WHITEWATER — Lauren O'Brien is well aware of the big shoes she is expected to fill this season for the Verona girls track and field team.
But that hasn't stopped the senior from shooting for even higher goals.
"That's been my dream forever so I'd really like to make that happen," O'Brien said in reference to a WIAA Division 1 state title in the high jump, an event her former teammate and current University of Wisconsin athlete Brooke Richardson won at last year's state meet.
"I want to focus on heights rather than just winning a championship because it's all about proving it to yourself. I'd really like to go over (5 feet, 10 inches) this year. That's a big reach, but you've got to shoot high to get there."
O'Brien took a step in the right direction Saturday, winning the high jump with a leap of 5-4 to help the Wildcats take fifth place at the Wisconsin Track and Field Association Indoor Championship at Kachel Fieldhouse.
Neenah (44) finished 21½ points ahead of Verona to win the 47-team event.
O'Brien, a Lewis (Ill.) University volleyball recruit, nearly cleared her third attempt at 5-6 only to see the bar fall after she landed on the mat.
"I thought I had it," said O'Brien, who is aiming to break Verona's school-record mark of 5-8. "Just in the end, it was kind of bittersweet because I know I can jump over 5-5."
The only other area athlete to win an event was O'Brien's teammate, Tyler Henderson. The senior won the triple jump with a mark of 34-11¾.
Henderson is aiming to return to the state meet for the first time since her sophomore year after scratching on her first attempt at sectionals as a junior and never recovering to miss out on a berth.
"That's my goal. I want to make it," Henderson said. "It'd be nice to get in the top 10 but that's just" an extra incentive.
As for area runners, Dodgeville-Mineral Point senior Molly Hanson was the only competitor to garner a top-two finish, placing second in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 18.84 seconds).
“I think (this meet) does take on a greater importance because of just how competitive it is,” said Hanson, a Marquette recruit. “But it’s kind of just a warm-up to see where we’re at right now. … We’re not going to put too much pressure on ourselves to run incredible times.”
Madison La Follette senior Chandler Diffee set a facility-record in the 1,600 (4:19.53), edging Madison Edgewood senior Joe McKenna by .15 seconds to win the race.
The meet record (4:09.82) was set in 2002 by former University of Wisconsin athlete Chris Solinsky.
The only other area athletes to gain top-two finishes were seniors Theron Baumann of Monona Grove and Kashden Nelson of Stoughton. Baumann placed second in the shot put (57-1) while Nelson took second in the pole vault (13-0).
Green Bay Preble (64) won the team competition. Monona Grove was the only area team to place in the top 10, finishing ninth (16).