By James Gensterblum / Hillsdale Daily News Correspondent
The Vikings were bringing back all four runners from a dominant state title-winning team last season, including the top two 800 runners in the state, Larry Julson and Colin Ward. They had already gone seven seconds faster than their best time last season, and 11 seconds faster than any other team in Division 4 all season. The only question seemed to be whether or not they would break the state record during their inevitable victory.
However, in one of the biggest upsets in state meet history, Hillsdale Academy senior Tom Lundberg out-kicked Julson to the line to secure the Colts’ first title in school history and shock the seemingly invincible Vikings.
“It’s incredible to be a part of from a coach’s perspective,” said Hillsdale Academy coach Mike Roberts. “To have everything come together and have all four runners do exactly what they needed to do to pull off the victory is something that’s hard to achieve, and somehow this group did it. We’re all very proud of them.”
The team of Ethan Smith, Joel Calvert, Ethan Gerhke, and Lundberg finished in 8:03.94, two seconds off the state meet record of 8:01 but 15 seconds faster than their previous best.
“We’ve had so many second place finishes here, so we know how hard it is to get a victory at the state meet,” Roberts said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment and to beat a team as good as Potterville to get it makes it even sweeter.”
The area’s other state champion, Trent Morris of Reading in the pole vault, seemed just as unlikely to be on the podium a couple of weeks ago.
After finishing fourth at the state meet a year ago, Morris had struggled the entire season, vaulting just 12-6 heading into last Tuesday’s Area Best meet. There, however, the Ranger vaulter finally put it together, clearing 14-0 for the first time in his career.
Morris carried that momentum over to the state meet, where he easily cleared the 14-foot bar on his first attempt to sew up a state title.
“This year was frustrating,” Morris said. “It seemed like no matter how much I worked at it, I couldn’t get any progress. But I’ve learned during my years here that if you just keep plugging away, it’ll come eventually. I’m so glad that it happened at the right time for me to do something here.”
With his victory, Morris became the third pole vault champion in four years from the area, joining Matt Magda of Jonesville and Greg Burns of Litchfield.
“I can’t think of the words to describe being in that group,” Morris said. “Honor isn’t right because it’s beyond that. They’re amazing vaulters and it’s just crazy to think that I’m a part of that legacy.”
Reading’s boys finished sixth overall, scoring 22.5 points. They were buoyed by three relays, finishing seventh in the 3200 relay (8:23.8), tied for sixth in the 400 (44.92), and second in the 1600 (3:30.4) Seniors Morris, Matt Pifer, J.V. Shinners, Abe Timberman, and Trevor Ryan were a part of those relays for the Rangers.
“This was a meet for the seniors,” said Reading coach Kurt Stump. “They’ve carried us all season and it’s great to see them go out strong. They’ve set the tone for next year’s group to follow.”
The Academy boys finished in tenth place, scoring 20 points. Sophomore Peter Sullivan set a school record of 6-5 to finish third in the high jump, and joined Smith, Gerhke, and Lundberg on the fifth place 1600 relay team (3:30.9).
Pittsford senior Ben Wines excelled in the field events, throwing a personal best of 49-1 in the shot put to take third and finishing sixth in the discus (139-5). Sophomore Fletcher Masters had a great day for Waldron, running 51.88 to finish fourth in the 400, and Juston Trombley represented Litchfield in the discus, where he took eighth (135-3).
On the girls’ side Hillsdale Academy led area teams, finishing ninth with 20 points. Heather Lantis took fourth in the discus (110-10) and eighth-grader Elyse Lisznyai took eighth in the 3200 (12:08, a new personal best) for the Academy.
The Colts also scored big in two relays. The 1600 relay team of Carly Hubbard, Grace Leutheuser, Shaley Albaugh, and Connaught Blood took third in a time of 4:13.7, and the Academy took second in the 3200 relay with a team of Shaley Albaugh, Hubbard, Anna Woods and Blood in a time of 9:52, a new school record.
“Our relays were very impressive today,” Roberts said. “There were some phenomenal athletes on that old 3200 relay record team, so to break it is a big accomplishment.”
The Reading Rangers took 15th overall, with 17.5 points, and showed the kind of depth that has carried them all season.
Brooke Schmucker had Reading’s best finish on the day, taking third in the shot put (36-9.25), and her teammate Jami Newell was seventh in the discus (101-2).
Alex Mailahn tied for eighth in the pole vault with a clearance of 8-9, and Tessa Pridgeon was fifth in the 400 (1:00.77).
Reading also placed in three relays. The 800 relay team of Shawna Smith, Nicole Marsh, Kim Davis and Pridgeon took seventh (1:50.6), and the 400 relay team of Olivia Morris, Davis, Kaitlyn Parker, and Pridgeon did as well (52.5). The Rangers capped their day with an eighth-place finish in the 1600 relay by Brittany Couch, Jessica Fink, Smith, and Pridgeon (4:17.6).
“Everyone that made the trip got a medal, and that was really important for us,” said Reading coach Deb Price. “It’s a fitting end to a great season for this team.”
Katie Baker from Waldron was the last area all-state runner on the women’s side, taking eighth in both the 100 (16.7) and the 300 (49.6)