The Highland track and field Bulldogs had a banner day as they won six events, shattered five school records and qualified nine athletes, including all four relays, for state this past Friday at the Class 2A Springfield Lanphier Sectional.
“Wow, what another great night,” said Highland coach Bob Vance. “To my knowledge, this is the most state qualifiers we’ve ever had in track. We came up a little short in the race for the team title, but that was a coach’s decision based on what we were planning to do at state this week. These boys are a lot of fun to coach. hey have so much heart. It is amazing.”
Vance said he and his team have made their goal to become a team that is “state good” and it looks like they may have reached that lofty status at the perfect time of the season.
“It looks like we might be in pretty good position at state, as I believe we are ranked in the top seven in eight of the nine events we qualified for,” he said. “That won’t mean anything though unless we step up and do it again in Charleston. We still have work to do, because you have to be good in the prelims on Friday and then repeat that performance if you qualify to the finals on Saturday. If any bunch of guys can do it, this is the group.”
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Vance said he and the team had a plan for how they could win the sectional and qualify as many as athletes as possible to state.
“We were on track to (win the sectional), but, as a coach, you have to determine what is best for the team and what is best for the athletes, and we made a conscious decision to scratch a few guys from their individual events to ensure the 4 x 400 relay would qualify,” he said. “It might have cost us the title and the plaque, but ultimately qualifying the relay was more important and we set another school record in the process.”
Host Springfield Lanphier ended up taking the team title with 100 points to edge out second-place Highland (88) and third-place Chathtam Glenwood (85).
Finishing much farther back to round out the top-five teams in the 15-team sectional field were Stanford Olympia and Rochester, which tied for fourth place with 45 points apiece.
Highland sophomore Tyler Higgins had a busy and historic day as he had to run preliminary races in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes just to qualify for the finals.
But Higgins showed how special of an athlete he is by winning the sectional’s sprint triple crown, which is finishing first in the sport’s three fastest races: the 100, 200 and 400.
He dashed to finish line first in the 100 with a winning time of 10.95 seconds to eclipse his school record of 10.98 from last week’s MVC conference meet. That time also was the sixth fastest at all of the 2A sectionals.
The busy Highland sophomore followed that up by running another controlled 400, winning in 49.50 to post the third fastest time from the state sectionals.
Higgins then capped off the sprint triple crown by stopping the clock with a time of 22.23 in the 200, which was good for fourth fastest in the state sectionals.
“He is pretty amazing,” Vance said. “He has the ability to change gears mid-race in the longer sprints to run down his competition. His best chance at state will be in the 400 where he is only .15 of a second behind the sectional leader. We think he can place in all three and if he does, it will cap off a fantastic season for him.”
The 4 x 400 relay pitted the Bulldogs against Chatham Glenwood with a single point separating the two teams for second place behind sectional champions Springfield Lanphier.
The race went back and forth with Highland pulling it out in a school-record time of 3:24.08, which was a full second ahead of the Titans and solidified the Bulldogs’ hold on second place in the meet. HHS finished three points ahead of Chatham. That time was also good enough to rank the Bulldogs third in the state from all the sectional meets. Junior Hayden Smart led off with a 52.7 split. He was followed by senior Grant Riggs’ best-ever split of 49.9, Senior Trevor White followed with a 51.0 and junior anchor Brode Portell pulled away down the stretch with a personal-best split of 50.5.
“Those guys just keep getting faster and faster as the whole team has,” Vance said. “I think some coaches were second guessing us for not using Tyler Higgins in any of our relays, but I’ve said all along that our relay teams were capable of doing well without him, and they all proved it again tonight. I believe we are a stronger team using the lineup we have. We might have had faster relay times with Higgins, but we are better team this way and he has a chance to show off his individual talents as well.”
Also qualifying as individuals for this weekend’s Class 2A state meet were seniors Logan Geiger in the long jump and White in the 800.
Geiger surprised the field with a personal-record leap of 22 feet, 0.25 inches to win the long jump and break the long standing school record of 21-7 set by Doug Burgett in 1998. His jump ranks fifth in the state after the sectional meets.
“Logan had a great day,” Vance said. “He smashed the long jump record and was part of two relay records. He also qualified for the finals of the 100, but came up a little short, finishing seventh. We ‘re excited about what he could do at state as he will have fresher legs.”
In the 800, White ran a personal-best time of 1:57.06 to take third which turned out to be the fourth fastest time in the state sectionals.
“I think Trevor (White) was disappointed with the third place finish, but he was behind two of the fastest kids in the state and he had his best time ever,” Vance said.
Geiger joined with his senior cousin Gage Geiger, senior Brendan Sands and junior Sam Teipe to win the 4 x 100 relay in a blazing school-record time of 42.85, which was sixth fastest in the state.
That same quartet combined for another school record in the 4 x 200 relay, qualifying for state in 1:31.42 which was well ahead of the 1:31.74 qualifying standard and good enough to finish fourth.
“We are further back in the rankings in the 4 x 200 (24th), but we did that after Logan and Brendan (Sands) had been in three previous events and Sam (Teipe) had been in two,” Vance said. “At state, they will be able to focus more on this relay and they might be a surprise team there.”
The other relay to qualify for the Bulldogs was the 4 x 800, which will represent at Highland at the state meet for for the fourth straight year. Highland used the foursome of Smart (2:00.7), Ben Menke (2:03.1), Riggs (1:59.4) and Portell (2:00.5) to finish third with a team time of 8:03.68 That relay is currently ranked seventh in the state, but the Bulldogs have the option of substituting White in at state which could bolster the relay’s chances to place higher at state.
“The nice thing is that we have some depth,” Vance said. “We might even use one guy in the prelims and another in the finals. We have some flexibility there and those boys all have confidence in each other. We should do well with whatever lineup we use. Now it’s about earning those state medals. That will be one of our goals — earning as many state medals as we can. We can’t control what other teams do, we just have to be the best we can be.”
Narrowly missing state qualification were Riggs in the high jump and Teipe in the long jump in the long jump.
Riggs placed third, which was just one placement shy of automatically qualifying, and his best height of 6-1 was only two inches shy of the qualifying standard of 6-3.
Teipe finished fourth in the long jump with his best leap of 21-3. He appeared to have met the qualifying mark on successive jumps, but his toe was barely over the long-jump board so they were ruled scratches and not allowed.