Anyone who witnessed the effort and attitude of Rheinhardt could call it nothing short of a championship performance by the Warsaw senior star.
Rheinhardt, for the record, was the state runner-up in the 800 meter run during the 109th annual finals contested at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on the campus of Indiana University.
The amazing 800 race, easily the most exciting finish of the night, came down to Rheinhardt trying to hold off Pike senior Gary Austin at the finish. Austin, with an incredible final kick, nipped Rheinhardt for the state title. Austin, who was the top seed for the race, finished in 1:52.17 while Rheinhardt clocked in at 1:52.32.
“I wanted that win, but I did all I could and I’m very happy,” said the classy Rheinhardt, moments after giving Austin a congratulatory handshake and hug on the awards podium. “He got me at the end. He’s a great runner. I saw him coming over my shoulder and tried to hold him off. My legs were just dead.
“This was my pr by three seconds and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’ve been blessed.”
Rheihardt, who was seeded fourth with a time of 1:55.07, took control early and build a good lead. Austin was able to chase him down just before the finish line with his amazing final kick. WCHS coach Matt Thacker had high praise for Rheinhardt, who also ran on the Tigers’ 1,600 relay team that placed 12th in the final event of the meet.
“To me, Spencer is the best 800 runner in the state,” said Thacker. “He performed greatly tonight. You can’t ask for a better effort than he gave. He ran a smart, excellent race and broke the school record. He just got out kicked. It was nothing Spencer did wrong. Austin just had a heck of a kick.
“It was a great race by two great runners. Spencer is gifted. But this is because of his hard work. He worked for this and earned it.”
The Tigers totaled 11 points to finish in a tie for 19th place in the final team standings for the finals, which played out under conditions that included cool temperatures, wind and the occasional light rain shower. Lawrence Central won the team title with 78 points, while Hamilton Southeastern was runner-up with 53.5. Penn was the top area finisher with 28 points to place fourth.
Rheinhardt, who will run collegiately at the University of Notre Dame, capped an amazing senior season Saturday night. He also concluded a brilliant prep career in which he and the entire WCHS boys program took huge steps forward. “This is so special to me,” said Rheinhardt after competing in the 1,600 relay at the end of the meet. “It’s as much as I could ever ask for. My goal coming into high school was to break the school record and I did it.
“I just credit God. This is definitely awesome. I’ll be back here next year to watch our guys run. I can’t wait to see the future of this program. We’ve got great young guys who competed here tonight and I see some state championships in their future.”
WCHS sophomore Stephen Kolbe placed in a tie for sixth in the high jump. The regional champion, who was seeded third in the event, was disappointed. He cleared 6-4 Saturday after going 6-7 to win the Kokomo Regional title last week.
“I feel I could of and should of done better,” said Kolbe. “Sixth is alright and better than ninth (his place in the long jump at State as a freshman), but it’s just disappointing.
“I honestly don’t know what it was today. I cleared 6-2 and 6-4 on my first attempts and was thinking it was going to be a good day. But, it happens. I’ll think about today for a while though.”
Sophomore Ellis Coon scored Warsaw’s other point with his ninth place finish in the 1,600 in a time of 4:13.72. Junior Jacob Poyner was right behind him in 10th place in the race for the Tigers in a time of 4:14.37.
The 1,600 relay team of sophomore Gabe Furnivall, Rheinhardt and sophomores Ryan Goon and Chad Goon capped the night for the Tigers with its 12th place finish in a time of 3:21.97. Warsaw received a tough break when Wyatt Jones had to be scratched from the relay after suffering a leg injury while placing 19th in the 400 in a time of 50.96.
Furnivall filled in admirably for Jones, who was visibly upset after trying to warm up for the relay and being unable to compete.
“Wyatt tweaked something in his leg in the 400 and could not go,” said Thacker. “It was the best thing to do for the team. We felt comfortable with Gabe in there.
“All of our guys did an excellent job tonight. We’re still a young team and it’s a process for us coming to compete at this level.
“Stephen has no reason to be down on himself. He improved his place from last year and showed signs of progress and growth. He’s only going to get better. And we’re blessed next year to have two guys back in Ellis and Jacob who competed in the 1,600. Ellis runs a 4:13 as a sophomore and gets ninth. That just shows you how deep the field was.” Whitko senior Alec Wilkinson was one of nine competitors to not clear a height in the preliminary round of the pole vault. Wilkinson had cleared 14-3 to win a regional championship at Fort Wayne Wayne last week.
Team Scores (top 20 teams and area teams)
Lawrence Central 78, Hamilton Southeastern 53.5, Carmel 41, Penn 28, Pike 27, Chesterton 23.5, North Central 23, Ben Davis 20, Lafayette Jefferson 20, Fort Wayne Snider 19, Portage 18, New Albany 18, Carroll (Fort Wayne) 16, Bloomington North 14, Fishers 12, Warren Central 12, Avon 12, LaPorte 12, Warsaw 11, Lafayette Central Catholic 11, Fairfield 7, Concord 7, Elkhart Memorial 6, South Bend St. Joseph’s 6, Westview 5, Manchester 3, South Bend Clay 2, West Noble 1.
1. Jermaine Parrish (New Albany) 10.67.
1. Lucas Wallace (Lafayette Jefferson) 21.70.
1. Jeron Brown (Lawrence Central) 48.08.
1. Gary Austin (Pike) 1:52.17.
1. Jason Crist (Franklin Central) 4:09.12.
1. Futsum Zienasellassie (North Central) 8:51.15.
1. Zach Bray (Hamilton Southeaster) 14.01.
1. Da Quan Brown (Lawrence Central) 37.49.
1. Penn (Joseph Weller, Thomas Grant, Timothy Deal, Conner Sowders) 41.76.
1. Fort Wayne North Side (Mohammad Bangura, Tyvon Kelley, Ed Benson, Kersten Barnfield) 3:16.95.
1. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (Eric Claxton, Alexander Hess, John Hester, Jonathan Harper) 7:41.29.
1. Will Schott (Roncalli) 6-8.
1. Kyle Johnston (Penn) 16-1.
1. Jeron Brown (Lawrence Central) 23-7.
1. Langston Newton (Carmel) 61-2.
1. Langston Newton (Carmel) 192-9.