LA CROSSE — After settling for bronze in 2017, Lodi’s Tanner Maier was golden on Friday night.
Trailing after the first lap, the Blue Devils senior turned on the afterburners in the second lap to take first in the Division 2 boys 800-meter run on the first day of the WIAA state track and field meet at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“I’ve been talking about it last year after the 800,” Maier said. “It was kind of the goal all season and I was excited to get here and have some good competition. It feels good.”
Maier becomes the first Lodi individual champion since Cade Clark won the 400 in 2011 and first Blue Devil to win the 800 since Dan Rendler in 2007. Maier started out strong, staying toward the front of the pack, but was sitting in third place after the opening 400.
After making the first turn of the final lap, Maier made his move and by the final turn had the lead before holding off Shorewood’s Edgardo Valdes, last year’s runner-up in the event, to finish in a winning time of 1 minute, 55.18 seconds. Along with holding off Valdes, Maier had to beat the clock as Lakeland senior Kavanaugh FitzPatrick had run a 1:55.58 in the opening heat.
“I was kind of nervous because I got to 150 and like ‘Dang, I don’t know where Edgardo is,’” Maier said. “But then I hit 100 meters left and took a quick glance, and I heard him breathing really hard, so I knew it was just me against the clock and the kid in the slow heat.”
Maier wasn’t the only Blue Devils individual to finish first on Friday as senior Robby Hatch won his preliminary heats in the 110 and 300 hurdles. Hatch, a University of Wisconsin recruit, motored to a top time of 37.82 seconds in the 300 intermediate hurdles, breaking the previous state record held by Jared Abbrederis (:37.91).
“It’s been the goal since I don’t know how long ago,” he said. “After the race, I sat and prayed until it popped up on the board. It felt like it took forever, but it felt really good.”
Hatch admitted he didn’t know how well he would do due to some “iffy hurdle form.” “It takes a lot of stress off tomorrow that I’ve already done it once today,” he said.
Before his record-breaking performance, Hatch breezed to a first-place finish in the 110 hurdles in a time of :14.54. Along with their individual wins, Hatch and Maier helped the Lodi boys 1,600 relay finish first in Friday’s preliminaries.
Junior Owen Jelinek and senior Aaron Wickham helped the Blue Devils stay in the top three after the first two laps before turning things over to Maier and Hatch. Maier gave Hatch the lead heading into the final lap with :49.85 split before Hatch carried things home with 50.81 to cap off the team time of 3:24.28.
“It’s important knowing that if we get it to Robby in the lead, it’s over. That’s what’s driving us up in front,” Jelinek said.
The Lodi girls had a strong day as well, qualifying their 1,600 relay and two individuals in three events onto Saturday’s finals. Closing out the day, the team of juniors Mackenzie Heyroth, Hannah Busser, Isabelle Clary and Rhianna Walzer finished strong after a slow start to finish 10th with a time of 4:05.85, grabbing the last finals berth.
“We’ll definitely be able to get our time down tomorrow and we’re just happy we made it to finals,” Walzer said.
“Today, we really don’t care what our time is. We just wanted to get through and do something crazy tomorrow,” Heyroth added.
Along with the relay, Heyroth qualified as an individual in the 100 and 300 hurdles and Walzer qualified in the 400. Heyroth started her day with a strong performance in the 100 high hurdles, running to a second-best time of :14.87, finishing just a tenth behind Adams-Friendship junior Brooke Livingston.
“It feels pretty good to get a PR finally and get my 100 where I wanted it,” Walzer said.
Heyroth, who also finished 11th in the long jump with a high mark of 16 feet, 9 inches, finished her day by running a 47.13 in the 300 low hurdles, good for the eighth seed in Saturday’s finals. Like Heyroth, Walzer will have some ground to make up if she wants to medal in the 400.
Walzer finished second in her heat with a :59.13 and will be seeded seventh in Saturday’s final. Walzer said she’s happy to have gotten as far as she has after missing a majority of the season due to patellofemoral pain syndrome in her left knee.
“I’ve only been in the season for about a third of it, so it definitely feels pretty good to have gotten here,” she said.
The Lodi girls began the day with an 11th-place finish in the 3,200 relay. The team of Busser, junior Lauren Milne, senior Alex Armbrust and Clary crossed the line in 9:57.28.
Hutzler advances in two events
The Rio girls team will be represented on Saturday after junior Jordyn Hutzler qualified for the Division 3 finals in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
Hutzler, who finished fourth in last year’s 100 hurdles, will be seeded seventh in Saturday’s finals after running a :16.08 in Friday’s prelims. She will be seeded eighth in the 300 hurdles after running a 47.37 in the prelims.
After missing out on the 300 finals last year by two-hundredths of a second, Hutzler said she is looking for a personal record this season and hopefully a medal. She’s also optimistic about the 100.
“I definitely want to break 16 seconds if I can and after medaling last year, I’d like to get back up on the podium if possible. But it’s a strong field and just to get a PR would be pretty good,” she said.
Along with the pair of hurdle events, Hutzler qualified in the long jump for the first time this season. She made the finals and finished ninth with mark of 16-4¼.
Hutlzer wasn’t the only Viking making her state debut in an event as Karyssa Quist competed in the Division 3 girls high jump. It was a difficult day for the sophomore as she failed to clear the opening height of 4-8.
Quist admitted she was very nervous entering Friday, given it was her first time at state, but admitted “it was exciting and I’m glad I came.”
The Rio girls 400 and 800 teams failed to advance to Saturday’s finals. The team of junior Jada Graham, Quist, senior Sydney Ales and Hutzler finished 16th in the 400 relay with a time of :52.90, while the team of Ales, freshman Adeline Hutzler, Sarah Hagenow and Graham went 1:52.44 in the 800 relay to finish 16th.
On the Rio boys side, senior Ryan Lang, in his first season out for track, saw his state debut end quickly as he failed to advance to Saturday’s finals in the boys 200. Lang took seventh in his heat with a time of :23.25 and finished 14th overall.
Lindert, Flyte soak up experience
Pardeeville senior Ryan Lindert and Westfield/Montello junior Mikayla Flyte made their state debuts on Friday. Neither Lindert or Flyte made the podium in their events, but the pair enjoyed their brief time in La Crosse.
Competing in the Division 2 boys triple jump, Lindert finished seventh overall, just eight inches from a spot on the podium. Lindert hit 41-3½ on his second jump to make the finals before hitting his top mark of 41-11 on his last jump of the day.
“Coming here for the first time and getting to compete with some awesome, terrific athletes, is such an honor and so much fun,” he said. “It definitely felt good to know I improved and didn’t waste the opportunities I was given.”
Flyte finished 15th in the Division 2 girls 3,200 with a time of 12:08.02. Entering seeded 16th, Flyte knew reaching the medal podium wasn’t really in the cards, but that didn’t stop her from having a good time.
“I was just happy to work on my time and compete against some really good runners today,” she said. “It kind of gives me the opportunity to see that level and work towards that more in my future, and realize that I’m capable if I put the time in.”