They're going to be teammates next year for the University of Wisconsin, but for the time being, the North Shore's best distance runners, Emma-Lisa Murphy of Whitefish Bay and Lauren Holtz of Homestead are still competitors.
That was no more clear than when Murphy fought back from a late Holtz surge and nipped her friend by just .04 of a second in a scorching 1,600-meter run in the North Shore Conference Indoor track meet at Cedarburg Tuesday night.
"It was a great race," said Murphy, "and I was so glad to get it in. Last year, I missed the indoor season because of my shins, but I was glad I got a few races in in the indoor this year. I feel 100 percent healthy this spring. I'm feeling good and looking forward to the outdoor season."
Murphy, who at first appeared to be outleaned by the shorter Holtz, got her long leg across the finish line first as both turned in state honor roll times with Murphy winning in 5:16.09 and Holtz taking second in 5:16.13.
"I honestly didn't feel her (presence) until we were done," said Holtz, who had charged into the lead with about a lap to go. "Here I'm thinking I'm going to win it but I have to remember to keep running hard until we're done."
Murphy later came back to cruise to an easy win in the 3,200 (11:30.6) as defending champion Bay took third in the meet.
Holtz, who later led the 800 meters (2:27.42) from start to finish, was not discouraged by the outcome in the 1,600.
"I was a little disappointed," she said, "but it was just so fast. Such a good time, especially on this track." Homestead wound up fifth in the meet.
Murphy said she's happy to have Holtz to run against, but she's even happier that she'll have her working with her side-by-side next year.
"We'll be in Madison together and that'll be so exciting," she said. "We're such good friends and that's what makes competing together so much fun."
Murphy was also pleased with the 3,200 race.
"I felt the pace increase when Haley (Bauer of Cedarburg) started taking it out (midway through the race)," Murphy added. "I stuck with her, took off and then I started to fight the clock. I'm happy that was able to improve my time here today. I'm so looking forward to the outdoor, when there are only eight laps to this race (as opposed to the 20 during the indoor season)."
Nicolet, despite smaller than usual numbers this year, was still a competitive seventh behind an impressive one-two-three finish in the pole vault from Laura LeBrun (personal best 10 feet), Kim Charles (9-0) and Gwen Davis (8-0).
"Gus (Kaufmann), our vault coach, does a great job," said Knight head coach Chad Melotte. "He starts talking to them in middle school (where he teaches) about it and then they're excited to come out when they reach high school."
LeBrun, who narrowly missed out on a state meet berth behind her qualifying teammate Charles last season, agreed about the excitement factor.
"We all take a special pride it," she said of herself and her teammates. "We all celebrate together when one of us does well. It's just a thrilling thing to do. To experience something that's so much different from what we do in an ordinary day."
"It's fun being in the air."
Grafton won the indoor title with 100 points while Bay earned its spot with 75 points, while Homestead had 60-1/2 and Nicolet 51 in the balanced field.
Other top finishes for Bay included seconds from Sara Coffey in the 800 (2:31.72) and Anna Bednarczyk in the 400 (1:04.45) while the 3,200 relay was third (10:58.0) as was Bednarczyk in the 200 (28.73). Lily Hayes tied for third in the pole vault (8-0).
Also finishing in the top six for the Blue Dukes were the following: 55 dash--Bednarczyk, fifth (7.91). 1,600--Coffey, fifth (5:34.09). 3,200--Anna Blegen, fifth (12:30). High jump--Hannah Schwartz, fourth (4-8 1/2).
"We need to get better soon," said Blue Duke coach Ben Van Male.
Homestead got another first from Monica Caputa in the long jump (16-7 1/4).
"My main goal this year is to break 17 feet," said Caputa. "It was a little tiring at first because I was competing in so many events, but then I was able to relax. It's very exciting to win a conference title."
Meanwhile, Holtz was happy to have a pressure-free win in the 800.
"That felt so good," she said. "No drama in the race, because that's what I like to do, to run by myself (laughs)."
Homestead also got a second from its four-lap relay team (1:32.52).
Other top six finishes for the Highlanders included the following: 400--Emma Ansay, fourth (1:06.57). 80--Maggie Stolz, third (2:32.51). 1,600 relay--fourth (4:40.8).High jump--Caputa, fourth (4-8 1/2).
"We were hoping to finish a little higher," said Highlander coach John Krueger, "but we're pretty banged up at this point. Still, it was a good learning experience for some kids who were in their first conference meets. ...We'll have some growing pains, but we should get past them."
Nicolet also got another first as 2011 state meet qualifier Devon Peck claimed the shot put by over a foot with a toss of 35-2 1/2. Jnana Martin took a second in the 200 with a 28.12 clocking.
Other places for the Knights included the following: 55 dash--Martin, third (7.87). Four-lap relay--fourth (1:33.46).
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