LA CROSSE — How much did winning the WIAA Division 2 state championship in the 1,600-meter relay mean to Lodi’s all-senior running crew?
“Tomorrow is graduation, and we’re going to wear these (the state gold medals) under our gowns,” anchor runner Rhianna Walzer said with a laugh. “We’ve been dreaming about doing this since eighth grade.”
The rest of her giddy team included Isabelle Clary, Hannah Busser and Mackenzie Heyroth. Heyroth got the lead early and the Blue Devils never let up, leading wire-to-wire for a winning time of 4 minutes, 00.09 seconds, beating runner-up Freedom by a full second at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
For Heyroth, the victory was a perfect way to close out a perfect day.
She started her Saturday by breaking the Division 2 state-meet record in the 100 high hurdles (14.36 seconds). Later on, she broke the D2 record in the 300 low hurdles, winning in :43.61.
In Heyroth’s mind, the hurdle titles were nice. But she said it would have felt a bit like unfinished business without the relay.
“We were going to come out there and kill it,” she said in all seriousness. “We really wanted this race.”
Those three titles gave the Blue Devils 30 points, good for third place in the team standings.
Heyroth was all business most of the day, but finally let out a whoop of joy after winning the 300 hurdles.
“Getting that record was one of the really big goals I had. After that, I couldn’t stop smiling,” she said. “I knew I felt good all winter. I had trained hard and gotten ready. I just wanted to be really prepared for this meet.”
In both races, the future University of Wisconsin walk-on took down defending state champ Brooke Livingston of Adams-Friendship.
Two other area athletes won titles in Divisions 2 and 3. First-time state qualifier Dodgeville/Mineral Point junior Nicole Johnson won the high jump title in a jump-off after she was one of 10 entrants who cleared 5 feet, 2 inches.
“This was very interesting,” she said. “I was really not expecting this. This is such a great feeling, since I’ve never had the opportunity to be here (at state) before.”
Johnson, a third-year track athlete, had a personal best of 5-3 going into the meet. She put herself in good position after clearing 5-2 on her first attempt.
“This is very cool. Now I have a lot of motivation for next year,” she said.
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The other winner was Johnson Creek junior Hannah Constable in Division 3. Constable, who won her third state 800 run title on Friday, claimed her first 400 title Saturday with a time of :58.11.
“This really means a lot, to add another title,” she said. “Though I wasn’t as fast as I had hoped to be, it was nice to win.”
The area produced numerous runner-up finishers — none more frustrating than for McFarland’s Andrew Pahnke in the D2 boys 800. He and teammate Patrick Fasick came in with the fastest times in the field and then joyously finished 1-2 in the fast heat of Saturday’s finals. With times of 1:57.08 and 1:57.83, respectively, they thought they had won.
But the final results brought a stunner as Valders’ Nate Griepentrog, running out of the first heat, edged Pahnke by two-hundredths of a second (1:57.06), and Fasick wound up fifth.
Pahnke, who also earned runner-up honors in the 1,600 (4:18.46), was philosophical.
“It is what it is,” he said. “Still, I’m glad. There are not a lot of athletes who earn second place. I’m ready to move on.”
It was a more satisfying second-place finish for the Madison Edgewood girls 3,200 relay team of Emily Maiers, Kaitlyn Barth, Sydney Olson and Maeve O’Driscoll. The crew’s 9:31.13 time was .44 of a second behind winning Osceola in Division 2.
The finish was satisfying for the Crusaders, who won the event last season.
“This was exciting stuff,” Barth said.
The defending Division 3 boys team champion, Cambridge, also had a pair of runner-up finishes en route to a third-place finish in the team standings.
The Blue Jays’ 800 relay team of Riley Olson, Jacob Moody, Dale Yerges and Rudy Hommen took second place (1:30.05) behind La Crosse Aquinas, which broke Cambridge’s year-old D3 state-meet record (1:28.88).
Later, defending 300 hurdles champion Olson turned in a 39.01 time — better than what he won with last year, but still second to Loyal’s Mason Malm (38.59).
Hommen, who medaled in both the 100 and 200, said the team finished well.
“We lost some really good leaders last year,” he said, “but it also comes down to how well you run. Some days you do really well, and others not so much.”