By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half
COMSTOCK PARK – Pewamo-Westphalia girls track coach Scott Werner has a saying he believes applies to his track program: “Tradition doesn’t graduate.”
On Saturday, a team mixed with youth and experience won the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track and field championship for the second time in three years, but the crown was not clinched until the final event of the meet.
The Pirates totaled 63 points, while runner-up Manistee had 57 and defending champion Frankenmuth was third with 51.5.
Pewamo-Westphalia needed to finish at least sixth in the 1,600 relay to win the championship, but the runners on the relay did not know that. All they knew was the outcome was still in doubt.
Anchor runner Emily Kramer was not sure of the outcome after she crossed the finish line in fifth place.
“I didn’t know if I got it for my team, but I had a little bit of confidence that my teammates didn’t look too upset when I crossed the finish line, so I had somewhat of a good feeling,” Kramer said. “Considering that I don’t normally run this event, and I don’t always go last, there was a lot of pressure. I felt a lot of stress before the race.”
Although Pewamo-Westphalia did not have any individual first-place finishes, it did have two relays win MHSAA championships.
Senior Sarah Barrett, freshman Claudia Heckman and seniors Gabbie Hummel and Marissa Wirth made it two titles in a row for the Pirates in the 400 relay, although only Hummel ran on it last year. Sophomore Brenna Wirth, junior Kelly Thelen and Hummel and Marissa Wirth ran on the winning 800 team.
Brenna Wirth also had a pair of individual second-place finishes in both the 200 and 400.
While the team championship was sweet for everyone, it might have been a little sweeter for Barrett, who missed all of last season with stress fractures in both of her legs.
“It’s really a big thing to me to come back after being injured,” she said. “It felt really good. I’m so proud of my team. I knew we would do great. We’ve all been working together since our freshman year, and I knew what to expect.”
Several of the Pirates spoke of the extra motivation from finishing second at the meet a year ago.
“We definitely were disappointed last year, but we took it in stride to help us this year,” Hummel said. “Our expectation is always set to get to first place, and last year we learned that we still had to improve, even though we had done well.”
While Pewamo-Westphalia ran off with the MHSAA team title, several other athletes starred on an individual level.
Manistee senior Annie Fuller capped her stellar career by repeating as champion in the 800 and 1,600, and she broke her own meet record in the 800 in 2:09.61. She made it four MHSAA titles in a row by winning the 800, and she took the 1,600 for the third consecutive year after finishing second as a freshman.
“I definitely felt the pressure coming in, but I tend to do well under pressure,” Fuller said. “I really wanted it, and I am really blessed to be able to win it four years in a row.”
Fuller had a new opponent in Holly Bullough of Traverse City St. Francis. Bullough won the Division 4 Final titles in the 800 and 1,600 last season, but had to settle for second in both against Fuller in Division 3. After the 800, Fuller and Bullough had a nice chat as they walked across the infield.
“We became pretty close this year running together at all the meets and warming up together,” Fuller said. “I just knew she would be there because I’ve raced her a few times.”
Another individual double-winner was Sanford-Meridian junior Hailey Stockford, who swept the sprints. She won the 100 in 12.07 seconds and took the 200 in 25.11.
Frankenmuth senior Stephanie Lambeth broke the LP Division 3 Final record in the pole vault by clearing 12 feet, 3 inches, topping the previous record of 12-0 set in 2005 by Katie Shaw of Lakeview. The other champions in the field events were Manistee junior Emma Burns in the high jump, Ithaca junior Erica Shehan in the long jump, Watervliet senior Cali McLean in the shot put and Byron sophomore Jessica Marvin in the discus.
The other individual champions in the running events were Manistee senior Jessica Gustad in the 100 and Frankenmuth senior Sydney Bronner in the 300 hurdles, Adrian Madison sophomore Megan Rosales in the 400 and East Jordan senior Kayla Keane in the 3,200.
Adrian Madison took the 1,600 relay, and Shepherd won the 3,200 relay with three sophomores and a senior.
“It’s very sweet to come back and get the win after we scored 72 points and took runner-up last year,” P-W’s Werner said. “We had a very motivated group of kids. They worked very hard in the off-season.
“They wanted to get back on the podium.”
PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia won the 400 and 800 relays Saturday en route to the LP Division 3 team championship. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek.)