The Spring Lake track and field teams are in the midst of a brutal stretch of meets with four contests in seven days and are executing with gusto, overcoming fatigue and foul weather for a steady stream of personal records.
The Lakers hosted O-K Blue Conference opponents Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Coopersville on Tuesday for a high-octane tri-meet and their first in comfortable racing weather so far this season.
The double-dual ordeal was a product of inclement spring weather, forcing the conference season into an abbreviated schedule.
“It was a great meet. It was great competition across the board with three teams involved,” said Spring Lake girls head coach Mary Ann Bajt. “Every school isn't going to be strong in every event, so having three teams here makes sure there is always a race.”
The steady flow of competition set up the Lakers for a stellar day as personal records fell like snowflakes in April.
Seventy four races ended with all-time personal best times for Spring Lake on Tuesday, as they made the most of perfect racing weather amid an unfortunate scheduling atmosphere.
“We don’t like having this many meets in a row, but it is a reality we have to deal with after the weather this season,” Bajt said. “The kids are bucking up and working through it.
“So much of it is preparation and being ready to race through the tough circumstances. They are doing a great job getting themselves ready to race.”
“The wear and tear of running so many full-speed races is not great for the runners, but that is what we are dealing with,” said boys head track and field coach John Coughenour. “The good news is, we are getting good racing weather finally, which is helping those times drop a ton. Spirits were high today, and that is what it is all about.”
Highlighting the meet for the girls was the 1,600-meter group, who pulled off an across-the-board PR sweep to take six of the top seven finishes.
Maddy Windberg led the way in first place, clocking in at 5:28.82. Lizzy Penrice finished third in 5:46.44, ahead of Maggie Cooper in fourth at 5:51.93, Anna Fedwa in fifth at 5:52.09, Chloe Lohman in sixth at 5:54.48 and Sid Czinder in seventh at 5:54.74.
“That distance group is really coming along,” Bajt said. “Winberg, Penrice and Fedwa are all really coming into their own, especially in the mental game. They are tough and really emerging as leaders.”
Windberg wasn’t finished after the mile-run. She took runner-up honors in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:37.54 ahead of teammate Jaynie Seylhower in third at 2:42.64.
Julia Bajt displayed her versatility by taking on a sprint line-up Tuesday, finishing as runner-up in the 100-meters (13.02), the 200-meters (27.14) and the 400-meters (1:02.44) before anchoring the Lakers’ victorious 800-meter relay alongside Sophie Tardani, Sophia Tilton and Caroline Loiseau.
Rounding out the Laker girls’ even victories was Taylor Rebone, who took top honors in the 100-meter hurdles (17.77).
The Laker boys mile team faired nearly as well, with Andrew and Ben Hylen taking first and second place in 4:33.97 and 4:40.66, respectively, while Matthew Vanderwall came in third at 4:56.99.
Each Hylen brother got a solo gold, as well. Andrew put on a dominating performance in the 3,200-meter run, clocking in at 9:55.95, ahead of second place’s mark of 11:11.75. Ben took top honors in the 800-meters at 2:06.77, just ahead of Will Brown in second place at 2:12.10.
Ben Hylen, Brown, Andrew Sellon and Andrew Hylen teamed up later for a first-place effort in the 3,200-meter relay, coming in at 8:37.3, while David Reynhout, Dawson Nash, Brown and Sellon finished first in the 1,600-meter relay in 3:48.35.
In the field, Jason Keena took first place in the long jump at 19-10 to round out Spring Lake’s first-place finishes.
“Everybody stepped their game up today,” Coughenour said. “Our relays looked great and we had a few standouts like the Hylens, but overall, everybody stepped up and ran good races.”
The boys track and field week continues for the Lakers with another tri-meet on Thursday against Comstock Park and West Catholic and the Spartan Classic on Saturday. With the O-K Blue Conference Championship meet just two weeks away, Spring Lake hopes the records continue falling as the temperature climbs.