Matt Frey/Medford Star News

Seniors Kav FitzPatrick, left, and Darius Diver placed first and second, respectively, in the 1,600 meters to help Lakeland win a ninth straight Great Northern Conference championship on Tuesday, May 15, at Medford Area High School.
Matt Frey/Medford Star News

Seniors Kav FitzPatrick, left, and Darius Diver placed first and second, respectively, in the 1,600 meters to help Lakeland win a ninth straight Great Northern Conference championship on Tuesday, May 15, at Medford Area High School.
Lakeland Union High School has created a running dynasty that has spanned nearly a decade.

On Tuesday at the Great Northern Conference championship meet at Medford, the Thunderbirds had a chance to win their ninth consecutive boys' track and field championship and a seventh in eight years on the girls' side.

For much of the season, it appeared the boys' run (pun intended) may have been in jeopardy, while the girls' team looked prime to continue its GNC dominance. That's not how it played out.

The Lakeland boys' blew away the competition with 164 points, 35 better than second place Medford. Meanwhile, the girls' saw their streak come to an end after Medford nipped them, 187.5-180.

"It was pretty amazing for the boys," LUHS head coach Kevin FitzPatrick said. "Between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, that's 22 consecutive championship, which I would find hard to believe would ever be matched. So I'm really proud of our young men and what they accomplished."

Medford and Northland Pines boys' appeared to be an imposing threat to Lakeland's run throughout the season, but from the early stages of the meet, it was apparent there would be no upset.

Medford and the T-Birds have been neck-and-neck on both sides, but the girls' finishing second was a bit of a shock for FitzPatrick.

"I thought it would be a lot closer meet between us and Medford on the boys' side, and on the girls' side, I thought we had enough of a buffer that we could withstand a few things going wrong, where I didn't think we had that opportunity with the boys," FitzPatrick said. "In almost every (boys) event we exceeded our seeds or equaled our seeds and on the girls' side it was about 50-50. I thought we projected to score 183 points and we scored 180 so we were close, but the Medford girls just ran with a fire and a passion that I hadn't seen in a while. They actually exceeded their seeds by 20 points."



Boys

The Lakeland boys' team won five events and took second in six more. Where the T-Birds truly dominated was in the middle distance events.

Kav FitzPatrick repeated as GNC Runner of the Year after winning the 800 and the 1,600-meter runs for the second straight year, while also teaming with Tyler Wallschlaeger, Kieran Mullen and Jake Rexroade to win the 4x400 relay.

Darius Diver finished second to FitzPatrick in the 1,600 by less than a second, while also capturing the 3,200 with a time of 10:11.94.

Lakeland ran away with the 800 after FitzPatrick posted a winning time of 2:02.84, with Mullen coming in second at 2:03.49 and Jake Van Hefty taking fourth at 2:06.58.

The T-Birds also won the 4x800 relay behind strong performances from Mullen, Van Hefty, Jim Drewry and Scott Balas.

"I think our distance crew has been kind of the core of our team for the last few years, but at the same time they're supported throughout by outstanding competitors in other events," Kevin FitzPatrick said. "We knew those guys would be strong and we've always taken pride in running a good 4x400 and we were able to put together a good team to do that as well. Other teams were just looking for people to put on the track sometimes, but we are pretty strong and deep there."

Lakeland's win, though, can be attributed to its depth in other events. Jake Rexroade repeated as the conference champion in the high jump, while tying teammate Vincent Strong for second in the pole vault after the latter posted a career-best vault of 12-06. Zach Hayes right behind them in the pole vault as well.

Tyler Carroll, in just his third 100-meter dash ever (the second was the preliminaries), finished second with a time of 11.46 seconds. He also placed second by half an inch in the long jump and fifth in the 400.

Maquian Johnson placed second in the 300 hurdles, while also finishing third in the 110 hurdles.

Noah Wingo placed fourth in the discus with a personal best, while Henry Evenhouse was sixth in the shot put.



Girls

Lakeland also won five events on the girls' side, setting two conference records in the process.

Ashley Peterson won the 1,600 and came back to also win the 3,200 with a record time of 11:43.16.

The girls' 4x400 relay team of Carley Hintz, Riley and Stephanie Mauzer and Aubrey Anderson also set a conference record with a time of 4:07.33.

Anderson also repeated as the conference champion in the 800 and the 4x800 relay team of Kate Melms, Ashley Ullius, Kate Vizanko and Riley Mauzer won with a time of 10:19.64.

However, what separated Lakeland and Medford in the championship race was depth. The T-Birds simply didn't have enough to get over the hump in certain events.

"We have a very talented team, but we're just not very deep," FitzPatrick said. "Almost everybody that went to the meet scored for us, but we're only able to enter one triple jumper, we're only able to enter one long jumper. We had a couple injuries in the last week that kept kids out of the meet. All those are little things that had an impact. We had the people on the track that were capable of winning a conference championship, Medford just outperformed us."

Kaitlin Hayes and Asucena Boyer placed second and third respectively in the 100 hurdles, with the latter also taking third in the 300 hurdles.

Olivia Wingo and Lexie Tiffany took third and fourth in the pole vault, while Carley Hintz and Stephanie Mauzer were second and third in the 200.

Lauren Godfrey finished second in the shot put and discus, recording personal best throws in each event.

Lakeland heads into playoff season on Monday with the WIAA Division 2 Regionals at Mosinee.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.