Saturday, June 06, 2015

Hollywood Ending for Class A Boy's Team Title

A movie script could be written about the battle for this year's boy's MSHSL Outdoor Track & Field Class A Championships.  The "stage" would Klas Field at Hamline University and the major characters are defending Class A champions' Minnehaha Academy sprinter Jonathan Webb and the challenger to the throne, middle distance runner Shane Streich of Waseca.

Neither ran against the other, but each was the core of their team's chance to lift the first place team trophy. Both Webb and Streich had the fastest qualifying times for their individual events. Each could contribute a maximum of 36(12 times 3) points.  Webb won the 100, the 400, and the 200, racking up 36 team points.  Streich won the 1600 and the 800, breaking his own Class A record in the 1600 for 24 points.

Waseca's Tyler Kolander pitched in eight points with his third place finish in the shot put.  Shane's brother Cole scored two points by placing sixth in the 3200 and led off Saturday by helping the Waseca's four by 800 relay to another sixth place finish and two more points.  300 hurdler JP Eykyn finished third in the 300 hurdles for eight points.  The Waseca four by 100 relay team contributed six points by finishing fourth..

All but three of the Waseca athletes scoring were seniors.  "This was our last meet," said Streich.  The seniors were close, he added, noting that they had pushed each other in practice, supported one another, helped motivate each other to perform at their best.  They were a tight knit group that wanted one more trophy.  Not just any trophy. The one they give to the State Team Champions.

Jonathan Webb(yellow socks) on his way to a win in the 200.
Photo by Gene Niemi
"Our goal this season was to repeat as team champions," said Webb.  He just wanted to "give it my all" in each event and hope that was enough.  His support came from distance runner Ephrim Bird who finished second in the 3200 on Friday and sixth in the 1600 on Saturday for 14 points.  300 hurdler  Samuel Lundquist who was second in that event for ten points.  Pole vaulter Anders Chelgren  scored three points in seventh place.

By the time Webb had  won his second title, the 400, Lundquist was facing  Jon Tollefson who he's lost to by a hundredth of a second in 2014.  Lundquist wanted the two extra points he would get if he was able to defeat Tollefson this time.  He didn't get them as Tollefson held him off and won his second title of the meet.  Lundquist laid on the infield, taxed from the effort he had just given and disappointed that he'd missed the opportunity to score more."It was the fifth hurdle," said Lundquist.  He'd fallen on it during his sophomore year and ever since then has had trouble at that hurdle.

The curse of the fifth got him again this time, Lundquist said.  Webb came over to him and consoled him, telling Lundquist that it was OK.  Lundquist had given it his best, Webb said.  There was nothing to be disappointed about.  Then he went out and won the final event of his triple, the 200, and waited.  "I'm really nervous now," he said.  His chances of contributing any more points were gone.  Minnehaha Academy hadn't qualified a team for the meet's final event, the 4 by 400 relay.  Waseca had.  Streich was the anchor man.

"Shane's running the anchor," Webb said, a worried look on his face.  The two will be teammates soon as both are committed to run for the University of Minnesota, beginning school there in the Fall.  Streich is a tough competitor, Webb said.  But he also knew that his team had some cushion in the scoring.  With only two events remaining, Minnehaha Academy had 63 points.  Waseca had 50.  To win the team title, the Waseca 4 by 400 relay team needed help.

Everyone's attention suddenly focused on the discus, the only event left aside from the 4 by 400 relay.  The Waseca coaches, family members and friends watched anxiously from behind the fencing at the end of the throwing area.  One of the coaches was tallying the point totals, attempting to figure out what impact what Kolander did would have on the team race.

With three throws left Waseca's Kolander was in third.  On his last throw he moved into second, only to be passed by the event winner, Windom's Tyler Morgan, on his final throw.  Still, the eight points Kolander scored moved Waseca closer to Minnehaha Academy.

Word circulated through the Waseca and Minnehaha Academy teams.  For Waseca to win the team title, the 4 by 400 team had to finish fourth or better.  Webb and Lundquist watched anxiously from behind the fence at the top of the home straight.  Near the finish line on the elevated platform behind the fence, the Waseca supporters gathered with anticipation.  Waseca had cut the gap to five points, 63-58.  Did Striech have enough left to bring home the team in fourth place?

"I just want them to give me (the baton) with enough of a lead," he said, half tongue-in-cheek with a big grin on his face, when he'd been asked after winning the 800 what he hoped would happen if the team race came down to the last event.  After the first two legs of the relay, it was clear that wasn't going to happen. By the time the handoff came Streich was running in fifth place, one spot away from a State Team championship.  He moved up fourth down the backstretch and at the top of the home stretch.was beginning to threaten the three runners in front of him.
Shane Streich at the top of the backstretch in
the 4 by 400. Photo by Gene Niemi

The race announcer took note of "Streich moving up on the outside," and the Waseca cheering section went wild, jumping up and down and waving their arms as Streich passed not one, not two, but all three runners in front of him to win the race and the team championship.  The announcer proclaimed that the 400 split for Streich was timed in 48.7.

Webb looked shocked.  When told of Streich's split time, he said: "Unreal.  I can't believe he did that."  Streich had a mixture of disbelief and exultation on his face as he accepted congratulations   Asked how his legs felt, he said that they felt rubbery, like jello.  When asked the night before after he had run down only one team to win their preliminary heat how fast he thought he could run on the anchor.  He said he'd run 49.1 before and believed he could run in the 48s.

Webb won the open 400 in 48.59 and he ran the prelims in 48.12.  Earlier in the year when he won the Hamline Elite Meet 400, he was asked what his goals were this season.  He said low 48s and that he hoped he could get into the 47s.  When Waseca's coach saw Streich after the race he gave him a big bear hug and lifted him off the ground.  After the awards ceremony for the teams, Minnehaha Academy's coach gathered his team together.

They formed a circle holding hands.  He told his athletes that they had qualified more athletes than the year before.  That they had scored more points than the year before.  That they should not hang their heads.  They'd won two trophies in two years.  They should be proud of what they'd done. Like Hopkins' Joe Klecker's scorching last 800 meters to win the Class AA 1600 in 4:06.54, Shane Streich's anchor leg in the "mile" relay is part of the history of the MSHSL outdoor track championships that will be talked about for years to come.  It is the stuff of legends.

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