Skip to main content


John's Journal: The Night The Lights Went Out In Winona

Final Event Of Track Meet Illuminated By Cell Phones

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2024 - 11:19 AM


This story was written by Pat Ruff of the Rochester Post Bulletin and posted here with permission...

WINONA — Well, that was a memory maker — a bizarre, wild and heart-warming one all at the same time.

Those who stayed until the end of the Section 1, Class 2A boys and girls True Team Track and Field meet at Winona’s Paul Giel Field on Tuesday will never forget it.

“It was the craziest night I’ve ever been a part of,” Stewartville boys coach Aaron Meyer said. “But it was a really cool experience. Just a cool memory.”

It started with a literal bang, a pair of lightning bolts illuminating the sky about an hour apart. The first delayed the meet for 55 minutes, the next for another 55 minutes.

But those weren’t what truly stole the show late Tuesday night. No, that was saved for last and it got everyone involved. At least everyone with a cell phone, which proved to be pretty much everybody.

At 11 p.m., just as the 4x400 boys relay was into its third leg, Paul Giel Field went dark. The stadium lights went from fully illuminating things, to turned off. Turns out they automatically turn off at 11 p.m., which ordinarily is plenty late to accommodate any high school athletic event.

But this was anything but an ordinary night.

The lead runners of that third leg were in the backstretch of their 400-meter sprints, and though few could see them anymore due to the sudden darkness, they kept running anyway.

“In track and field, there are always ups and downs,” Meyer said. “Those (4x400 athletes) just kept plugging along. It was awesome that none of them stopped or even slowed down. Once you realize you have to keep going, there is no stopping you.”

The scene was both eerie and cool.

“There was an uproar when the lights went out,” Meyer said. “You could hear everyone saying things like, ‘Oh boy.’ Everybody was verbalizing something.”

The 200 or so athletes who’d been in the infield taking in the final running event knew what to do. Instinctively, this cell-phone born generation reached for their devices, each turning on their phone’s flashlights. With the same thing also happening among the fans still in the stands at this late hour, there was suddenly enough light provided for the runners to see and be seen.

This is how the meet ended, cell phones shining and runners finishing up that relay and the pole vault competition coming to a conclusion shortly after, also thanks to those phones.

A few minutes later, athletes were finally in their school buses, riding home and contemplating one of the strangest and inspired nights of their life.

--To read the original story and see photos and video, click here: 

--MSHSL senior content creator John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 


Next Article

Adapted Bowling State Tournament 2024: Recap