MIDDLETON • While they had plenty of individuals to boast about at the finale of the 1A/2A/3A track meet, the Lighthouse Christian Lions were all about the team once the dust settled.
After six top-five finishes in Saturday’s events, the Lions took home second-place in the 1A boys team award. Lighthouse finished well-behind Logos but still scored 79 points, which was actually seven points more than they scored en route to the state championship a season ago.
Though they were unable unable to repeat as champs, head coach Darren Van Hofwegen was all smiles as his athletes hugged family members and posed for pictures in celebration with the runner-up trophy.
“I’m ecstatic,” Van Hofwegen said. “I’m very excited about how the rose to the occasion (on the last day).”
The Lighthouse boys entered the day with 25 points due in large part to the efforts of Bryce Kostelecky and Eric Silva in jumping events on Friday. Van Hofwegen was realistic with his squad and knew that Logos was most likely going to be out of reach the meet began.
He thought his team could score 78 points during the two days of competition. But Von Hofwegen knew it would take his team’s best on Saturday.
His athletes responded as well as he could have asked for. Though track tends to be about the individual, the Lions were ecstatic at the team award they earned at the meet’s conclusion.
“I don’t think that every team is like that,” Van Hofwegen said. “Our kids are about the team.”
Lighthouse was not the only team taking home hardware on Saturday, though.
The Valley girls and boys finished in third and fourth-place in 1A, respectively. The Declo boys took home fourth-place in 2A while the Buhl girls took third in 3A.
Carlee Finney was at a loss for words nearly 10 minutes after her race had already ended.
The Buhl freshman had taken first-place in the 400-meter run in a tight race that she won by less than a second. As she crossed the finish line, Finney put her hands on her head in disbelief. And even after several other races had already started, she still couldn’t believe it.
“I don’t even know,” she said with a grin, albeit out of breath. “I just can’t describe it right now. It’s amazing.”
Finney trailed Marsh Valley’s Harlee Hales heading into the final 200-meters of the race. Coming into the meet, Finney wanted the 400 title badly. So when she found herself behind late, she gave herself a pep talk.
“I (thought to myself I) better kick it into gear or regret it the rest of my life,” Finney said with a laugh. “So I did.”
Buhl also took home wins in the boys 4x200-meter relay and 4x400. The Indians’ boys team wound up finishing in fifth-place over all.
Other strong finishers for 3A Magic Valley teams in Saturday’s meet were Buhl’s Tegon Tonge, who took sixth-place finish in the boys 200. Kimberly’s Chad Hughes took third in the boys 800 while Filer’s Austin Young took third in the 1,600-meter run. Buhl’s J.C. Juker also took third-place in the 400.
Filer’s Zach Sharp took second in the 110 hurdles, finishing with a time of 14.66 seconds. The senior ran just one race Saturday and ended his Wildcat career on a high-note.
“I feel like I went out with a boom. It was a good year,” Sharp said. “I love track. It’s my favorite sport … (the end of my career) just happened, so we’ll see how it affects me in an hour or so.”
The Wildcats also got nice performances from Abby Bitzenburg in the 800 and the 1,600-meter run. She finished in sixth-place in both events, earning her first medals in a state track meet.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve been waiting three years for it,” Bitzenburg said. “Right now, it’s still sinking in. But it’s already feeling good.”
Not as happy as Bitzenburg or Sharp was Gooding’s Brianna Chance, who was unable to defend her titles in the 100 and 200. The junior finished third in both events after sweeping them both at state a season ago.
“I don’t know. Everybody has their off days. I guess mine was today,” Chance said after her 100 race. “I’m going to try and come back next year stronger than I was this year … I’ll come back next year and hopefully win it again.”
Wendell’s Johnny Lancaster defended his titles in both the 100 and 200-meter runs on Saturday, winning both events by fairly decent margins. Lancaster ran a 10.96, easily besting his mark of 11.33 a year ago.
“It feels great. I’ve worked for it all year, and it’s been a big mental game coming into this week. Last week at districts I was pretty off. I wasn’t running right.”
Lancaster said he went back and watched film of himself and spent extra time on the track in order to ensure himself of better performances. He noticed that his stride was not as long as it needed to be and had “shortened.” So, he worked on it. Clearly, he knew what he was doing.
“I think it was good for me to be at districts and not run well so that I could put in the work coming into this week to run my best times ever,” said Lancaster.
Declo’s Jackson Duncan took home a win in the boys 400 and finished second behind Lancaster in the 200. He also ran the anchor leg of the 4x200, making up tons of ground when he got the baton. Duncan began his leg of the race sitting in third and wound up helping the Hornets win the race by nearly a second.
“I ducked my head on that corner through the wind and just (went),” Duncan said. “I didn’t want to let my team down. They were counting on me to finish, so I just did my best.”
Wendell’s Hunter Laudert took fifth place in the boys 300-meter hurdles while Declo’s Haylie Brackenbury took sixth in the girls 100. Declo also took second in the girls 4x100, fifth in the girls 4x200 and sixth in the girls 4x400. Wendell took eighth in the girls 4x400.
Though it was the Lighthouse boys team that shined at the end of the day Saturday, it was the Silva brothers who shined during competition, winning four events between the two. Senior Gage Silva defended his titles in the 110 and 300 hurdles while Eric Silva defended titles in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. Gage Silva ran a personal-best 15.09 in the 110 hurdles, with is unofficial time actually timing under 15 seconds. While he admitted the wind at his back helped his cause, there was more at work than just the weather.
“State competition is always the time that you always get the most pump, you get the most motivation to do well,” Gage Silva said. “ And I wanted to come out and repeat this year, so that’s been my whole goal for this year.”
Oakley’s Curtis Bedke took third in the 100 and fourth in the 200. Valley’s Garrett Mussman took fourth in the 400 while Jacob Henry took fifth in the 800. Oakley received a win from Abby Critchfield in the 1,600-meter run. Critchfield took second in state last year at the 2A level, so taking the top honor this time around meant a lot, as the senior ran a stellar 5:42.31.
“It feels good,” Critchfield said. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was a freshman.”
Valley took the girls 4x200 title with a time of 1:51.01, which was more than two seconds ahead of second-place Logos. Also having strong finishes were Oakley’s Abbey Jones in the 100 and 100-hurdles (6th /4th) and Valley’s Kynsee Mussman in the 200 (fifth). Oakley also took fourth in the girls 4x100 while the Carey Panthers managed to place fifth in the girls 4x100 relay.