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).
In the 3,200 relay the Glads were second in 10:00 with the team of Danz, Chrissy Dressler, McDonell and Bullough.
For St. Francis, Saturday’s victory was a year in the making after a second-place finish to Fowler.
“Last year on the day of the state meet we said, ‘next year they’re ours,’” said Duffy. We came in today ready to take it.”
The St. Francis boys team had three all-state finishers from the finals meet.
Connor Archer was sixth in the high jump with a leap of 6-2 and Damon Sheehy was sixth in the 200. In the 400 relay the Gladiators also were sixth with the team of Dan Connolly, Wesley Nelson, Adam Armour and Sheehy running a 44.7.
Suttons Bay thrower Chase Pattison recorded a personal record in the discus with a throw of 138-11, which placed him fourth.
Glen Lake had three boys relay teams medal. Parker Kokowicz, Tyler Stachnik, Carter Lee and Spencer Query finished third in the 400 relay and eighth in the 800 relay. Kokowicz, Stachnik, Query and Nick Butts teamed up to take seventh in the 1,600 relay.
For the Glen Lake girls, Kaitlin Grigg medaled in two events, placing fifth in the 800 and eighth in the 1,600.
Forest Area’s Jeremy Richards earned an all-state medal for taking fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.71).
Traverse City Central freshman distance runner Anthony Berry came through with the third-fastest 1,600 time in school history as he medaled at the state finals at East Kentwood.
Berry, who placed seventh, ran a time of 4:19.44. He also was part of the second fastest 1,600 relay time in school history along with T.J. Schwannecke, Rhys Adle and Johnny Ackley with a time of 3:25.9.
Central’s other notable performance was Aaron Taylor’s ninth-place finish in the high jump (6-3).
The TC Central girls did not have a medalist, but several competitors placed. Katie Moses ran a 10th place time of 5:05.22 in the 1,600 and joined Lauren Marsh, Lila Dreves and Joy Reist for a 10th-place finish in the 3,200 relay (9:31.83). Moses completed her day with a 16th-place finish in the 800 (2:19.75).
The 800 relay team of Madison Ostergren, McKenna Beers, Morgan Scollard and Courtney Cadotte finished 19th with a personal record time of 1:46.44.
In the 3,200, Ashley Ko was 23rd (11:20.12) and Molly Peregrine was 24th (11:20.47).
Traverse City West’s best showing came from Tyler Johnson in the 400 with a time of 50.08. West’s boys 800 relay placed 16th (1:30.92), Dustin Tucker was tied for 17th in the pole vault with a vault of 12-10, the 400 relay took 19th (43.86) and Connor Hayes was 20th in the shot put (48-7).
For West’s girls, Olivia Bishop took 18th in the long jump (16-8.5) and the 1,600 relay team was 21st (4:10.4).