Homestead pole vaulter Elyssa Tracy is said to be "as mentally strong as they come" by Highlander girls track coach John Krueger.
She has endured multiple surgeries on her feet and ankles after a lifetime of competing in sports, including a successful run for the Highlander gymnastics team.
A team it seems, that has made an en masse transition to the track squad.
So with that tough backstory behind her, it was small potatoes for Tracy when she decided to go for and clear 10 feet-nine inches in at the end of the North Shore Conference Relays on a chilly day in Grafton on Wednesday and break the tie with Nicolet for the event title in the final competition of the night.
And with that effort, the Highlanders completed their rally and overcame a challenge from a young and talented Germantown team to claim the meet title in a stunning three-way battle with Germantown and league indoor champ Whitefish Bay.
Tracy is one of several members of the gymnastics team on the track squad this spring and Krueger said it has been a match made in heaven.
"It's been a good combination and very helpful to us," said Krueger. ''This was very fulfilling for the girls and the coaches. We've been so close here in the last few years in what was been some very competitive (conference) meets.
"It's good to finally be rewarded for their efforts."
And on the boys' side, the Highlanders used balance and depth to overcome a stern challenge from another Germantown squad in also winning the league relays crown. Homestead and Whitefish Bay (third) had tied for the NSC indoor crown.
"I do not believe it," said Homestead boys coach Todd Brawner. "You would be as amazed too, if you were in my shoes with as young and inexperienced as we are. We nickled and dimed and scored just about as many points as we could have in every event."
"We whittled it right down to the very edge."
The Highlander girls scored 97 points for their title as Germantown was second with 94 and Bay was third with 92. On the boys side, Homestead scored 86 points to Germantown's 79 and Bay's 67.
Tracy was part of another first for the Highlanders as she joined Carolyn Rossman and Alex Burns to win the 3x100-meter high hurdle shuttle (53.57 seconds). Other firsts went to the high, long and triple jump teams.
Monica Caputa, another gym veteran, had the best high jump as she joined with Nia Feaster, and Holland Cummisford to record a combined high jump of 14-0. Caputa cleared 4-10 for her top showing.
She also had the best long jump at 16-3 1/2 as she joined with fellow gymnasts Feaster and Leigh Berman to claim that event.
And in the triple jump, Feaster had the best effort (33-9) while Caputa was second (32-6) as Andrea Rossman (yup, another gymnast) as the Highlanders cruised to a victory in that event.
Krueger said it was crucuial to get a strong field event effort to overcome Bay's expected overwhelming power in the distances.
"Those 40 points were really key to us being able to win," he said.
He also cited distance coach Victor Vilar for his efforts as his youthful group of athletes also played a big role in the team's success tonight.
'There's a lot of potential in his group," he said. "...What was special was that we scored in the top six of every single event. Everyone had some input in this (title)."
Brawner had the same attitude about his boys' squad. The Highlanders had their holes to be sure in the long jump and the 4x1,600-meter relays but made up for it when teams like the 4x100 team of Matt Swenson, Nick Ziebell, Brad Novak and Matt Winters improved from its eighth seed to a fourth place finals' finish.
The Highlanders earned firsts from the high jump jump team of Blake Leeson, Elijah Triggs and Mitchell Kukla and from the discus trio of John Marita, Josh Schneider and Elijah Perine. Leeson had the best high jump at 6-0 and Marita the best discus toss at 148-7.
They also earned seconds from the shot put trio of Marita, Chris Malicky and Perine; the high hurdle shuttle that included Kukla, Leeson, Vincent Wilkerson and Serafino LaGalbo; the 800 sprint medley relay of Chris Mueller, Patrick Minkin, Ziebell and Nick Allen; and the 4x400 team of Allen, Patrick Curran, Mueller and Dan Held.
The 4x400 team turned in a season best of 3:28.73.
"The finish of the shot and discus teams were a very big deal, we really needed those," said Brawner.
After the team scores were announced, Brawner walked around the Grafton grounds in amazement.
"I'm totally shocked," he said to Grafton coach Kevin Kriegel without a trace of irony in his voice.
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