NAPPANEE – Tuesday afforded each of the three girls track teams in the Northern Lakes Conference triangular to aim for different goals.
The results were about what most expected in the team schemes, with Warsaw claiming a 98-29 win over Wawasee and 101-31 win over NorthWood, and the host Panthers edging out the Warriors 67-65 after the final event of the day.
Each team went about their days, however, in slightly different fashions.
Warsaw was businesslike as usual, winning nine of the 16 events outright, doing its usual damage in the distance events and mixing in a pair of hurdles wins to boot.
Warsaw won the quarter, half, mile and two-mile races, starting with Remi Beckham in the 400 at 1:02.21, Wini Barrett in the 800 at 2:29.61, Adree Beckham in the mile at 5:44.24 and Taylor Gunter in the two-mile at 12:34.14. Warsaw also won the 4×800 relay going away at 10:21.28 and added a pair of hurdles triumphs. Marin Hart won a very tight finish of the 100 hurdles at 18.37, narrowly beating NorthWood’s Reagan Koble to the line, and Michaela Buriff with slightly more wiggle room in the 300 hurdles at 52.15.
The Tiger 4×400 relay claimed honors at 4:19.33 and Grayson Kilburn added a high jump mark of 4-10.
“This has been a season where we are constantly working with the girls on being their worst critic and biggest supporter at the same time,” said Warsaw head coach Megan Davis. “We don’t see that in practice all the time running against each other. So I’ve challenged a lot of the girls to take these meets and challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zones a little bit and see how much they can impress themselves. Can they get a time they didn’t think they could do? I saw several of those moments tonight.”
NorthWood was looking for something to prove, not only with the big dogs from Warsaw, but trying to clinch a conference win against its neighbors from Wawasee in what amounted to some good head-to-head battles.
Sprinter Riley Hershberger raised plenty of eyebrows with her showings, particularly in the speed sprints. Matched up against Warsaw’s ace, Makayla Clampitt, Hershberger beat Clampitt in both the 100 and 200 races, the 200 by a couple steps at 27.62 while the 100 was a lot closer at 13.29 to 13.35. Hershberger also kept NorthWood alive in the 4×400 relay with a strong second leg and helped the Panthers to a 51.50 win in the 4×100 relay, to which the Tigers disqualified on a lane violation on the fourth leg.
“I put three things on the board today after watching Lou Holtz speak today,” began NorthWood head coach Mark Mikel. “He talked about three simple rules for life. Number one was make good choices. Number two was do your best. Number three, care about others. I think that came through with these kids the way they raced and lifted up their teammates.”
Wawasee had a pair of individuals competing at high levels in the field. Sara Pritchard won both throws, taking the discus at 105-00 and the shot put at 33-01.5, in both cases three feet ahead of the next best thrower. Jada Parzygnot set the new Wawasee school record in pole vault with a 10-6, eclipsing her old record and outvaulting defending NLC champion Caitlin Kehler in the process. Parzygnot also took first in the long jump, a best leap of 15-09.75.
In the case of the meet matters for Wawasee, the team competed with heavy hearts as its head coach, Tracy Walesa, was absent going through sudden cancer treatments. The team nearly pulled out a team win for its coach, holding a 65-63 lead after the two-mile but unable to catch NorthWood in the final 4×400 relay. The night wasn’t about the loss in the relay, but about realizing little details matter. And understanding the grand scheme of things.
“We knew this was going to be down to the wire against NorthWood, and it was a chance for some girls to really step up,” said Doug Slabaugh, speaking on behalf of the Wawasee staff. “The 800 against NorthWood, we went one-two. The two-mile, we went one-two. Mariah Hurst had never scored a varsity point ever, stepped into the two-mile and took second and ran a 45-second PR. I think it was all across the board like that, just a team effort where the girls really wanted to do something special tonight.”
Warsaw moves to 6-0 in the NLC and look to finish yet another season undefeated in the round robin with a trip next Tuesday to Plymouth. NorthWood (2-3) can finish above .500 if it can beat Goshen and host Concord next Tuesday and Wawasee (1-4) will run its final home meet Tuesday against Elkhart Memorial and Northridge.