It has been a remarkable season for the Viroqua girls track team, and this past week was no exception. The VHS athletes won the team portion of the weather interrupted Division 2 WIAA regional meet hosted by Lancaster High School, Monday, May 22, and Tuesday, May 23.
The Blackhawks scored 115 team points and more importantly, advanced individuals in eight events and three relay teams to the sectional competition at McFarland High School on Thursday, May 25. The talented and youthful Blackhawks capped off the week placing third as a team at the highly competitive Division 2 sectional and sending two of the relay teams and four individuals to the WIAA state meet, scheduled for June 2-3 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Weather became a big factor at the regional meet, according to VHS coach Adrian Ugo. “Monday was a long day. We made it halfway through the 400-yard dash and had to pause for the first lightning delay, which lasted about 45 minutes. We came out and ran four or five races and then the big storm hit. That delay lasted for about an hour and 45 minutes, before they decided to postpone until the next day.”
After the late bus ride home, the team prepared to head back to Lancaster the next afternoon. “Some of the athletes were pretty upset... but they made the necessary mental (preparations),” Ugo said. “I think it was a good experience for some of the athletes to have to compete at a high level on back-to-back days, especially so close to the state meet, hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
The top four place winners in each event, individually or members of a relay team, advance through the regionals to compete at sectionals.
The Blackhawks crowned five individual regional champions and placed first in one of the relays. Sophomore long distance specialist Jillian Weston led the way with top-of-the podium performances in two competitions, winning the gold in the 800-meter run in 2:17.08 and the 1600 in 5:18.59.
Weston was also the anchor runner of the winning 4x800 relay team. Joining Weston on the podium were juniors Madelyn Anderson and Emma Kolden and freshman Josie Dobbs, finishing the combined 3200-meter distance in 10:06.83, a full 16 seconds faster than the closest competition.
Junior Lydia Noble was a winner in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.28, with sophomore Xana Leum advancing with a fourth-place finish in 16.50. Junior Maddy Stackhouse placed seventh in the same event in 17.74.
Anderson took to honors in the 300-meter hurdles in 47.67 and teammate Stackhouse was third in the same event in 49.55, both qualifying for sectionals.
Senior speedster Ally Stilwell recorded the fastest time in the 100-meter dash, winning the regional title with a time of 13.36.
Stilwell was also a member of the second-place 4x100 relay team as she joined forces with sophomore Evelyn Gimurtu, junior Delilah Vance and freshman Samantha Clark for a sectional qualifying performance of 52.04. Anderson, Vance, Gimurtu and Dobbs combined for a time of 4:07.87 to place second in the 4x400, just five one hundredths of a second out of first.
Leum continued her late season surge in the triple jump and became the only field event sectional qualifier for VHS with a combined leaps of 33 feet-seven and ¼ inches.
Other Blackhawks earning team points were: senior Rachel Nigh fifth in the high jump and sixth in the pole vault; Caitlin Fox and sophomore Lauren Brendel sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 800-meter run; sophomore Jenna Harless seventh in the shot put and eighth in the discus; and junior Alice Blake eighth in the 200-meter dash.
The Blackhawks won the meet with the 115 team points followed by Dodgeville/Mineral Point with 112, Mt. Horeb 75, Richland Center 74, Prairie du Chien 63, Lancaster 59, Wisconsin Heights/ Barneveld 58.5 and River Valley 25.
“We have an extremely tough sectional meet and it’s a big task to make it out,” Ugo said. “We performed very well at the meet.” And that might be an understatement when you consider the team set two new school records at the sectional.
Weston was the only first-place winner for the Blackhawks, taking the top spot, with a school record performance of 2:16.74 in the 800-meter run. The talented runner, came within six one hundredths of a second of winning a second gold medal with a second place finish in the 1600 meter event in 5:08.99.
“Jillian ran exceptionally smart races in both the 800 and 1600, she’s worked so hard all year on her race strategy and it really shows,” Ugo said. “She is controlling the race for herself and is not letting others dictate her pace or how she finishes... she is determined and clear goals ahead of her and is at the top of her game.”
The 4x800 team of Anderson, Dobbs, Kolden and Weston ran their best race of the year, setting the school record in the process in 9:42.70 and still finished second versus the stiff competition. “They now know the level of competition that they will race against, so they will have to take one more big step at state to finish where they want to,” Ugo said.
The 4x400 relay team of Anderson, Vance, Gimurtu and Dobbs as the anchor, raced to a time of 4:05.54, placing third in a 16-team field to advance to the state meet, with all four athletes running their personal best times of the year. “They ran an awesome race,” Ugo said. “The competition in that event is so tough with some of the best runners in the state competing.”
Leum saved her best triple jump effort of the season for the sectionals, at 35 feet 1 inch to ensure a spot at the state tournament. Leum’s best effort this year had been 33 feet 7 inches, but coach Ugo sees lots of potential. “Xana has great triple jump form, but she has been working on her speed on the runway and made a big step in practice this past week. She was able to transfer that to the competition and it immediately made a difference.”
Noble was the final state qualifier for the Blackhawks and made it as a special qualifier. As stated earlier, only the top four finishers advance to the state tournament, however, the WIAA does consider best times recorded in the sectionals and allows extra qualifiers to the state meet. Even though Noble placed fifth at the sectional, her time of 15.67 was among the top seven times in the entire state during sectional meets and was thus awarded a spot in the state tournament.
“Lydia wowed us all with her two races at sectionals (preliminary and finals), “ Ugo said. “She has made a huge leap in that race almost overnight, breaking 16 seconds for the first time, and twice that day. Her hurdling form has been great all year, but she is faster than she has ever been and she is really getting a great start out of the blocks.”
Stilwell ran a 13.43 in the 100, placing out of the qualifying field and the 4x100 team of Gimurtu, Stilwell, Vance and Clark placed fifth among 16 teams and just missed the state qualifying position with a time of 51:04.
To find the schedule for the 2017 WIAA state tournament, go to https://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Sports/Track/2017statemeetschedule.pdf.