By James Gensterblum / Special to the Hillsdale Daily News
Despite an extremely successful season last year, the Reading Rangers’ Girls Track team still had some unfinished business heading into this season.
An agonizing one-point loss to Potterville in the 2008 MITCA Team State Meet proved a bitter pill for the Rangers to swallow. That loss, however, made the results of this year’s Team State Championship even sweeter for Reading.
This time, the Rangers outdistanced nine of the state’s best Division 4 track teams to claim the title by a 36-point margin.
“Last year was really a tough way to lose, being that close to a state title and falling just short,” said Reading coach Deb Price. “We brought a lot of our team back this year and I think that last year’s disappointment brought out the best in all of them. They all turned in stellar performances.”
The Rangers put up 967 points in the meet, which scores every finisher in every event rather than the top six or eight as in most meets, and put up several memorable performances.
Senior Brooke Schmucker won the shot put (37-1) and took second in the discus (102-9), while fellow thrower Jami Newell took third in the discus (102-1). Alex Mailahn (9-6) and Nicole Marsh (9-0) went one-two in the pole vault, and Jessica Fink took fourth in the long jump (15-1) in the field for the Rangers.
On the track the Rangers were just as impressive. Reading had three sprinters in the top 8 in the 100 dash, led by Kim Davis’ fourth (13.6). Marsh took second in the 100 hurdles (17.7) and third in the 300 hurdles (49.6), while Shawna Smith won the 300 (46.9).
Junior Tessa Pridgeon gave the Rangers a fourth champion on the day in the 400 (1:01) and also took fourth in the 200 (28.1). Reading’s relays were also a strong point, taking second in the 400 (52.4) and third in the 800 (1:52.1).
Reading capped the meet by decisively winning the 1600 relay and clinching their victory. The team of Brittany Couch, Fink, Davis, and Pridgeon ran a 4:17 and won by two seconds.
Although Reading’s stars shone, it was their depth that secured the championship. The Rangers showed few weaknesses on the track as unheralded freshmen and sophomores scored crucial points in nearly every event.
“We’ve always been a team first, all season long, in everything that we’ve done,” said Schmucker, one of two Reading seniors. “To win a state championship in a meet that’s all about team performance is a real honor and proves that our strength is in our team unity.”
The MITCA title is the Rangers’ third, and Reading won an MHSAA state title in 2001 under Price as well.
Hillsdale Academy, runner-up to Reading at the regional, also performed well at MITCA. The Colts finished third, 39.5 back from Reading and 3.5 back from runner-up Manton.
The top performer for the Academy was the 3200 meter relay team of Shaley Albaugh, Anna Woods, Carly Hubbard, and Connaught Blood, which took home the title in 9:59 and set a new meet record in the process.
Also turning in strong individual performances for the Colts was Heather Lantis (first in the discus, 105-6, and third in the shot put), Woods (third in the 800), Elyse Lisznyai (fourth and fifth in the 3200 and the 1600, respectively), and Connaught Blood (fourth in the 300 hurdles).
The 1600 relay team of Shena Albaugh, Shaley Albaugh, Carly Hubbard, and Blood also took second.
“Overall, we (Hillsdale Academy) did very well,” said Colts coach Mike Roberts. “For a team with only one senior, and a lot of new faces, we were competitive all day with the best teams here. All of our athletes did extremely well and I have no complaints.”
On the men’s side the Reading Rangers also made an appearance as a regional runner-up. Although the Rangers couldn’t match the depth of the overall winner, Sand Creek, strong performances from several individuals carried them to a respectable fifth place finish in the 13-team field.
Trent Morris gave the Rangers their lone individual second place finish in the pole vault (12-6) and too fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.6), while Steven Smith and Matt VanNuys were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the shot put. The 1600 relay was second for Reading (3:29), while the 800 and 3200 relays both finished third overall.
Austin Wigent (seventh, 1600), Matt Pifer (eighth, 400), J.V. Shinners (sixth, 800), Trevor Ryan (sixth, 200), and Damien Davenport (sixth, 3200) all placed in the top eight for Reading.
“(MITCA) was a good meet for us (Reading) as we work towards the state meet next week,” said Reading coach Andy Stump. “It gave us a chance to see our competition and gain some experience in a big meet setting. I think what we did this we will be a big help to us at the (MHSAA) state meet next week.”