Whitefish Bay and Homestead tie for North Shore Conference boys track and field indoor title
Blue Dukes use talent, Highlanders depth in finishing first
They added it up once, they added it up twice and then again just to make sure it was right.
And in the end, two first-year coaches leading very different teams, led their respective squads to a share of a most improbable tie at the North Shore Conference Indoor boys track and field meet April 8 at Cedarburg.
There was a top-heavy, talented Whitefish Bay squad with just seven seniors on its 60-plus man roster, which capped off a fine indoor portion of its season with six firsts and a plethora of other fine efforts en route to a 111-point total.
Then there was a reloading Homestead team, full of fine athletes, but just not with the individual firepower of the recent past. The Highlanders secured their 111-point total in a most improbable way, as they came up with seven second-place finishes and without the benefit of a single event win.
What made it more interesting, was that host Cedarburg was short workers for the meet and because of that, only six of the 14 events had been scored when the final race — the 4x400-meter relay — ended.
No one knew what was going on for the longest time.
"At the end, we had a good 20 minutes after the last event was done before we knew what had happened," said first-year Homestead coach Todd Brawner, who had won many of these meets in his long tenure at Germantown before leaving to become an assistant at Homestead six years ago. "We had a great meet. We had a lot of new kids, some great efforts by the sprinters. It was a real group effort all the way around. We just grabbed every single point possible."
Brawner is taking over this season for longtime Homestead legend Dan Benson, who while still on staff, has turned over the head-coaching duties to Brawner. Homestead is the five-time defending North Shore Conference triple crown champion.
"We were a little unsure at the end because some of the field events had yet to come in," said interim Blue Dukes coach Robert Wood, "but we could tell by the way things were breaking down that it was going to come down to the wire.
"We spent a lot of time after the meet looking at the little things before we got it all added up."
Wood, in the meantime, is filling in for Bay head coach Ashley Pletzer, who will soon be happily going on maternity leave.
Both squads will head into their spring break and wish for warmer weather when the outdoor season begins in a week or so.
In the interim, they can regale anyone who will listen as to how the NSC indoor got to the point of a tie.
Bay was led by Rhashad Gray, who continued his excellent early spring by winning both the 200-meter dash (23.93 seconds) and the high jump (six feet-two inches). He also led the four-lap relay team that also included Adam Strehlow, Van Bassindale and Tommy Friesch (1:16.79) to victory.
"He is just stepping up in a very large way," Wood said of Gray. "We've given him a lot of responsibility and he's accepted it."
Other winners for the Blue Dukes included Strehlow in the 55 hurdles (8.05), George Papajohn in the 800 (2:05.31) and Ben Wallace in the pole vault (12-6). Colin Downing made it one-two in the hurdles with a runner-up showing of 8.34.
Also turning in good efforts for the Blue Dukes were the following: 400 — Friesch, fourth (55.12). 200 — Strehlow, third (24.36). 4x400 relay — Papajohn, Kawan Lever, Joe Pasbrig and Bassindale, third (3:44.85). Long jump — Brady Wieland, third (20-10 1/2).
"This has always been the goal of the staff (to win conference) ever since we regrouped the staff a few years ago," Wood said. "We always want to represent ourselves well at conference and we did today."
Meanwhile, for Homestead, which was without one of its top athletes in Blake Leeson (illness), the Highlanders had to work with a lot of spit and bailing wire to earn a share of the title. Gone were the heady state placewinning talents like Jay Schneider and Riley Pelisek. In their place were a lot of athletes fighting to make names for themselves.
Earning those seconds for the Highlanders were Nick Allen in the 55 dash (6.87) and the 200 (24.07), Evan Routhier in the 1,600 (4:39.9), Patrick Curran in the 400 (54.69), Parker Lewis in the pole vault (12-0), Elijah Triggs in the high jump (6-0) and the 4x400 relay team of Dan Held, Patrick Minkin, Curran and Allen (3:41.15).
"We got out-leaned here and there, but we showed a lot of depth," Brawner said. "It's good to see that we can still do this especially after spending the entire off-season re-organizing and motivating the team. It was a pretty cool meet.
"We just went out and raced, which has been a trademark of this program (for several years). These kids are very serious about getting better."
Other good efforts for Homestead included the following: 4x800 relay — Noah Check, Nick Ziebell, Patrick Norman and Chris Mueller, fourth (8:45.32). 55 hurdles — Vincent Wilkerson, third (8.35). 400 — Held, third (54.98). 800 — Mueller, third (2:06.57); Routhier, fourth (2:07.91). Shot put — John Marita, third (45-7). High jump — Mitchell Kukla, third (5-10).
Brawner said it was interesting throwing his hat back into the head coaching circle again.
"I forgot, it's a lot more calls, emails and faxes than I remember," he said. "Just a lot more to do. Fortunately, I have a short memory (on all the hassles that go with being a head coach). That's why I keep doing it."
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