The Highland High School boys track and field team ended long drought that on Wednesday of last week at Waterloo High School. HHS won the Mississippi Valley Conference Championships meet for the first time since 2002.
“We broke four school records and three meet records, I believe,” said Highland coach Bob Vance, whose team competes in Thursday’s Class 2A Springfield Lanphier Sectional. “Counting the two junior varsity races, I counted 27 PRs (personal records).
“It was a total team effort. And we double scored in the long jump, triple jump, 100, 200, 400, and 800.
“Our seniors stepped up big time, as did our juniors and all of the guys. Even our junior varsity guys did well in the two unscored JV events (100 and 1,600). The leadership our seniors provided was outstanding.”
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Highland won seven individual events, including winning three of the four relays races, to roll up an meet-winning team total of 132 points, to edge out runner-up Triad (115.50) by 16.50 points and third-place Waterloo (113) by 19 points for the team title.
“Coach Vance told us it would take a team effort to win, and we all bought into that,” said Highland senior Grant Riggs, who won the title in the high jump while also helping the 4 x 400 relay team win and shatter meet and school records. “We pushed each other and picked each other up. It feels good to bring this title back to highland after such a long drought.”
Rounding out the six-team MVC were Mascoutah (99), Jerseyville (52) and Civic Memorial (13.50).
The star that shone the brightest for the HHS Bulldogs was that of sophomore sprinter Tyler Higgins, who not only galloped his way to the conference crowns in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes, but he also shattered the meet record with his times in both of those events.
Higgins was arguably the most impressive in the 200, where he avenged an narrow defeat to Triad junior Adam Nelson in the 100 with a winning time of 22.17 seconds. Higgins’ time in the 200 beat Nelson (22.61) by 0.44 of a second and was good enough to break the meet record as well as Higgins’ own HHS school record in the event.
“The 200 was another meet and school record for Higgins,” Vance said. “Probably his best start of the season, and he needed it, because both Nelson and Sands were flying as well. Sands ended up third with another personal best (23.14). Sixteen more team points to solidify our chance for winning the meet.”
Higgins was also very impressive in the 400, where he coasted to victory with the fastest one-lap time of 50.03, which bested Dan Hilling of Triad (51.19) to the stripe by more than a second and also was a new meet record and also lowered Higgins’ previous school record.
“In the 400, a very controlled 50.03 for Higgins was good enough for another meet record,” Vance said. “It looked like he was just jogging the first 200.”
In the 100, Nelson laid down a 10.95 to barely eclipse Higgins (10.98) to the finish line.
“The 100 was a great race by Tyler Higgins to place second,” Vance said. “His 10.98 was only .03 behind Adam Nelson of Triad. Both guys broke the old meet record. It was a school record and first time under 11 (FAT) for Tyler.”
Also capturing first place and setting records were the 4 x 400-meter relay team of junior Hayden Smart (52.0) and seniors Riggs (51.5), Trevor White (51.0) and Brode Portell (51.2), who joined forces to set the meet and school records with a winning team time of 3:25.69, which was two seconds faster than second place Triad; and the 4 x 200 relay team of seniors Sands (22.6), Logan Geiger (22.8) and Gage Geiger (23.8), and junior Sam Teipe (22.7), who teamed up for a school-record time of 1:31.88.
“We set a school record and meet record in the 4 x 400, which was an outstanding way to cap off the meet,” Vance said. “Hayden got off to a great start, but Triad took the lead on the second leg. Riggs came back to put us even with the Knights at the end of that leg. In his fourth race of the day, Trevor White put us into the lead with a super effort, and Portell capped it off with his best split so far to give us the records and the conference championship.”
Vance said the 4 x 200 relay was redemption for being disqualified in the 4 x 100 as Sands, Logan Geiger, Gage Geiger and Teipe regrouped and combined to win the 4 x 200 in a school-record time of 1:31.88.
“We knew these guys could do it and we believe they can go even faster,” Vance said.
In the 4 x 100, the first three legs had Highland in position to win, but Gage Geiger came in to his exchange with Teipe faster than normal and he caught Teipe off guard, Vance said.
“We finished the race in third, and Sam did a track ‘no-no,’ tossing the baton in the air, because he was upset with himself,” Vance said. “Fortunately, the loss of those points didn’t hurt us. And the boys regrouped.”
Riggs started Highland off in the meet with a big win in the high jump. He cleared 5 feet, 10 inches to win and shut it down to conserve energy.
“It was a smart move on his part,” Vance said. “He only had one miss all day and looked like he could have gone much higher.”
In the long jump, Mascoutah’s Barry Richardson was the prohibitive favorite, but he hurt his knee on his first jump. Highland’s Teipe and Logan Geiger capitalized on Richardson’s misfortune with outstanding performances. Teipe won the long jump title with a PR mark of 21-5, which was more than a foot farther than he had ever jumped before, and Logan Geiger was second with a personal-best jump of 21-0.5 inches.
“That was 18 big points that shot us out to an early lead,” Vance said. All together, we got 48 points from our field event guys. That was a big boost for us.”
In addition, Highland’s 4 x 800 team of Smart (2:02.4), senior Ben Menke (2:03.6), sophomore Bryce Sexton (2:08.5) and White (2:11.2) won with a team time of 8:25.72.
“In the 4 x 800, we started off great on the track with a solid win in this relay,” Vance said. “We changed the order and left Grant Riggs and Brode Portell off the relay to give them a chance to score in individual events. Hayden Smart gave us a strong leadoff leg, Ben Menke had his best split ever, as did sophomore Bryce Sexton, and Trevor White did just enough for us to win. His time looks slow for him, but that was by design.”
In addition to helping the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relays post wins, White, who was the busiest Bulldog of the day, also picked up two individual medals after finishing second in the 800 with a two-lap time of 1:59.68 and fourth in the 1,600 with a four-lap time of 4:43.97.
Also placing in an individual event for the HHS Bulldogs were: junior Austin Bush, second place in the shot put with PR throw of 44-4; Sands, second in the triple jump with PR leap of 42-2.5; Portell, fourth in the 800 with a PR time of 2:02.97; Teipe, fifth in the triple jump with a PR mark of 39-3.5; Riggs, fifth in the 400 with a time of 52.29; Logan Geiger, fifth in the 100 with a time of 11.50; and senior Zach Chapman, fifth in the discus with a fling of 121-6.
Finally, Highland scored no points in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, but senior Trevor Langhauser and freshman Noah Schmitt both received personal bests in the event.
“Trevor’s been working hard on the hurdles for four years and he has been a good teacher for Noah and our other hurdlers,” Vance said.