In some cases the athletes were still stretching their legs and getting the spring break kinks out of their system at the first big local outdoor boys track meet of the season at Brookfield East Tuesday.
But in other cases, they were stretching the premise of what was possible, as two meet records were tied and several early state best outdoor times were produced at the 41st annual Mike Gain/House of Speed Invite.
North Shore champion Homestead pulled out the team title with the help of four first place finishes, including two from weightman Justin Barber.
"I think it was a good call to have us come out here," said Homestead coach Dan Benson of his close win over Greater Metro Conference powers Menomonee Falls and host East. "It was a good chance to get us out and competing. Some kids stayed back and worked with Coach (Todd) Brawner (over break) while others showed a little rust."
"But it was a good step in developing our outdoor team."
The Highlanders won the 15-team event with 101 points as returning state runner-up Falls was second with 83, and GMC indoor champ East was third with 79. Other area finishers included Whitefish Bay in fifth (60), Brookfield Central sixth (42), West Allis Hale seventh (37), Wauwatosa West eighth (36) and Wauwatosa East 15th (12).
Barber led the way for Homestead, as he improved his personal best in the shot put with a 58-1 toss that won the event by more than five feet and was also a new state best. He also claimed the discus in his first try this season with a toss of 159-2.
"It felt good to PR (in the shot), but I was hoping for a little more in the discus," he said. "It was still a good day for everybody (on the team). We performed pretty well."
But just in fits and spurts according to Benson, as the field events carried the day for the Highlanders. Danny Schiller, who already holds the state best in the high jump (6-10) won his event at 6-4, while freshman Riley Pelisek took the long jump at 20-2 1/4.
Taking seconds were Gabe Genovesi in the 200 (22.93 seconds) and Nate Routhier with a personal best in the 3,200 (9:40.43).
"Our 18-event coverage is still a little shaky," said Benson, "but it's all a matter of health and development."
Falls coach Mike Burling and his returning state champion 110 high hurdler Matt Widule concurred. Widule had a sound day, winning his first try at his specialty in 14.65 into a wicked crosswind.
"That first race (in the trials) was a pretty good wake-up," said Widule. "Those first three hurdles, you kind of went 'Whoah, that a little rough.' It's a longer race (than the indoor 55 meter event) but you get used to it after awhile. ...This just shows that now it's time to get a little more sleep and eat a little better. It's time to race."
The Indians did that just a little bit later, as with Widule on the lead, they also won what has become a signature event for them in recent years, the 800 relay. Widule, Brad Tietyen, Travis Townsend and Matt Christensen turned in an early season state best of 1:31.01 in earning their impressive victory.
"And you know when we first started trying those (faster) blind passes?," asked Falls coach Mike Burling. "Yesterday."
Falls relays were tough across the board as the three remaining units all took second, including the 3,200 team of Stewart Van Horne, Ryan Birschbach, Nate Paulson and P.J. Weyer combined for a season best of 8:28.26; the 1,600 team of Max Poeske, Kyle French, Tre Brown and Widule came across in 3:31.86 and the 400 team was caught in 45.12.
Weyer (2:04.67) and Van Horne (2:05.28) were two-three, respectively, in the 800.
A good start, said Burling.
"It's just our first meet outdoors and already we're looking a lot better," he said.
Meanwhile East, which beat Falls at the GMC indoor a few weeks ago, was busy testing things out. Coach Mike Steiner found the usual mix of the good and of things that could use improving.
On the former side, was the stunning effort of Aaron Thompson in the 300 intermediate hurdles, as he bombed a good field by more than a second with a state best and meet record-tieing time of 39.62 that he achieved despite hammering the last hurdle.
"Out of all the real solid guys that we have on this team, he's the one who stirs the drink," said Steiner.
Steiner was also pleased with the effort of the winning 1,600 relay team of Ron Langdon, Alex Howland, Alex Hauer and Kevin Reitz, as the unit held off Falls and Widule for the win in 3:31.63. Kyle Rohde also won the triple jump (42-9 1/4).
Taking seconds for the Spartans were Zach Hodgson in the 1,600 (4:44.33) and the 800 relay team (1:31.88)
"Coming off break with the first outdoor meet, we didn't know what to expect," Steiner said, "but we were pleased. The kids competed acceptably."
Bay got a big day from double winner Davontae Johnson. Johnson claimed the 400 with a rallying kick (51.09) and then he came back to win the 200 (22.76).
The rally was part of a change of race strategy for Johnson this season.
"That's the biggest difference from last year," he said. "Last year my start (in the 400) was great but my finish was the worst. This year, I'm working on making my finish my strong suit. ...I just have to keep working on my strength and endurance, because once form breaks, there's no getting back."
Coach Joe Saggio's unit had one other major high on the day, as the Bay 400 relay team of Brandon Threats, Alex Jamerson, Paul Davis and Jevontae Merriwether, won its event coming out of the slow heat with a time of 44.79.
Jamerson just missed out on winning the 100 dash by .01 of a second in 11.45. while Mike Camirelli was third in the 1,600 (4:47.53).
Another area first was taken by Matt Krogmann of Brookfield Central in the pole vault as he tied a meet record with an effort of 14-6 while teammate Tyler Veling was third (13-0). The Lancers also got thirds from Alex Urban in the shot put (48-8 1/2), Bryce Gilbert in the discus (138-9), and from their 3,200 relay team (8:32.76).
Other highlights by school included the following: Tosa East--Max Kilpin, second in the high jump (6-2). Tosa West--Tim O'Brien, second in the 400 (51.36); Keith Brown, third in the 110 high hurdles (15.23); 800 relay, third (1:36.67). West Allis Hale--Ben Koeppen, fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.84); 1,600 relay, third (3:32.19); Jason King, fourth in the triple jump (39-2 1/4).
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