Talk about saving the best for last.
Two area 1,600-meter relay teams won Division 3 state championships June 7 in the final event of the WIAA State Track & Field Championships in La Crosse.
Iola-Scandinavia’s Devin Paulson, Matt Matheny, Dylan Robbins and Kristian Welch teamed up to win the boys’ race in 3:32.25, while the Wild Rose girls’ team of Jasmine Hanson, Ashley Caswell, Gillian Jepson and Bre Marchan turned in a winning time of 4:04.88. Both races took place at about 10 p.m. after a thunderstorm suspended the second day of the meet for almost six hours.
Two individuals also returned home with state titles. Welch, competing in track for the first time, won the boys’ Division 3 long jump event with a top leap of 22 feet. 2 1/2 inches. Meanwhile, Clintonville’s Allison Johnson won the girls’ Division 2 800-meter run with a time of 2:16.41.
Both relay teams came into the finals as the top seed after winning their respective preliminary races June 6. Waupaca’s girls’ 1600 relay team of Michelle Petkovsek, Alisa Blank, Tatiana Sotka and Macie Davidson also won its Division 2 preliminary race by setting a new school record, but finished seventh in the finals with a time of 4:07.31.
For the seniors
Robbins ran the fourth leg of the Thunderbird relay, so he knew his team had wrapped up the title as he crossed the finish line.
“I knew there was going to be some tough competition out here,” he said. “We knew there were a lot of good teams out here. We just tried our hardest and I guess it paid off in the end.”
Robbins is a junior, Welch is a sophomore and Paulson and Matheny are seniors.
“We wanted to have a good year for them since it was going to be their last year running,” Robbins said. “We wanted to do it for them: get to state and get a gold medal.”
“Going out on top is great, knowing that all of our hard work paid off,” Paulson said. “There’s a lot of good competition and it definitely makes us push ourselves more. It makes for a great race.”
“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Matheny said. “There’s nothing else I could imagine that could be this great. With the people on my team, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
He didn’t mind running under the lights.
“We did it last night (in the preliminaries) and it worked out really well,” he said. “Tonight, it worked out just the same. We had a long time to wait, almost 24 hours since we ran last time.”
Marchan was at a loss for words after she, Hanson, Caswell and Jepson received their medals minutes before the T-Bird relay team won its title.
“It was incredible,” she said. “At sectionals, we just really tried to run our best and we got here. (The delay) didn’t affect us too much. It gave us more time to rest and mentally prepare.”
Marchan said the team had a good feeling coming into the finals, especially after turning in the fastest time in the preliminaries.
“We were pretty excited,” she said.
The Wild Rose team was one of several relay teams and individuals that qualified for state this year. The Wildcat girls finished fourth in the overall team standings with 38 points, while the boys tied for 14th with 17 points.
“There’s a lot more people supporting you,” Marchan said. “It’s nice knowing they’re there to cheer you on.”
The state meet is nothing new for Johnson, who qualified two years ago on the Trucker 3,200-meter relay team and as a sophomore last year in the high jump. She didn’t place in either event.
She wasn’t sure she had won a championship at first, as the 800 run final consists of two heats. Once she saw her name on the scoreboard, however, she knew for sure.
“I really wanted to win, I didn’t even look at the clock.” Johnson said. “My coach just told me to stay on the first place girls’ heels, so that’s what I did and I waited until the end. I felt her slowing down a little, so I didn’t want to pass her too early because I know she has a kick. I waited until I thought I had enough and I just went by her.”
The 800 turned out to be the perfect distance for Johnson.
“Long distances, they get in my head too much, and shorter distances, I’m not fast enough,” she said. “I guess this one is just right. It is my favorite race.”
While Johnson came into the state meet with two year of experience under her belt, Welch wrapped up his first season of track with a pair of state champion medals.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Welch, who played basketball last spring instead of trying track as a freshman.
“I knew it was probably going to be the long jump, I did it in middle school,” he said. “I kind of expected to just go with the flow. As I started to get better and get the form down, I realized I’m getting some pretty good jumps and I could possibly be tops in the conference. I ended up getting second in conference.
“Coming into state, it’s really overwhelming,” he added. “I knew there were a lot of kids jumping 21 feet and I’ve only jumped 21-5 in sectionals and that was my PR. I ended up jumping 21-7 and I went, ‘OK, maybe I have something left. Then I jumped 22 I didn’t even hear of anybody else jumping 22. I thought that was pretty much it.”
He was able to get a few warmup jumps in June 7 before the rain delay and didn’t compete until after the meet restarted at 4:30 p.m.
“I wasn’t even nervous,” he said. “Being in flight two kind of helped me.”
Focusing on the long jump event helped, according to Welch.
“I had a whole week off for recovery time,” he said. “I finally got it down after a week of practice. I was able to pull it off.”