When Homestead distance runner Sarah Miller finished her stunning sprint past state champion Kenzie Vicker of Whitefish Bay to win the 3,200 meters Wednesday night in the North Shore Conference indoor track meet, she ran right into the arms of a happy, sweaty bunch of Highlander teammates.
Included among them was 60 hurdles and 200 dash champ Marissa Savitch, who in an effort similar to Miller's, made a fierce lunge to the line to claim the 200 just minutes before the 3,200. It was also akin to an effort made earlier by 400 champ Keali Bjork.
And it was just that kind of energy and effort that led the Highlanders to a surprisingly easy team victory in the annual meet.
"This is a huge thing for us," said Miller, "because everytime we reach one of our goals (like a conference title), it makes us more excited. Makes us want to reach the next goal all the more."
"It was just a solid overall performance," said a happy Highlander coach John Krueger. "...We should all be pleased, but then again, I shouldn't be surprised by anything these kids do. We have so many kids dinged up. We've used as many ice packs on hamstrings, ankes, and shins than I can remember."
"And yes, Sarah's effort was a real microcosm of it all. She deserved that as much as any other runner in that race."
Just as the Highlanders deserved their title. They scored 118 points to outdistance Milwaukee Lutheran (87.5) and Whitefish Bay (81.5) for the championship. Homestead had lost a narrow decision to Germantown in the North Shore outdoor meet last season.
Miller, who was clocked in 12:06.65 for her win in the 3,200, got help in the race from Kelsey Boyle in fifth (12:11.94) and Dana Griepentrog in sixth (12:12.41). Those three spots were among the nine-placewinning efforts the distance runners earned for the Highlanders. It included a second in the 800 (2:25.67) and a third in the 1,600 (5:28.42) by Lauren Holtz.
"We're doing all right," said Homestead distance coach Victor Vilar, "but we still have work to do."
As Savitch said she still does. The defending state 100 high hurdle champ tied the hand-held conference record in the 55 hurdles with an 8.44 electronic time and then surged past Cedarburg's CherRay Dixon 27.86 to 27.99 to win the 200. Bjork won the 400 in a clocking of 1:02.91.
"Wow, I was not expecting that," said Savitch about the 200. "She had me the whole way until the corner and I thought for a moment that it was a lost cause, but then I just went as fast as I could."
"I didn't think I had it in me."
But she and the Highlanders did. They also got a victory out of the 1,600 relay team of Bjork, Alex Holtz, Krista Erickson, and Kelly Kacie (4:27.09). Earning a third was the 3,200 relay team of Boyle, Miller, Carolyn Apfelbach and Alex Holtz, third (10:26.36).
"I thought this was one of the most inspiring performances I've seen in quite awhile," said Krueger of the team title.
Also gaining inspiration was 2008 state 800 champ Megan Palmer of Bay, who has battled injuries for the last year or so, but who showed off her old dominating chops by winning both the 800 (2:24.19) and 1,600 (5:21.84) in impressive fashion.
"I'm feeling good again," she said. "I had a good winter (of workouts) and in the last few weeks I've felt really healthy and strong. I'm really excited about this season. It's my last high school season and I just want do what I can to be successful."
"All the seasons are special, but I'd really like to go out strong."
Other top three efforts for the Blue Dukes included the following: 1,600--Vicker, second (5:26.38). 3,200--Vicker, third (12:08.41). Four-lap relay--Monica Mitchell, Katie Troast, Nawoo Kim, and Maddie Cohen, third (1:33.62). Pole vault--Camille Schwartz, second (10-0).
Germantown was fourth in the team standings with 71 and established a new conference record in the 3,200 relay as the team of MacKenzie Erdmann, Caitlin Dillon, Andrea Sielicki and Liz Wendt shattered the year-old mark of Homestead by seven seconds with a 10:10.38 clocking.
In addition, Abby Croft tied the pole vault record with a victorious effort of 11-0.
Other top three efforts for the Warhawks included the following: 400--Wendt, third (1:03.65). 800--Dillon, third (2:28.73). Four-lap relay--Meredith Humiston, Sammie Gassner, Ali Lotz and Jessica Kretlow, second (1:33.38). 1,600 relay--Humiston, Gassner, Kretlow and Jennifer Ellis, second (4:28.59).
Nicolet took fifth with 59.5 points and was led by a series of strong field event efforts. Roni Thompson lost the long jump title by just a half-inch with a leap of 17-6, while Rachel Morello was second in the shot put with a toss of 36-5. Teammates Gaby Bronson (35-2) and Brianna Achs (34-2) were close behind Morello in the shot in third and fourth, respectively.
Also earning thirds were Thompson in the 55 dash (7.79), Surya Chionesu in the 200 (28.42), and Kati Fitch in the pole vault (9-9).
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