SPASH girls finish second at WVC Indoor Meet
By John Kemmeter
In a meet that wasn’t decided until late, the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) girls track team was edged by Wausau West at the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) Indoor Meet at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) Multi-Activity Center Tuesday, April 10.
Junior and five-time WIAA Division 1 State Champion Brooke Jaworski won four individual events to lead Wausau West, which finished with 139.5 points to beat SPASH (137) and D.C. Everest (111), and end the Panthers’ string of three consecutive WVC Indoor Titles.
“Wausau West was the big-time favorite, and we had girls all across the board stepping up, scoring more points than they should have and placing higher than what they were seeded,” said Nate Olson, who has taken over as the SPASH girls track head coach after he previously shared co-head coach duties with his father Mike. “So that was really, really cool as a coach to see, just how much fire and competitiveness they had.
“They really went out after it, so I’m proud of them,” he said. “We came up a little bit short, but we hope to have them in the outdoor season.”
SPASH lost three individual State Qualifiers from a year ago in Sam Danczyk (discus, shot put), Hannah Sankey (400 dash) and Mya Zajakowski (800 run), when the team won the WVC Indoor, WVC Relay and WVC Outdoor Titles for the third year in a row.
“We lost some really good athletes,” said Olson. “Sam Danczyk was school-record holder in the shot put, one of those girls that you could on to win the shot and the discus almost every single meet, and Hannah Sankey was phenomenal in the 400 and is doing great things at Bethel (Minn.) right now.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of girls really stepping up, which is good to see,” he said. “It’s definitely a rebuilding year for us, but the kids are working hard, and we’ve got good leadership right now, so I think we’re in good hands.”
The Panthers are led this season by the return of a pair of individual State Qualifiers from last year in junior Renee Hinchcliffe (100 hurdles) and sophomore Maddie Hyland (800 run, 4×800 relay), as well as State Qualifiers from relay events in senior Halle Gregorich (4×200, 4×400), junior Taylor Konczal (4×200, 4×400), junior Grace Belson (4×800 relay) and sophomore Jayden Jones (4×800 relay).
At the WVC Indoor Meet Tuesday, junior Gabby Johnson won the triple jump and finished second in the high jump and second in the long jump to lead SPASH.
“Gabby broke her finger playing volleyball, she’s slowly been getting back into things, so it was really nice to have her back 100 percent, and she’s a gamer,” said Olson. “She came in and was ready to compete, and did very, very well.
“And she was very close to winning the long jump, as well as the high jump,” he said.
Meanwhile, West claimed seven of the first 15 events to head into the final race of the meet, the 4×400 relay, with a 131.5-127 lead over the Panthers in the team standings.
There, Hinchcliffe, Konczal and senior Maggie Negaard teamed up to have SPASH in second going into the last leg, where Gregorich pulled ahead on the final lap to the give the Panthers the victory in the 4×400 relay.
“Our 400 group has been a bunch of question marks so far, and they’re starting to develop,” said Olson. “It’s fun to see who’s going to step in that role and carry the torch, and I was very, very happy.
“They fought and we came from behind, and a victory at the end there is a good way to finish a meet,” he said.
However, West came in second in the event to secure the overall win, as it totaled 139.5 points to claim the WVC Indoor Title over SPASH (137), Everest (111), Wausau East (93.5), Marshfield (70), Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln (39) and Merrill (22).
Hinchcliffe had a pair of second-place finishes in the 60 hurdles and 200 hurdles, while Gregorich was second in the 200 dash and third in the 400 dash, and Belson finished second in the 1,600 run and third in the 3,200 run.
Konczal also was second in the 400 dash, while the 4×800 relay (Jones, freshman Sarah Hopper, senior Miranda DeBot and Konczal) and 4×200 relay (junior Ally Martin, junior Jaycie Korth, sophomore Kaitlyn Brundidge and junior Ashlyn Hydinger) teams placed second, and Hopper came in fourth in the 1,600 run for SPASH.
The Panthers are scheduled to compete in the UW-River Falls Invitational Friday, April 20, and host the SPASH Invitational at Goerke Field April 27, while the WVC Relays Meet will be held at Goerke Field May 1, and the WVC Outdoor Meet is set for Wausau East May 15.
“I really think the biggest thing is to stay healthy, and we’re a (personal record)-driven program, so we just want the girls to focus on improving their best performance,” said Olson. “These meets, of course deep down we want to win, but the biggest thing that I always have to remind myself and the girls is that, ‘you have to compete your best,’ and that’s what we’re working toward.
“Every week we want to better our individual performance, and then we’re going to become a stronger team at the end of the year,” he said. “And hopefully get girls down to the State Meet.”