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Tom Mix, Published May 23 2012

One last scamper for Squirrels track standout

Casselton, N.D. - Friday and Saturday will not be the last time Paige Slemmons ever steps on a track, but that doesn’t mean the Central Cass senior sprinter wants to end her prep career without a few parting highlights.

Slemmons has a scholarship to run track at the University of North Dakota next year.

But before she sprints to the collegiate ranks, Slemmons is set to compete in the 100 and 200 meters and is the anchor leg in the Squirrels’ 400 and 800 relays at the North Dakota state track and field meet at the Community Bowl in Bismarck.

“It is sad this will be my last track meet as a Squirrel,” said Slemmons, who has competed in track at Central Cass since she was an eighth grader.

She has been a mainstay the last five seasons for Central Cass track and field coach Cale Lewis, who said Slemmons leads by example.

“Her leadership has been great,” Lewis said. “She is good for the younger athletes. It just seems like she is the group leader and the other athletes see her as that leader. They feed off that.”

Slemmons has the second fastest Class B girls state-qualifying time in the 100 at 12.52 seconds, behind only Carrington’s Josey Page (12.14).

The two sprinters haven’t raced each other this season and appear to be destined for a showdown in the finals.

“I talked with (Page) a little bit,” Slemmons said. “We don’t really know each other, but I’m excited to race against her.”

Slemmons qualified for the 100 early in the season and has spent the last two months perfecting her technique. A sticking point Slemmons and her coaches have been working on is her starts. She said her starts are the weakest parts of her sprints, but is confident the extra work will pay off this weekend.

“The 100 is her love,” Lewis said. “Going into the state meet she has the second-best time, and if she runs her best, she will be right there. There are other girls that want to be on that stand, so she is going to have to come out and get a great start. Her start is going to have to be the best it has been all year. She’ll have to run strong and I know she can.”

“She is going to have to really step it up this one last time for her to get up on the podium and be where she wants to be.”

Where she wants to get to is the finals. Slemmons missed a spot in the 100 and 200 state finals the past two years by slim margins.

She ran in the Squirrels’ 400 relay that finished second and the 800-meter relay that finished third a year ago at state.

“My goal is to finally make finals because I have missed finals by .03 seconds the last two years,” Slemmons said. “I really want to make them this year and get our relays back up again.”

“I’ve come so close the last few years and this year I don’t want to come close. I want to get it this year.”

Her fastest time in the 200 meters is 26.54. Slemmons also prides herself on relays and along with Gabby Grommesh, Megan Goeser and Trina Steen have posted the third-fastest state-qualifying time in the 400 relay at 51.59. The quartet’s fastest mark in the 800 relay is 1:49.64.

“If there is ever a time where our handoffs aren’t clicking and we are just a little bit behind, we are pretty confident with Paige as the anchor we have just as good of a shot of winning as anybody or surpassing whoever is ahead of us,” Lewis said. “Her teammates know that when she gets the baton, anything can happen.”

After Bismarck, Slemmons focus will shift to Grand Forks.

“I’m really excited to know where I’m going to school,” Slemmons said of UND. “It will be really fun to run there. I never thought I would be able to get into a Division I school, but I had some coaches that said I could, and when it happened it, was a huge confidence boost.”

Slemmons will be Lewis’ first athlete he has coached to go D-I.

“What she has done in high school has been great, but I’m excited to see what she can do at that level,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty proud of Paige. She has done a lot of good things for Central Cass track and field. She is going to be missed.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562