Lunaas, Strum a pair of aces for Stewartville track and field team
Stewartville's Tor Lunaas and Haylie Strum currently rank as Class AA's best in the discus and 300 hurdles, respectively.
STEWARTVILLE — Stewartville has two of the state’s top performers in the state in track and field this season, boys thrower Tor Lunaas and girls hurdler/sprinter Haylie Strum.
Lunaas ranks first in Class AA in the discus with a throw of 174 feet, 4 inches. The senior is third in the shot put, at 54-10 1/2.
Strum is the Class AA leader in the 300 hurdles (44.25 seconds). She’s also the Stewartville record holder in the 300 hurdles and the 200 (26.32), setting both marks this season.
Strum isn’t too shabby on the hardwood, either. The multi-talented senior was the Post Bulletin All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year this past season. Next year she’ll take her talents to Division III Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she’ll compete in basketball and track. Lunaas is still determining his future as he gets inquiries from college coaches.
Here is a look at both athletes:
Stewartville track and field coach Aaron Meyer has taken to calling his star thrower “Thor” instead of Tor.
It’s easy to see why. At a chiseled and hulking 6-1, 220 pounds, Lunaas brings to mind the Norse god, with all of that power.
“He’s got muscles on muscles,” Meyer said.
Lunaas didn’t roll out of bed like this. He is an obsessed athletic worker. The weight room is Lunaas’ second home, the discus and shot put throwing pit ranking a close third.
“Everyone thinks I’m a little bit psycho,” Lunaas said with a laugh. “Even those days when I’ve had a really long day, I still lift weights. It’s the same thing with throwing. I want to do as much as I can because there might be someone out there who is working as hard or even harder than I am. I don’t want to be left out.”
There are two things that Lunaas — also a standout lineman on a standout Stewartville football team this past fall — wants most. One is to break the school record in the discus, owned by current University of Michigan basketball player Will Tschetter. He’ll need a throw of 175 feet to get that done.
The other goal is to have a strong showing in the state meet. Lunaas understands that it's one step at a time there. He’ll need to qualify for state first in the Section 1AA meet, which barring something surprising, he’ll do. Once at state, Lunaas wants to accomplish much more than he did a year ago.
The senior was seventh at state in the discus last year, with a 155-1 throw. The winner threw it 156-9. The shot put had been Lunaas’ best event a year ago, but he went away disappointed at state, clearing less than 50 feet and landing outside of the top nine. Teammate, close friend and fellow senior Peyton Byrne (who injured his knee recently and is out for the season) was fourth at state in the shot put (51-11 3/4).
That’s why Lunaas can constantly be spotted, rain or shine, working on his throwing crafts this spring. Meyer said his senior star is always the first one at practices and the last one to leave. There was one day recently when a downpour had Meyer shortening practice by an hour. As the coach drove away, headed for home, he noticed someone was still out there in the drenching rain. It was that hulking star, Lunaas, soaked and working away, bent on leaving nothing to chance.
It was the same thing this past winter, with Lunaas literally going the extra miles. Each Sunday, he’d travel to the University of Minnesota to work on his throws with a club called "Throws North."
Again, he’s left nothing to chance.
"I want to be a state champion," he said. "But I don’t want to be too cocky about it. I want to get there and do really well. And I’ll then let my actions speak for themselves."
Strum sets records without even knowing she’s set them.
At least that’s happened once. On May 9, in the Section 1AA True Team meet at Winona, long-time Tigers coach Dawn Miller had Strum run an open 200 race for the first time ever. Miller wanted to gauge how fast Strum covered 200 meters in order to give her a better idea of how to attack her best race, the 300 hurdles.
When the 200 was done, Strum had been timed in 26.32 seconds. Nobody in the history of Stewartville girls track had ever run that fast before, the senior breaking a record that stood since 1981.
"When they told me I set the record, my reaction was, 'I did what?’" Strum said.
There have been few athletes who Miller has encountered in her 31 years of coaching Stewartville track and field who’ve been better than Strum. One aspect about her stands out most.
“Ever since she was on our varsity as a seventh grader, she just had this determination about her,” Miller said. “She’s always been a competitor. She also had a natural stride and running form. I knew she was going to be special, I just didn’t know in which events.”
Miller believes that Strum could pick any event, other than the throws, and excel at them. Strum breaking the school record in her first try at the 200 is an example of that. Miller could also perfectly see her as an excellent high jumper, long jumper or triple jumper.
But with legs that each winter take a pounding during the five-month basketball season, Miller has limited her to the 300 hurdles and relays.
That’s worked out well. Strum reached the state meet a year ago in the 300 hurdles and finished fifth in 45.48 seconds. She also ran the lead leg on Stewartville’s fourth-place 4x400 relay team.
Last year, it was Miller’s 300 hurdles school record of 45.5 that she broke. Strum has since set a new mark in the event with her current 44.25.
Her goal is to edge that to less than 44 seconds.
Strum says the 300 hurdles suit her perfectly, the race’s requirements speed, endurance, jumping ability and mental toughness.
“The hurdles help take your mind off the length of the race,” Strum said. “It’s also fun to jump over obstacles. It is a hard and painful race, but I love it.”