By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Warsaw has always been a little funny about its success. While it is certainly a big fish in the northern Indiana pond, its status among those fish further south comes more into question. Perhaps that uncertainty of whether they belong came a little more to central focus after a huge day at the IHSAA State Finals.
The Warsaw girls track program had a seminal moment when its 4×800 relay team thought it outdid itself in the interim, winning the “slow heat” of the two-heat relay that opened the State Finals. As Warsaw watched Carmel race around to a 9:11.77 state championship, the Lady Tigers came to the realization it had the second-best time in the state at 9:16.59.
It had smashed its school record by over 20 seconds, and was on the podium next to the state champs in an improbable manner. Warsaw’s regional time was 9:48.50 and its best collective effort before that was 9:38.50, run earlier in the season at the Princess Relays in Mishawaka.
The relay team of Wini Barnett, Adree Beckham, Ava Knight and Joey Rastrelli started a great day for the Lady Tigers, which saw Marin Hart also have a big day in Indianapolis. Hart also made the podium on two occasions, clearing 5-5 to finish eighth overall, and just an inch off the school record. Hart also raced to a ninth-place time of 15.47 in the 100 hurdles, just a second off the championship run.
For the season, Hart claimed NLC, sectional and regional high jump titles, NLC and sectional 100 hurdles titles and an NLC title in the 300 hurdles.
Rastrelli had an individual performance, racing to 18th in the 1,600 run with a time of 5:18.29. The freshman previously won NLC and sectional titles in both the mile and two-mile races.
Warsaw’s 4×100 relay team of Avery Fitzgerald, Lilly Boston, Baylee Duncan and Kendra Love placed 24th with a season-best 50.28 and the 4×400 relay team of Rylee Burns, Sarah Kratzsch, Knight and Barnett were 18th at 4:04.92.
Josie Niebbia did not achieve a height in her three attempts at 10-0 in pole vault to conclude the day’s events for the Lady Tigers, which scored 11 team points, the most for a Warsaw team at the IHSAA State Finals since the 1992 team had 17.33.
That capped off a season that had Warsaw run undefeated in the Northern Lakes Conference at 7-0 and crushing the NLC at the conference championships in early May. The Lady Tigers won 12 of the 16 events, outscoring runner-up Northridge by a whopping 81 points.
A week later, Warsaw won 10 events at its home sectional, again running seemingly unopposed to its 14th consecutive sectional title.
Regional had Warsaw claim titles in the 4×400 relay and Hart in high jump.
As with all spring sports, the uncertainty that came with a season off and a senior class last seeing action as sophomores, Warsaw was ultra consistent. And more astonishing in its season of accomplishments, Warsaw individuals and relays combined for 24 postseason championships from the NLC, sectional and regional formats.
Even more impressive, of the 12 girls that competed in the IHSAA State Finals, only four graduate this spring, and the likes of Rastrelli and Sarah Kratzsch are just freshmen and Rylee Burns and Avery Fitzgerald are just sophomores.