HUDSONVILLE — The spirit and the ability of the Traverse City St. Francis girls track team was strong on Saturday.
After watching teammate Kaitlyn Hegewald rupture her Achilles during the 800-meter relay, the Gladiators banded together and went on to capture the Division 4 state championship — the school’s first in girls track.
Led by the performances of state champions Lauren Buckel and Holly Bullough, St. Francis scored 66 points to win the title by 14 points over second place Reading. Fowler, which edged the Gladiators for first last year, was third with 41 points. Buckel repeated as the state champion in the 400 with a time of 59.5, while Bullough won both the 800 (2:16.53) and the 1,600 (5:07.37).
“It was amazing. We found out we won before the 4X4,” said St. Francis coach Julie Duffing. “These girls just stepped up and did what they had to do and they conquered. We came here to win today. We believed we could do this at the very beginning of the year and the girls never thought otherwise. The girls worked hard all year. They wanted to win this.”
Hegewald’s injury came as the Gladiators were winning the 800 relay. The big challenge was not only staying mentally focused in the face of a teammate’s injury, but also finding someone to run Hegewald’s leg of the 1,600 relay. Madelyn Zamerron filled in and ran a 63-second leg in only her second time running the race — four seconds better than the first attempt — to help the team finish second with a time of 4:13. Buckel, Erin McDonell and Maddy Danz were the others in that relay.
“Our girls, they persevered because we had to do some quick thinking on our feet,” said Duffing.
Bullough, a freshman, also posted a second-place finish in the 3,200 with a time of 11:32.
Grace Meachum grabbed a fifth in the long jump (16-3) and was seventh in the 100 (13.41).