WARSAW — You’d think after 14 straight titles, the Lady Tigers might start to feel a little blasé about their run of Northern Lakes Conference dominance. But with new personnel in new places each year, the streak has remained exciting.
Warsaw’s girls track and field team backed up an unbeaten run through the conference round robin with the title at the NLC championship meet at home Tuesday, stretching its run of league titles to 14 straight seasons. The Lady Tigers put up 169 points, well ahead of runner-up Elkhart Memorial’s 141 score, while Northridge placed third with a 104, NorthWood was sixth with a score of 66, and Wawasee finished seventh with a score of 63.
Elkhart Memorial held off host Warsaw in the boys’ meet, 127-110.5, while NorthWood placed third there with a 108 score, and Wawasee finished eighth with 54 points.
“I don’t think it ever gets old. It’s exciting every single time because it’s a different group of kids every single year. So it’s different events that you’re coming in with — different events that used to be weaknesses that have now become strengths but strengths that have now become weaknesses. It’s just interesting to see how it unfolds each and every year and see the different talent and how we stack up against it,” said Warsaw girls track coach Megan Davis.
This year’s title was perhaps an especially impressive one given the Lady Tigers’ youth — of the 63 girls on the squad, nearly half of them are freshmen. And those freshmen made some un-freshmanlike contributions Tuesday.
Three of them — Ava Knight, Wini Barnett and Amanda Lucinde — combined with senior Ashlynn Hepler to win the Tigers the 4×800 relay title in 9:56.55, nearly a half-minute better than their closest competitor. Barnett finished second in the 3200 meters ahead of junior teammate Taylor Gunter, Marin Hart finished second in the 100 hurdles, and frosh Audrey Grimm gave the Tigers a fourth-place result behind third-place sophomore teammate Adree Beckham in the mile run. But Warsaw got some big contributions from its upperclassmen, too.
Caitlin Kehler finished second in the pole vault, Makayla Clampitt placed first in the 100-meter dash (12.7), Remi Beckham was third behind junior teammate Abby Steffensmeier in the long jump, and she won the 800 meters (2:26.49), while Grayson Kilburn set a new personal-best in the high jump with a 5’3” clearance on her way to top honors there.
“That was huge for her. A season-best, and I think it was mostly just a huge confidence boost for her because it’s been there all season, but tonight she showed herself it was there,” said Davis of Kilburn.
“A coach can only tell you so many times ‘You’ve got this. You’ve got it.’ But the second you know you’ve got it — that was kind of that moment for her.”
On the boys’ side, Memorial was able to back up its own unbeaten run through conference duals to clinch the outright NLC title. Warsaw couldn’t catch the only team that bested the Tigers in NLC round robin competition, but they could console themselves with some top finishes Tuesday. Isaac Mitchell finished second in the 400-meter dash behind Plymouth’s Blake Reed, Tanner Stiver finished second in the 800 meters, Mason Martz and Keagan Larsh finished third and fourth, respectively, in the long jump, and Alijah Wade broke tape in the 200-meter dash (22.57).
NorthWood’s boys finished as scripted in third place after a two-loss round robin season behind both Memorial and Warsaw. Bronson Yoder earned the Panthers a pair of wins in the 100-meter dash (11.16) and the long jump, where he remained unbeaten on the season with a 21’04” leap, and he, Taylor Knight, Brock Lehman and Landon Parker finished second in the 4×100. Parker was third in the 100 meters, and he and Knight finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 200 meters, and Garrett Anglemeyer placed second in the discus and fourth in the shot put. Garrett Miller was third in the 110 hurdles.
For NorthWood’s girls, Riley Hershberger placed third in the 200 meters, Reagan Koble was fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, Sara Lopez was fifth in the half-mile, and Alea Minnich, Kali Parisi, Madison Payne and Lopez finished third in the 4×400.
Undersized Wawasee was unable to seriously challenge in the team standings at Tuesday’s NLC finale, but both the Warriors and the Lady Warriors had some impressive finishes at the meet in Warsaw.
On the boys’ side, Isaiah Tipping won the shot put by more than 7 feet with a conference championship toss of 55’10.5”, and he scored his team some serious points in the discus as well with a third-place result there.
Luke Griner continued his run of dominance in the 800 meters, meanwhile, with a 1:56.33 stop about a week after breaking his own half-mile school record in a meet with NorthWood.
“The most important races are going to be regional and state, so we’re training him for state. Right now he’s still working through this week as far as workouts and pushing hard. We still have another week where we’re going to go out a little bit hard, and then we’re going to start tapering off. Today was enough to win,” said Wawasee boys coach Frank Pizana of Griner.
Also for Wawasee’s boys, Spencer Hare finished fourth in the two-mile run, and Michael Hammer PR’d on his way to fourth behind Griner in the half-mile.
Wawasee’s girls had a dual champion in Jada Parzygnot, who won both the pole vault and the long jump as she was seeded to do. Parzygnot cleared 11 feet in the pole vault to win the title there, and she set the standard with a 16’02” mark in the long jump on a cold day in Warsaw.
“It was really cold earlier, and everybody just didn’t jump well. Jada jumped the best. Her first jump is what got it, I believe,” recalled Wawasee girls coach Tracy Walesa.
In another standout finish for the Lady Warriors, Sara Pritchard was runner-up in the discus and fifth in the shot put.
“It’s been a good meet. We’ve done what we can do. For half of our girls being freshmen tonight and coming out and doing what we could do tonight, it’s huge. Huge things for us going forward,” Walesa said.
“It’s been a good meet. We’ve done what we can do. For half of our girls being freshmen tonight and coming out and doing what we could do tonight, it’s huge. Huge things for us going forward.”
Girls track sectionals take place next Tuesday, while the boys tournament begins Thursday. Many of the teams present for the NLC meet will return to Warsaw for girls sectional next week.
“I think this meet just really allows us to kind of see what we need to work on and the mindset changes we need to have going into the postseason,” said Davis.
“It exposes some things for us, but at the same time it is definitely an opportunity for us to tweak some different kids around, move some things and practice with the intensity that they felt tonight. I think that will be hopefully what helps elevate us into the sectional and regionals.”