Virginia and will compete on the newly-formed Rock Ridge cross country team in the fall. Always in training mode and always looking for something to do, Stocke says putting his energy into three sports starting in the seventh grade was a wise decision from him.
“I’m the type of kid that’s always liked exercise. I’m looking for something to do almost every day. In the seventh grade, I started to think that It would make more sense if I made it a little more structured with three different sports so I can get more out of it.”
Wagner says Stocke’s ability to stay busy athletically in a variety of ways is a sign of a standout.
“That’s the true mark of any athlete,” Wagner explained. “Your goal is to be fit all year long and be capable of doing anything your body asks you to do. That’s why I’m in favor of three-sport athletes. Cameron has a nice situation with cross country in the fall, track in the spring and basketball in between.
“What I don’t like to see is someone who is just running for 12 months a year. Whether they’re an elite athlete or just a regular person, that tends to not work well. You need a variety and Cameron has found that and he’s much better off because of it.”
When it comes to the future and the expectations now thrust upon him as a state champion, Stocke says he’s not concerned with medals or first place finishes. The goal, as always, is to improve at a personal level. From there, the rest will come.
“My main focus has always been to just improve my times,” Stocke said. “There’s probably some tougher expectations on me now but I try not to think about that. If you can improve your times to a certain level, you don’t have to worry about everyone else.
“I have some pretty lofty goals that will be hard to achieve. I know that if I can hit those, hopefully a state championship will come with it.”
Wagner agreed, saying it’s not about the gameplay of knowing who you’re competing against or how you’re going to beat the runner in front of you.
“My style of coaching says I want each runner to run his or her own race. I don’t care what other people are doing out there. I want my runners to improve their times. If you do that, I’m happy and they should be too. There’s not much good that will come from thinking of who else is at the race or how you’re going to beat them.”
Wagner went on to compliment Stocke and how easy he is to coach.
“It’s refreshing to have runners like Cameron who have a certain level of talent, but who also love to be taught and love to explore their bodies and minds when it comes to what they’re capable of. He’s willing to open the door and challenge himself.
“Competition is a way to bring out what you can do, but win or lose, that doesn’t matter. You’re not the king if you win and you’re not bad if you lose. The fact that Cameron understands that and is coachable with a great attitude, that bodes well for his future.”
Competing as a Wolverine for the first time this season, as well as looking forward to his first cross country season as a part of Rock Ridge, Stocke says the combination has only made his experience as a runner better.
“It was really fun,” Stocke said of being a Wolverine. “That first day of practice, kids were trickling in and I kept expecting more Virginia kids to come. If we were just Virginia we probably would’ve only had like 15 kids and that wouldn’t cut it.
“Combining with Eveleth-Gilbert definitely made the team better and it let me get to know a lot more people. It makes me look forward to the cross country season. Coming together in that sport as well should make things a lot more fun.”
In addition to Stocke, the All-Iron Range boys’ track and field team includes: Josh Creer-Oberstar (high jump, 4x200 relay), Ethan Zlimen (4x200), Karson Sortedahl (4x200) and Jake Burres (4x200) of Rock Ridge; Jajuan Hall (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Taevon Wells (400 meter dash, 4x400 relay), Geno Uhrbom (1600 meters, 3200 meters, 4x400), Isaiah Austad (4x400), Bodie Jorgenson (4x400), Weston Marx (4x800 relay), Benjamin Plackner (4x800), Daniel Olson (4x800), Michael Butterfield (4x800) of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin; Gavin Skelton (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles) of Mesabi East; Jackson Weston (shot put, discus), Sam Stertz (4x800 relay), Ian Andersen (4x800), Derek Erdman (4x800) and Austin Hanson (4x800) of Grand Rapids; Tony Cummins (300 hurdles, 4x100 relay), Deekon Anvid (discus), Isaiah Foster (4x100), Weston Stroschein (4x100), Tyler Anderson (4x100) of South Ridge/Cherry/North Woods.