Winning is not just some worthless mantra for the Reading girls track team, it is a walk they walk and under Deb Price’s watch something that is becoming an expectation they continue to meet.
At Hillsdale College on Saturday the Ranger girls won their 11th regional title with Price in charge, by a 56-point margin over runner-up Hillsdale Academy, with great relay results and five individual regional champions leading the way.
The Rangers and Colts both qualified for the MITCA team state championships at Gobles High School next weekend, as did the Reading boys who finished second on Saturday — but it was Price’s squad that stole the spotlight from beginning to end.
“Somebody asked me, ‘How do you keep getting these girls?’ and I really don’t know, I just get talented girls and we’ve just been lucky to have a successful program here for the last 10 or 15 years. I don’t know where they’re all coming from — we joke and say it must be in the water here in Reading,” Price said. “It’s a lot fun. It’s nice to have so many girls; I have a lot of sprinters who are not just average, but better than average so it’s nice with those three sprint relays not to have to run the same girls in everything.”
The relays were just one of the Rangers strong points, as they won the 400 meter and 800 meter relays, while taking third in the 1600.
From an individual standpoint, junior Tessa Pridegeon may have been the star of the meet, winning the 400 dash by shaving several seconds off her previous PR, and also taking home the title in the 200. She was also a member of the winning 800 relay team.
Brooke Schmucker stockpiled points for Reading in field events, winning the shot put and taking third in the discus and teammate AlexMailahn cleared 9-6 in the pole vault to win the event and qualify for the state meet, where Price said “she has a shot at doing some things.”
Jamie Newell was the runner- up in the discus throw and Nicole Marsh was right behind Mailahn in the pole vault as the Rangers jumped out to a sizable lead from the get-go.
The final individual champion for the Rangers was Shawna Smith, who won the 300 hurdles, to go with a runner- up finish in the 100 dash. While the upperclassmen carried the team, Price said it was a talented group of youngsters that put her girls over the top.
“I knew we had a chance of doing well this year because we just had so much depth and we have the field events and a lot of others covered. We did lose Whitney (Thorpe) from last year which was huge, but I don’t know — we’ve had some (underclassmen) come in, with Kelsey Duryea doing a nice job in the distance, and little Brittany Couch who has done an awesome job for us,” she said. “I think the big thing is we have the depth, so in some events we were able to take two or three places which scores a lot of points.”
The Hillsdale Academy girls beat out third place Athens by 9.5 points, despite having just one individual winner.
That winner was sophomore Heather Lantis in the discus.
The Colts were also strong in relays, as Mike Robert’s girls won the 1600 and 3200 relays, while taking second in the 400.
Elyse Lisznyai took third in both the one and two mile runs for the Academy.
Pittsford’s Elainee Poling was second in the 800 and third in the long jump for a Wildcat team that placed fifth out of 16 teams.
Teammate Jackie Page also added a runner-up finish in the 100 hurdles, and SCAA foe Katherine Baker of Waldron did the same in the 300 hurdles.
On the boy’s side Reading took runner-up honors with 106 points, 11 behind regional champion Sand Creek.
The difference may have come in the hurdle events, where Sand Creek placed six athletes to the Rangers one.
Nonetheless, the Reading boys are heading to the MITCA state championships next weekend, thanks to a number of memorable performances, including one from Trent Morris.
The senior star won the pole vault and took second in the 300 hurdles, while playing a major role on the winning 400 relay team.
The Rangers also took second in the 800 and 1600 relays.
JV Shinner was runner-up in the 800.
The Hillsdale Academy boys finished fourth overall with 64 points, and senior Tom Lundberg had a fine day, on the same track he will run for his father Bill on next season, as a member of the Chargers.
He won the 800 and was a member of the winning 800 and 1600 relay squads.
Other athletes of local interest who fared well were Ben Wines, Fletcher Masters and Tanner Bricker.
Wines was runner-up in the discus and shot put competitions for Pittsford, who finished sixth. Masters took second in the 400 for Waldron and Camden- Frontier’s Bricker was second in the 200 and third in the 100.
The teams and athletes will now put Saturday’s event in their rear view mirror with the MITCA in just days and the individual state finals on May 30.
For the Ranger girls a chance at redemption looms, after finishing second at the team state meet meet by a single point in 2008.
“Things happen. We lost by a point, Whitney (Thorpe) fell in the 300 lows (hurdles),” Price said. “But we’re going back, and even though we don’t have Whitney we might have even more depth this year.”
Potterville was the team who beat them last season, but Reading beat the Vikings by 30 points at Litchfield’s Purdy Invite earlier this year.
Even so, Price is hesitant to predict a complete reversal of fortunes on Saturday.
“We’re hoping to score some points and hopefully finish in the Top 5…it’s really hard to say until we see seedings. I’m feeling good about team states next weekend, I feel like we’re right where we need to be,” she said. “Right now, knock on wood, we’re very healthy.”