When Gera Peel took over the Lakers’ girls track and field team four years ago, the squad was coming off a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Lakes Eight Conference.
Participation, and excitement around the program, was way down.
Four years later, participation is skyrocketing, and so is the excitement, fueled by three consecutive league championships.
Spring Lake earned league title No. 3 on Friday, taking first place in the Lakes Eight Conference meet at Orchard View.
“The last three years, we’ve won the conference, and the team has grown each year,” Peel said. “It’s so nice to see all these girls coming out and working so hard. I’m proud of my girls, of their effort. I can’t thank them enough for all the good work they do.”
The Lakers, who were unbeaten during the league season, finished with 178 points. Second was Ludington with 155, while Fruitport was a distant third with 74 points.
There were countless highlights for the Lakers on Friday, including a first-place finish in the pole vault by junior Allie LeRoux. She won the event with a height of 10 feet, 6 inches.
LeRoux and Sydney DeCator took 1-2 in the long jupm, with LeRoux winning at 15-6 ½ and DeCator jumping nearly a foot longer than her previous best to take second at 15-3.
Lydia Suchecki won the high jump at 4-10, while Grace Peterson was second, clearing the same height.
Spring Lake’s 1,600 relay team of Katie Wells, Emma Mitchell, Sydney Chaney and Carlyn Arteaga won in 4 minutes, 14.20 seconds. The 400 relay team of Ymani Williams, LeRoux, Paige Rubleski and Brittany Dawson won in 53.62 seconds,
The Lakers also won the 3,200 relay as Brittany Beeler, Ashley Warner, Arteaga and Erin O’Keefe ran a time of 10:05.97, winning by nearly 35 seconds.
Fruitport won the fourth relay, the 800, as Brianna Pekel, Heidi Klinger, Hannah Klinger and Debbie Pekel ran a time of 1:52.15.
Individually, Arteaga won the 400 with a time of 59.23 seconds, breaking her own school record in the event. She edged out Fruitport’s Brianna Pekel in the race.
The Lakers’ sophomore also won the 200 as she ran a time of 26.85 seconds.
Beeler had a fantastic run in the 3,200, taking first in 11:38.42. She wdged out her teammate, O’Keefe, to win the event.
O’Keefe and Beeler took second and third, respectively, in the 1,600 run, while Warner was second in the 800 run. Grace Peterson took second in the 300 hurdles,
The Trojans’ Heidi Klinger and Brianna Pekel finished 1-3 in the 100 dash, with Klinger winning in 13.16 seconds. The same too finished 2-3 behind Arteaga in the 200 dash.
The Lakers are currently ranked sixth in the state in Division 2. They’ll look to back up that ranking at the regional meet at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids next Saturday.
TROJANS’ BOYS PLACE 2ND
Fruitport’s boys track and field team placed second at Friday’s Lakes Eight Conference meet with 118 points, coming up just short of first-place Ludington, which had 135.
Spring Lake placed fifth with 57 points.
The Trojans received a boost in the discus as Alan Jones, Nic Kramer, Rodney Morse and Alec Stanley took the top four spots, with Jones winning with a distance of 128-3. Zack Gilson was second in the long jump and placed third in the 200 dash.
Alex Kendra took second in the pole vault.
The Trojans’ Shawn Knox, Gilson, Benjamin Kramer and Brice Wahr won the 400 relay in 45.73 seconds.
Fruitport also won the 800 relay as Cody Pekel, Nicolas Heil, Knox and Kramer ran a time of 1:35.61.
The Lakers’ Johnny Mundt earned a conference championship in the 100 dash. Mundt ran a time of 11:51 to beat out Fruitport’s Heil and Knox.
Elliott teamed up with Connor Galligan, Tom Kordupel and Collin Kieft to win the 3,200 relay in 8:23.06.
Spring Lake’s Austin Elliott had a strong meet. He finished second in the 800 run, and also placed second in the 1,600.
Charlie Warber was third in the 400 run.