I have loved track and field since I first joined my high school track team as a freshman. I loved it when I was no good. I loved it when I set a state record. And I loved the whole self-improvement journey in between. (Other than the times that I threw up. Which was a lot.)
While track and field is thought of as an individual sport, some of my favorite memories were winning conference team championships, both in the Connecticut Valley Conference as a Hanover High School Marauder and in the Big Ten Conference, as a University of Wisconsin Badger. There is something about being part of a great team win that makes you feel like part of a gang. A very fit gang with good nutritional habits.
Today, my day job is running the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry. But in the spring, my later afternoon job is coaching athletes to throw the discus and put the shot on the girl’s track team at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin.
On Tuesday afternoon we had our North Shore Conference Championship meet. Our conference is loaded with 10 great schools with top-tier talent and excellent coaches. (I note that because it is true and because some of them also read this blog.)
We knew the meet would be close, but just how close we never would have imagined.
The Homestead girl’s team is deep and talented. But so are our competitors. And despite our high hopes and the fact that we have won the team championship the past 2 years, we stumbled right out of the blocks. #UhOh
We had a talented runner, Sophia LaGalbo, hit a hurdle and take a nasty fall. We had an athlete we expected to score in several events, Korynne Moga, get hurt in her first event and have to drop out of the competition. We got disqualified in an early relay for passing the baton outside the zone. And we had other girls enter the competition ranked high in their event and wind up just outside of the top 8 places that score points. #gulp
As the defending conference champions this was all very disappointing. Especially as we watched other teams rack up great performances and the well-deserved points that go with them.
But despite the poor luck and poor performances, the Homestead Highlanders kept going. And we kept collecting points. Senior Savannah Fraley won the 800-meter dash like a rock star. And Eva Brandenburg dominated the 300-meter hurdle race. Plus Sophia LaGalbo, road rash and all, finished 7th in the 300 hurdles to add 2 more points.
Too Little. Too Late?
It was getting late in the meet and we were still well behind. But we had some late events with great potential to add points to the team total. In the 200-meter dash, Brandenburg took 3rd and Natalie Mueller took 8th to add 9 more points. Which was great. But that was followed by the 3200-meter run, where we had no entries, which was bad. Then came the discus results. One of the events I coach. And I was a very proud Coach-Dad when my athlete-daughter Ava took 1st place by 7 feet. And Senior Mariah Reynolds took 5th. This meant we added 14 points to the team total, which was great.
The Final 2
The meet came down to the final 2 events. The triple jump and the 4×400 meter relay.
We have a strong 4 x 400 relay. And we started strong with Grace Zortman finishing the first leg in first place. Then Shaylin Swenson ran an equally strong 2nd leg to lengthen our lead. Natalie Mueller added a great 3rd leg to maintain the lead. Which meant the race all came down to first-year track athlete Charlotte Lueck, a smiley and talented sophomore, and her 4th and final leg.
Charlotte, who is one of my favorite athletes on the team, came around the first 100 meters strong and steady. But a strong runner from Grafton High School charged hard and was right behind Charlotte by the time they reached the backstretch. But Charlotte kept her cool, and at 200 meters the challenger had dropped back several meters. The Homestead home crowd was going crazy. But on the final 100 meters, the race tightened up again, getting closer and closer as they approached the finish line.
But Charlotte held the lead and ran a very fast lap against very tough competition. Like all-you-can-eat-steak-buffet tough. With the victory, we added 10 more points to our total. Which meant that the conference championship all came down to the triple jump to determine if Homestead or Slinger High School would be conference champs.
Our team is great at the triple jump. Standout athlete Anisa Barnett won the event. And Sheba Bentum-Mensah grabbed 8th to help us rack up 11 more points. However, the Slinger Owls are also great at the triple jump. And they placed 2nd and 6th, to also scored 11 points. OMG!
The Final Tally
In sports, there are close competitions. And then there are really, really, really close competitions. In football, basketball and baseball you can win by as little as one point. And our track team would have been thrilled to have just one more point than our competitors. But we fell short.
However, in track and field, because of ties within the field events, (typically in the pole vault and the high jump, where competitors can finish at the same height) you can be awarded half points. And when the final total was tallied our team had won the North Shore Conference Championship by 1/2 of a point. A freaking half-point!
This meant that if any of our scorers had finished just one place lower we would not have won. It was the truest possible team victory. Every performance matters. There was no literally no breathing room. No room for error. But we won. And winning by 1/2 point is as good as winning by a mile. Maybe better.
There are 3 great things about team championships:
- Your teammates are there to help you out when you stumble, fall or pull a hamstring.
- Celebrating a victory together is far greater than celebrating alone.
- The win creates a team bond that lasts forever. And at the end of the day, the relationships and team memories are what you will remember and value most.
- Sometimes bad things happen. Keep going.
- Get up when you fall.
- Never give up.
- Work hard.
- Run your race.
- Lean on your teammates. You’ll go farther together.
- Finish Strong.
- It’s not over until it’s over.
- Sometimes 1/2 point is all it takes.
Congratulations to the following girls on their hard-fought team championship!
- Ava Albrecht
- Anisa Barnett
- Scout Bonkoski
- Eva Brandenburg
- Savannah Fraley
- Sierra Gill
- Alexandra Gaskin
- Korynne Moga
- Natalie Mueller
- Kyah McCray
- Savannah Fraley
- Shaylin Swenson
- Charlotte Lueck
- Sophia LaGalbo
- Julia Gaskin
- Sheba Bentum-Mensah
- Mariah Reynolds
- Emma Rader
- Grace Zortman
- Leila Lu Maye
- Annika Johnson
- Grace Zortman
- Kelsey Hart
- Caroline Garsha
- Addie Kane
- Amelia Horwitz
- Ava Lamb
*If I missed anyone I am sorry. If I duplicated any names you are welcome. The search engines will find you first.