An injury to sprinter Ian Thompson left the Homestead boys track team short in the sprints and essentially forced them to abandon the 400 and 800 relays, while two-time state weight qualifier Justin Barber was weakened by a bout with strep.
But all that did was serve as inspiration for the host Highlanders in a very intense WIAA track sectional on Friday, as Homestead led area finishers by taking third in the team standings and advancing six individuals as well as two school record relays to next week's state meet in La Crosse
There was Barber, willing himself to victory in both events, tossing 50-6 1/2 in the shot put and 159-11 in the discus. Then there was Brad Pelisek in the long jump, who hasn't been quite right since a leg injury early in the outdoor season, but who still earned himself a state berth with a third place effort of 21- 3/4.
Another great story was senior discus thrower Teiko Amuzu, who edged a Menomonee Falls competitor on his last throw by one inch (144-2).
You could also take a glance over at Darius Feaster, who never really triple-jumped before this season, but who learned quickly enough to earn a victory (44-2) and then you could talk to 2008 state high jump runner-up Danny Schiller, who despite a slightly off day, still had enough chops to earn a strong runner-up showing of 6-6.
He was one for sure who wanted to get better.
And then you could look hard at one of the hardest-working men at this particular meet: junior middle distance runner Gabe Genovesi. Genovesi was there at the beginning for the Highlanders and he was there at the end. He started the day for them by anchoring the 3,200 relay team of Doug Mueller, Andrew Holtorf and Nate Routhier to a runner-up school record effort of 8:02.72.
Then in the middle of the meet, he fought off fierce competition from Menomonee Falls and Whitefish Bay opponents to win the 400 in 49.43 and then he came back in the cool twilight to bring home the 1,600 relay team of Mike Collins, Mueller and Holtorf to another runner-up record showing of 3:21.7.
"I was a little worried about it all," he said, "but we felt we could get both of them (the relays). It was a tough day, but definitely worthwhile. Getting to state in three events is really nice."
It all helped the Highlanders to a third place showing of 97 points as Menomonee Falls won with 120 and Arrowhead finished second with 108.5.
"This was an impressive day," said Highlander coach Dan Benson. "Our field events made bold statements, especially Brad (Pelisek), who just hasn't been quite right for most of the spring but who showed great fight in getting to state, and the fact that both our relays were very competitive was just inspiring."
As was the rest of the competition at the high-powered sectional, which had many state-best efforts on both the boys and girls side of the ledger.
That fact was not lost on Nicolet sprinter Gavin Robertson, who anchored the 400 relay team of Barik Williams, Cameron Bretl and Christian Smith to a runner-up showing of 42.72 and brought the 800 crew of Winston Herman, Smith and Bretl in with a sizzling third-place slot of 1:28.73.
To finish off his day, he was second to returning state champion Centrell Minter of Milwaukee Vincent in the 200 (22.19).
"We went faster and got on the school (all-time) boards, but I think we can do even better," Robertson said of the relays. "There were a couple of hand-offs that we were slacking off a little bit on. You know you can always get better. Always improve."
"But was still nice to come out and make it to state this way, especially in this sectional. It's like a mini-state meet. We may have had the five fastest times here (in the 800 relay)."
The Knights finished seventh in the sectional with 46 points as discus thrower Mustafa Karadeniz also earned his second consecutive state berth with a toss of 156-1.
Whitefish Bay was only 11th with 21 points, but maximized its impact, as first-year sophomore Davontae Johnson battled hard in a tough field to earn a third-place state berth in the 400 in a personal best of 49.78.
"This feels great," he said. "I think if I'd been able to hold on a little longer I might have been able to get a little closer (to first). I didn't come out last year. Now I wish I had."
Blue Duke coach Joe Saggio feels that Johnson can be a major inspiration to the team.
"He's been working so very hard," he said. "He's one of the few kids who are regulars to the Saturday practices. He really sets a good example. I don't think he realizes the magnitude of this yet. Just wonderful."
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