?When it became apparent that we were in the running for a top three finish, they stepped up and took control of their destiny,? said coach Dennis Boldt. ?This is a mark of a great team. And the best thing, everyone contributed to the point total, and left with a state medal.?
Generating the most drama were the Trojans? three relays. Hillsboro placed second in each event in bang-bang finishes at the tape. In fact, the combined margin of time the Trojans finished behind the three gold-medal winners was a miniscule 1.17 seconds.
It started with the 4×100, which, ironically, ended with the largest spread at 0.72 seconds. The HHS foursome of Grant Schneider, Ishmael Morris, Spencer Brown and Jacob Yoder made it into the finals by posting the fourth-best qualifying time on Friday at 44.69 seconds.
In Saturday?s finals, the foursome crossed in 45.09, trailing Phillipsburg at 44.37 and edging Silver Lake at 45.15.
The next challenge came Saturday in the 4×800, where all 16 qualifying teams take to the track in a single race.
Hillsboro?s foursome of Nicholas Mueller, Matthew Klenda, Cody McMillen and Nathan Vogel had built a modest lead heading into the final turn, when Scott City and Marion turned up the heat on Vogel.
When the smoke had cleared, Scott City was declared the winner by a nose at 8:22.18. Hillsboro followed at 8:22.23 while Marion was third at 8:22.63?a miniscule difference of 0.45 seconds between three teams at the end of a metric 2-mile race.
Amazingly, the 4×400 developed into an even tighter finale to the Class 3A schedule on Saturday evening
With Yoder, Brown, Morris and Vogel again forging a slight lead heading into the final turn, Scott City?s Bill John took Vogel to the wire, with the Trojan sophomore making a heroic lunge for victory at the tape.
The meet?s sophisticated timing system clocked the two runners in an identical 3:28.06, with the gold going to Scott City in a literal photo-finish that took nearly 30 seconds to determine.
?I thought Ishmael took the baton from Cody and really put us in a great position handing off to Nathan,? Boldt said.
Almost lost in the drama of the relays was the outstanding performance of McMillen in his two individual distance specialities.
The Trojan senior capped the Friday-evening schedule with a silver-medal performance in the 3,200 of 9:51.73, which shattered his previous school of 10:04.08 set last year at state. Scott City?s Trace Kendrick won gold at 9:40.38.
?Cody is such a smart runner,? Boldt said. ?He studies his competition and watches for their tendencies in order to know how quickly to get out, when to challenge and when to try to pull away.?
On Saturday, McMillen squared off with Kendrick again, and while he trailed the Scott Citian at the end by 11 seconds, the Trojan standout established a personal-best time of 4:36.23.
Yoder rounded out the Trojans? silver stampede by taking the runner-up spot in the 200 meters in 23.60. Abraham Noll of Jefferson County North claimed gold in 23.27.
Yoder barely made it into the finals, taking the eighth and final spot with a prelim time of 23.35 on Friday. His strength enabled him to move up in the field against a challenging head wind on Saturday.
?Jacob literally exploded down the back stretch to score second place in the 200,? Boldt said. ?He didn't have a great 200-meter prelim as his blocks slipped on the start.?
Yoder added three more points with a fifth-place finish in the 100 in 11.33, a mere 0.33 seconds behind gold medalist Bruce Field of Riley County and three other finalists.
Vogel, meanwhile, a newcomer to the open 400 midway through the season, topped off his rookie effort with a fourth-place finish in the state finals at 52.59 after qualifying fourth on Friday in 52.07. Kurt Pauly of Garden Plain took gold in 50.68.
Two Trojan entries just missed the finals.
Schneider capped his hurdling career by finishing 13th in the preliminaries on Friday at 15.53 seconds, while Morris just missed a berth in the 200 finals by placing 10th overall on Friday in 23.55.
Meanwhile, both Trojan girls who made it to state scored points in at least one event.
Dakota Kaufman actually scored in both of her events, placing second in the triple jump at 36 feet, 11 inches and fifth in the long jump at 16-31⁄2. Kim Haberman of Thomas More Prep claimed first in both events with leaps of 37-21⁄2 in triple jump at 17-2 in long jump.
Senior Chelsea Bebermeyer capped her track career with a heave of 118-4 in the discus, good enough for fourth place. Her throw of 32-10 in the shot put did not qualify her for the finals.
Both throwing events were won by Northern Heights? Jacquelyn Leffler, who solidified her rank among the elite in the entire country with a state-record throw of 157-7 in discus and a winning toss of 44-71⁄2 in shot.
Kaufman and Bebermeyer earned 15 points, good enough for HHS to finish 21st among the 40 schools that scored at state.
?Chelsea and Dakota did a tremendous job this weekend,? Boldt said. ?Chelsea Beber?meyer, one of our senior leaders, had the opportunity to return to state in both of her throwing events.?