BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Holly Bullough felt honored.
The St. Francis freshman won the girls’ 1,600-meter run — and with it the Ryan Shay Memorial Cup — at Tuesday’s Record-Eagle Honor Roll track meet at Traverse City Central.
Bullough finished in 4:59.57, one second off her personal best.
“This is quite the honor,” Bullough said after winning the Cup. “At Central Lake (earlier this season), I won the two-mile and I got an award similar to this. And I actually got to meet (Shay’s) parents, which was awesome. I feel so bad for (what happened to) him. He’s kind of my role model. He was amazing.”
Shay was an 11-time state champion at Central Lake, an All-American and national champion at Notre Dame and a five-time USA champion. He collapsed and died during the Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City in November of 2007.
On Tuesday, Bullough led almost the entire race, although Traverse City Central’s Katie Moses stayed just off her shoulder.
“Katie was right there,” Bullough said. “She did amazing. She pushed me. I like having competition like that.”
Bullough opened a gap on the sprint to the finish.
“I was happy with how I could get the energy at the end,” she said. “I was feeling all right during the race, but at the end it was like, ‘I’m going for it. I’m doing it.’”
St. Francis coach Julie Duffing was not surprised.
“She’s phenomenal,” Duffing said. “I had her last quarter at 1:11. It was exciting to watch her.”
Bullough was originally expected to run the 800, too, but Duffing pulled her from that race with the state meet Saturday.
“I decided to go easier on her today because she has such a full schedule Saturday,” Duffing said.
Bullough is seeded No. 1 in the 1600 and No. 2 in the 800 and 3200 Saturday.
Another Gladiator, senior Lauren Buckel, tuned up for the state finals by running a personal best in winning the 400. Her time: 59.18.
“I really wanted to run a good time today before the state meet,” she said. “I knew I had to go out and do something I had never done before — and I did.”
Buckel is the defending Division 4 state champion in the 200 and 400. She went 26.49 and 59.93 in those two events at the state meet a year ago. She’s the No. 1 seed in the 400 and No. 2 seed in the 200 Saturday.
“When you go to states you have to show up and be ready to run a good race because everybody is going to be doing the same,” she said. “It’s nice to know what I can do before I get there.”
Buckel finished third in the 200 Tuesday behind Benzie’s Alikay Hamilton and Traverse City West’s Allida Smith. She was timed in 26.99.
To close out the night, Buckel and Bullough joined Kaitlyn Hegewald and Erin McDonnell on the winning 1600 relay that finished in 4:05.61.
The Gladiators finished second in the state last year, four points behind Fowler, and are poised to make another run at it. St. Francis is seeded No. 1 in the 800 relay, No. 2 in the 3200 relay and No. 4 in the 1600 relay.
“We’re very excited to see what happens,” Buckel said.
“I believe this will be the best team I’ll ever be with my whole high school career,” Bullough added. “I want to make it worth it, make it awesome. I want to win.”
Hamilton had a stellar night for Benzie. She won the 200 in 26.62, anchored the 800 relay that tied with Traverse City Central at 1:47.76 and was on the victorious 400 relay in 51.87. She was second to Traverse City Central’s Courtney Cadotte in the 100.
Hamilton said she stayed relaxed and that helped.
“I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself,” she said.
“That was one of her best races of the year,” Benzie coach Asa Kelly said of the 200. “She’s really coming on.”
Miranda Besey, Jordan Nye and Abbey Clasen joined Hamilton on the 400 and 800 relays.
Cadotte captured the 100 in 12.79.
“I was first out of the blocks,” she said.
Cadotte anchored the 800 relay that tied Benzie for first. McKenna Beers, Madison Ostergren and Morgan Scollard teamed with Cadotte on the 800. Cadotte was fourth in the 200.
Moses came back to claim the 800 in 2:22.35. Teammate Ashley Ko took the 3200 in 11:31.83. Moses, Lauren Marsh Joy Reist and Lila Dreves started the night off by capturing the 3200 relay in 9:52.13.
Kingsley’s Sarah Lueck won the 100 hurdles in 16.54 and Central’s Maddy Weatherholt the 300 hurdles in 49.28.
In the field events, Grand Traverse Academy’s Erin Werth claimed the high jump at 4-11, West’s Olivia Bishop the long jump at 16-6, Central’s Graceanne Tarsa the pole vault at 9-6, and Benzie’s Madison Lutzke the shot put at 34-11 and discus at 113-9.