Silver surprise: Tiger girls take second at state track
by Nathan Arneal
Sometimes when you least expect it, history is made.
When Dan Watts arrived at Omaha Burke Stadium Friday afternoon, he was expecting the 2008 state meet to be like any other meet in his 32 years of coaching the NBC girls track team.
“I was just hoping to get a few medals, you know,” Watts said.
Junior Samantha Renter, who scored a school-record 25 points at the meet, said it was surreal watching things fall into place.
“Everyone was doing their own part,” she said. “Having everyone come together as a team and come that close to getting first— I would never think that would happen. For not even realizing that we could do that coming in, and then doing it— I thought it was amazing.”
Renter jump started the Tigers into contention with a surprise gold medal in the long jump, an event in which she was seeded 11th entering the meet.
“That started the ball rolling,” Watts said, “and then our team was like they were all year, with everybody doing their best and scoring where we could. Certainly this wasn’t just any other meet, but that’s what we did.”
Later on Friday, Megan Jensen and Jamie Spath added a fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the discus to bring NBC’s first-day point total to 19. That score put NBC in first place entering Saturday. Four-time defending state champion Crofton was in second with 16 points, though the Warriors would only add one more point to that total.
“Even after leading it yesterday, I thought ‘That’s nice,’” Watts said. “I didn’t think we’d hold on, but the points divided up pretty well.”
Once Renter tacked on 10 more points with a win in the triple jump Saturday morning, Watts rethought his team’s chances and started doing the math in his head.
“After the triple jump,” Watts said, “I thought if we could do something in the high jump, and (shot putter) Deanna (Dirkschneider) comes through and maybe even Megan (Jensen) in the shot put, who knows?”
Nine events into the meet, Laurel-Concord took a 31-29 lead over NBC, the first time the Tigers did not hold the lead all weekend. L-C made up the ground with a championship in the 400-meter relay and a gold medal in the 100 meters.
Then freshman Cassie Schutt put North Bend back into a tie for first after placing seventh in the 400 meters. In the next race, Kearney Catholic earned a gold medal in the 1600 meters to make it a three-way tie for first at 31 points.
Renter broke the deadlock and put NBC back in the lead with a fourth place finish in the high jump.
It was now looking like a two-team race for the championship between Laurel-Concord and North Bend as they were heading into the final three events. Each team had an athlete among the favorites in one of the events left.
Laurel-Concord’s Bethany DeLong put the Bears in front momentarily with a first-place finish in the 200 meters. Deanna Dirkschneider answered with a silver medal in the shot put, and the eight points that went with it boosted NBC back in front 44-41.
In a regular season meet, the throwing events are among the first completed, but because of the state meet schedule, Dirkschneider found herself in the unusual position of throwing near the end of the meet with the title on the line. As she stepped in the ring, she was well aware of the situation.
“I thought about my team before I did (my last throw),” Dirkschneider said. “I really wanted that team championship.”Her last throw moved her from fourth place to second.
With just the 1600-meter relay left, Watts knew the writing was pretty much on the wall. Laurel-Concord was one of the favorites in the race, while NBC was a long shot to place. However, that didn’t stop him from reminding the Tiger relay of the team scores. Renter, who ran the lead leg on the NBC 4x4, said she really wasn’t aware of the team standings until talking to Watts right before the relay.
“That’s when I thought ‘Good thing I only had a bagel today,” Renter said. “Otherwise something might be coming up.’”
The NBC quartet of Renter, Chelsea Kreikemeier, Kelly Baumert and Schutt ran a good race, finishing in 4:18.05, about two seconds from their season’s best time. They finished third in the first heat.
Laurel-Concord came through and won heat two by six seconds to claim the gold medal and clinch the team championship. NBC’s relay ended up just three seconds from a medal.
After the meet, the North Bend team was joined by dozens of friends and family on the infield to watch as the state qualifiers ascended the podium to accept the runner-up trophy.
With five of the seven qualifiers underclassmen, Watts hopes the taste of success will inspire future teams.
“You have them thinking ‘Hey this is kind of fun being down here and staying this long,’” Watts said. “They can see that it’s possible.
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