In 10 minutes the Solon girls track team racked up 28 points in just two events at the state meet which sent the Spartans into the Class 3A lead heading into today’s final day.
The distance medley relay started the point explosion with a dramatic .02-second victory over Waverly-Shell Rock, which won the second heat and was hanging around waiting to see if any team could match its 4:09.63 time.
“I just can’t believe it; I didn’t think it would be so close,” anchor Lauren Benzing said. “We knew the second heat was going to be really fast so we had to run against the clock, and all my teammates were around the track screaming ‘Go for time!’ “
All four legs had to be good to match the Go-Hawks who had star distance runner Anna Holdiman anchoring.
“I thought, Waverly put up such a good time, that’s going to be hard to beat,” second leg Mallory Carr said.
Jessica Brimeyer led off and acknowledged there was pressure given the time posted already by WSR. Then again you have to resist doing something that jeopardizes the whole.
“I was just saying, ‘Stay steady, don’t move,’ Brimeyer said of sitting in the starting blocks.
Jordan Smith ran the 400-meter leg. She ran her best split of the year at 58.4, despite being in a traffic jam on the back stretch, to leave Benzing in third.
“I was just trying to follow the Bishop Heelan girl and then about two girls came and boxed me in, so I had to, like, shove someone,” Smith said, laughing.
Benzing had moved into second by the time they came to the final 400.
Benzing was chasing Sioux City Heelan’s Lindsay Joyce, which the Solon senior said helped keep her pace up, and caught and passed her on the back stretch. With the rest of the field falling back, it was Benzing against the clock. That’s not an easy thing to do with no one to catch and no one chasing, but she crossed the line with the slimmest of margins.
“When Jordan ran a 58, I knew we could do it,” Benzing said. “Because that’s faster than she ran at districts. I was just thinking I have to do this for my teammates, my family, my god and everything. I’m just representative of my team. Even the girls who don’t get to run at all, they’re wishing that they could be in my spot, so I need to do my part.”
Ten minutes later and about 150 yards away, Solon went 1-2 in the shot put with senior Kara Misel winning and sophomore Shelby Gunnells finishing second. Misel threw 41 feet, 10½ inches, and Gunnells 39-4½. It was Gunnells’ personal best throw.
“It’s exciting,” Gunnells said. “It’s a team sport, and so if we can get 18 points in the shot put, it’s pretty good for us.”
“It’s big. After yesterday I knew we were behind a little bit,” Misel said. “Before the last throw a teammate came up and said ‘we won the D-Med, get after it here.’
“Guns came in not where she is now, obviously. We had our little motivational talks earlier and got after it from there. In our minds that (the 1-2 finish) was the goal. We just had to make it a reality.”
Misel had an unusual day. Her winning throw was followed by five fouls.
“I was pleased where they were landing but not pleased where I was landing at the end of them,” she cracked.
Misel said Gunnells has continued to work on her form, and that improvement has led to this breakthrough. Solon coach Brad Wymer said he was comfortable with the progress Gunnells made throughout the season.
“This is what we do,” he said. “We train through the season, and we train for May. The last 2½ weeks this has really started to click for her, and I’m just really tickled that her hard work has paid off for her. And Kara as well. You’re not going to find two girls who’ve worked any harder than they have.”
Gunnells was ready.
“I thought if I threw my PR, I could get (to second place),” Gunnells said. “I’m really keeping the ball back so it gives me more momentum when I come through and I’m actually chasing it over the toe board.”
“I thought this was possible,” Wymer said. “Based on what Kara’s been doing, we planned on her being a state champion. And Shelby had thrown 39-2 and there was a cluster of girls that were coming in right around that 39-foot mark. We thought if she could throw what she’s capable of throwing that this might happen. You dream about it, and when dreams come true, it’s pretty darn neat.”