It's a sprinter's delight as Shorewood's Rabon and relay claim three state track titles
1,600 relay sets state Division 2 record
Shorewood - The distance running accolades for the boys at Shorewood are too numerous to mention.
Eight state team titles in cross country since 2000 including last fall's remarkable effort and numerous individual efforts at the state track meet in that same time.
So it was just time for the sprinters to get their props.
And they did it in a big way last weekend at the WIAA State Track Meet in La Crosse, as Justin Rabon, in a dramatic display of skill, stamina and tenacity, won both the Division 2 200- and 400-meter titles and led the 1,600 relay team of Taylor Dennis, Alec Grimmer and distance runner turned sprinter Jacob Goldberg to not only a title of their own, but also a state record.
"Other coaches were looking around and asking us about this," said Grimmer as he was happily putting on his sweats after the awards ceremony for the 1,600 relay on Saturday at UW-La Crosse's Veteran's Memorial Stadium. "They said (incredulously) 'Shorewood finally has some sprinters?' "
And people ought to start getting used to this, as the entire relay is made up of underclassmen.
"Everybody contributed to this," Rabon said. "It was like a gathering storm. And the fact that we're all coming back next year? That's just great.
"Three for three? That feels really good. We all had to work our tails off. … We all expected to be better (in the sprint group) this year and everything turned out just great."
Even veteran coach Dominic Newman, who also happens to coach those aforementioned cross country runners in the fall, was astounded by the result and then gave credit where credit is due.
"This was something special as the sprints coach Eric Mathews helped to balance a typically distance-oriented squad into a strong sprint squad with both the boys and girls program," he said. "If I could choose a coach of the year, I would say that Eric Mathews would be on top of the list with how he has helped to transform this program so that that it is more balanced.
"… It was awesome to hear people in the stands say 'I thought Shorewood was known for their distance runners' or 'When did Shorewood get sprinters?' These are fun comments to hear in the stands or by email."
Boys team takes fourth
The three titles led the Greyhounds to a tie for fourth in the final D2 team standings with Monroe with 30 points as Belleville/New Glarus won with 42.
Rabon made it happen. He and the relay were among the top two seeds in every event going into the meet. What's more, all three events were in the second half of the meet schedule, which meant that Rabon had to save his strength in Friday's trials.
He almost did that too well in the heat of his first race the open 400 on Friday, as he finished fourth in his race and was only the eighth-fastest qualifier coming out. That meant if he was going to win his first state title on Saturday, he was going to have to do it out of the very difficult lane nine, which meant he would not see competitors for most of the race.
Rabon ran blind, but well and finally pulled ahead as he came off the far curve on the stretch, beating old rival Sam Tiahnybik of Catholic Memorial to the line with a victorious time of 48.85.
"It felt really good," Rabon said. "I felt relaxed most of the way. I knew because of the heats, it was going to be a tough race. Sam (Tiahnybik) gave me a tough race as I knew he would (he was clocked in 49.05) and he pushed me to the end."
"On that last straight, I was finally able to catch him out of the corner of my eye and I knew I had to turn it up. I fought right through the finish line."
And the lesson learned in this race?
"I'll make sure to get a better lane for the final next year (laughs)."
In the 200, he qualified third and outraced Wautoma's Johnny Eagan to the line (22.06-22.14) to claim his second state crown.
1,600 relay sets record
Which left the 1,600 relay.
Under the cool lights of Friday night's trials, the quartet made history by taking out Arcadia's six-year division record of 3:21.67 with an effort of 3:21.42. Rabon admitted in that final trials run, he went all out.
"I was looking at the clock (coming down the straight), and I was really going for that record. It was important," he said Friday night.
With the wind picking up in Saturday's finals, Rabon was about five meters down when he took the stick on the anchor leg of the relay. He bided his time, tucked in behind the lead runner from Monroe going into the wind, and when he came off the final turn, he took off like he was flung out of the finest slingshot in the world.
He brought the relay home more than a second ahead of Monroe in 3:22.41.
"This is very, very good," he said. "All our work paid off. We came back this year (after a 400 relay disqualification last year at state) with a vengeance. We were happy to get the record. Even happier to get first place."
Distance runners chip in
The distance runners also had their say at state, as the 3,200 relay team of Goldberg, Peter Morris, Charles Stahl and freshman Jack Mauer took 11th in a season best of 8:10.16. Mauer had to run in place of regular runner John Traudt, who had to drop out of state due to an injury. Newman was very proud of Mauer's 2:02.9 800 split. The senior Morris ran despite a painful foot injury that left him questionable going into the meet.
Stahl also had a six-second personal best in the 1,600 that put him 10th (4:26.78). Newman said that Stahl is the fastest sophomore 1,600 runner the school has had in recent memory.
Newman is hopeful about for the future.
"I'm excited that Eric (Matthews) and I will only lose one athlete (Peter Morris) who competed at this year's meet (Morris)," he said. "We realize how difficult it is to repeat but I feel that Justin and the 1,600 team is capable, and we hope to be able to fill some of the gaps and advance a few more sprinters, distance runners and jumpers (next year)."
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