Call it a comeback

Duncan MacLean • Jun 3, 2019 at 12:15 AM

One year after watching her favorite meet of the year from the sidelines, Grand Haven senior Gabby Hentemann returned in barn-burning fashion.

In her final race as a Buccaneer, GH track and field’s most decorated athlete put on a blistering performance in the 800-meter run, clocking in at 2:08.7 — 2.52 seconds ahead of the second-place runner.

The time broke Hentemann’s own school record, finished as the fastest time in Michigan across all divisions and 20th in the nation, moved to 10th on the all-time state top performances list, and secured Hentemann’s eighth All-State award. She ends her career with school records in the 800, 1,600 and 1,600 relay, as well as top-five performances in the 400; 3,200; 5k and 3,200 relay

“It was very emotional,” she said of crossing the finish line. “Last year, I watched this race in a (walking) boot, so it was just a blessing to actually compete and have the opportunity to race to win. The physical challenges of coming back were tough, but the mental challenges were the greatest hurdle of them all.

“Coming down the straight, I heard them announce my name I just thought of my coaches and teammates and tried to finish as strong as I could.”

The race was over from the start with Grand Haven’s star taking a wide lead through the first turn, extending it to 10 meters at the 200-meter mark and finishing her first lap in 61 seconds.

With 300 meters to run, she shook out her arms, beared down and started driving through the backstretch. After stealing a quick glance over her shoulder, the final straight was a quick one as she built her lead to its final length.

“I knew I wanted to go out strong,” Hentemann said. “I figured I would either win by a lot or crash and burn. I was ready to take the risk.”

“She took the lead and never relinquished it,” said Grand Haven head girls coach John Tarr. “I kept thinking, ‘She is going so fast. I know she can maintain this, and I hope she does.’

“Earlier in the week, coach Melissa Richardson told me they were thinking of focusing only on the 800, so she could run it fresh and get the state championship. Since this has been our goal all year, and knowing this was her best chance, we scratched her from the 1,600 and that paid off. Melissa did a great job training her for this race.”

The race came with some added mental hurdles, as the state meet’s second rain delay was enacted minutes before the first heat of the girls 800.

“A lot of the girls got really stressed out,” Hentemann said. “I knew it would be an advantage if I didn’t let it get to me and it helped.”

Hentemann wasn’t the only Buccaneer medalist, however, as Sarah Knoll finished runner-up in the shot put with a throw of 42-3, breaking the Grand Haven school record set in 2004. The high finish was an exercise in mental toughness, as Knoll fouled on her first attempt in prelims and a less-than-stellar second throw before refocusing and tossing the school-record heave on her third and final attempt.

“I’m thankful to coach Paul Fulmer for being patient and helpful to her all season,” Tarr said. “They have worked together to get her to be consistently mentally tough all season and it paid off Saturday. Somewhere during her wait for the third throw, she got angry, focused and competitive, then tossed the 42-footer.”

On the boys’ side, Mason Mahacek led the way with a fourth-place finish in the pole vault, clearing 14-6, and a 13th-place finish in the high jump at 6-0.

Drew Dahlman just missed out on the long jump finals, posting a personal best jump of 21-6.75 for ninth place overall.

Dominic Weatherwax took on the 800, finishing 23rd at 2:03.78, while Eli Nelson rounded out the Bucs’ qualifiers, failing to clear opening height on a blustery day in the pole vault.

Cam Constant represented well in the 300 hurdles, winning her heat and finishing 10th overall with a personal-record time of 45.51. Ella Beringer took on the high jump, clearing 5-2 for 14th place.

Constant, Hentemann, Abby Buitenhuis and Avery Keefe joined forces for the 1,600 relay, taking 13th with a time of 4:04.18.

Kirbey Colella, Marlie Fraser, Meadow White and Giovana Marecek doubled the distance, finishing 17th in the 3,200 relay at 9:50.34.

The points were enough to five the Grand Haven girls 11th place overall with 18 points, while the boys finished 41st with 4.5 points.

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