For the competing athletes, Monday’s WIAA Division 1 track regional was not so much about hitting a certain time, height or distance, it was just surviving and advancing to the sectional later this week.
The Stevens Point Area Senior High boys were efficent in accomplishing that at as the two programs combined to have 32 individuals finish in the top four in 21 events at Stiehm Stadium to move on to Thursday’s meet at Rice Lake. The SPASH boys had the top three spots in the shot put and 800, and the girls had the top three finishers in the 3,200
All eight boys and girls relays advanced as well.
The Panthers’ Payton Tepp was the top individiual girl in the regional, despite still fighting a cold. The senior won the 100- and 200 meters, was on the Panthers’ winning 400 and 800 relay teams, and finished third in the long jump.
Marshfield’s Keiron Howlett and Matt Oestreich led the boys by qualifying in three individual events. Howlett won the long and triple jump, and finished second to Wausau West’s Kallen Bentz in the 200 meters by .07. Howlett also was on the Tigers’ 400 relay team that finished third.
“I was just thinking about making it to sectionals,” Howlett said. “From there, the focus is on being good and making it to state.”
Bentz also won the 400.
“I feel pretty good right now, feel pretty relaxed and getting ready for sectionals,” Bentz said. “This is my dream and I’m ready for state this year.”
Some individuals wondered early if it was going to be their day.
Wisconsin Rapids’ Loren Abbrederis fell on the track during warm-ups for the girls 100 meter hurdles and was tested for concussion-like symptoms. Also, during practice for the boys high jump, Stevens Point Area Senior High’s Sean VanHelden struggled to clear 5-foot-10 — half a foot below what his seeded-height was. In addition, D.C. Everest senior Logan Heil wondered if the wind was going to affect his performance in boys discus preliminaries.
All three athletes went on to win their respective events, with VanHelden and Heil setting personal-best marks of 6-6 and 170-10, respectively. Heil’s toss was more than 12 feet better than what his seed distance was, and is the fifth-best recorded in the state this spring.
“I was a little nervous because of the wind, but it seemed to die down a little bit right before I threw,” said Heil, who missed a state trip in the event last year by roughly six inches. “I felt good and I knew (the throw) was going to go somewhere, but I was shocked (at the distance). That is such a big personal record for me and such a boost.”
VanHelden is also riding some postseason momentum. The junior considered trying to jump even higher but wanted to conserve some energy with only three days until the sectional.
“It’s really going to be a good booster for me,” VanHelden said. “(The sectional) is three days away, and coming up quick. If I can pull that at state, I can get on the podium.
Abbrederis’ win in the 100 hurdles, helped overset finishing sixth in the high jump.
“I’m excited to make it (to sectionals) and also very grateful,” Abbrederis said. “It’s nice to go back to sectionals after a year off and all the injuries I’ve had.”