Last week was a trial run, for all intents and purposes. Tuesday was the main event.
And the show was a success.
It had been since 2015 that the Columbus prep track and field team entertained guests. But with a new track surface, the Cardinals are back in business.
And led by the trio of Teagan Herschleb on the boys side and Taylor Zittel and Megan Huber on the girls side, they christened their new digs in style by hosting the Capitol Conference championships, with the girls taking third (75.5 points) among 11 teams and the boys taking fourth (78.5).
“I’m pretty emotional just to get this done and have it run so smoothly,” Columbus coach Marlin Hensler said with a lump in his throat. “I have to thank all my custodial help, my AD (Terri Schumacher) and all my workers that came tonight for this and having this go so well.
“I actually almost ended up with more help than I needed tonight — and I was worried I wasn’t going to have enough.”
Columbus ironed out the wrinkles last Tuesday when Lakeside Lutheran, Marshall and Sugar River paid a visit for a quadrangular. But this Tuesday was what Hensler had been waiting for so long after the old track was finally fit for repairs.
“They had to rip the whole thing up and start all over again,” he said. “We’ve had such a terrible surface, even four years ago we shouldn’t have hosted a meet, it was that bad. We’ve had holes and patches and cracks and it just had to get redone, and it finally did.”
Herschleb, Zittel and Huber made sure the Cardinals didn’t skunked at their grand reopening, either.
Huber won the girls discus with her best throw of 104 feet, 4 inches while Herschleb and Zittel filled up the scoresheet by both finishing in the top six in all four of their respective events.
Herschleb won the boys triple jump (43-1¾) while taking second — by a nose — in the 110-meter low hurdles (15.69 seconds), third in the 300 intermediate hurdles (:42.21) and fourth in the long jump (20-0).
Meanwhile, Zittel won the girls 100-meter dash (:12.58), took second in both the 200 (:26.79) and the 300 low hurdles (:48.57) and took sixth in the long jump (15-11).
The highlight for her was undoubtedly the 100, as she not only set a new personal record — :12.94 was her previous best — but the junior also beat rival Rhianna Walzer (:12.86) from Lodi for only the second time in her career to boot.
“I don’t usually think about it, but I try to stay low the whole time,” Zittel said of precise execution paving her way to the PR. She also made a point to thank teammate Sidney Smith for some words of encouragement before the race.
Zittel also set a PR in the 200 by just under a second but didn’t quite have enough in the tank to make any news in the 200.
“I think I just got tired at the end. I am tired — I ran a lot today,” she said right after that last race.
For Herschleb, the highlight of his day actually was counted as an error.
His winning mark in the triple jump was 43-1¾, but prior to that he had an even better jump that ended up not counting.
“I believe I had a 45-foot jump that I scratched by about a toe, so that was a pretty big deal for me,” he said. Columbus' school record is 44-9.
It was a photo finish in the 110 hurdles and Herschleb lost out to Lakeside Lutheran’s Max Thiele by one-hundredth of a second, all after racing to make it close at the end.
“When they were announcing it, I was sitting next to the kid who beat me. And they went back and forth about three times on who got second place. It was pretty sad to hear that I got second because I had to put in a lot of work to catch up to him,” he said.
Last but not least, Huber — who said the circle was slippery, bringing marks down a bit across the whole field — was pleased she was able to notch a throw good enough to win.
“Before I threw that one, I told myself I needed to amp it up and make a bigger gap between me and the girl behind me,” she said. “Even though 104 wasn’t a great throw, I knew I needed a throw that could secure a comfortable place.”
Molly Kahl didn’t end up winning, or even taking second. But her leap of 35-0 in the triple jump was a PR by a good bit.
“My legs felt a lot more warm and I finally hit the board — I never hit the (spring) board,” she said. “I’m always too far behind it, and you lose a couple inches if you don’t touch it.
“And I finally figured out the second phase of the jump — I finally stayed up tall and made sure I executed through the whole jump, not just the beginning of it.”
The only other runner-up finishers for Columbus was Sam Coughlin in both the boys shot put (48-0) and discus (131-11).
But Hensler did say he was pleasantly surprised by how well most of the relays did, based on seed times, and that he was pleased on the whole.
“We go to an incredibly tough sectional, so some of (today) was, ‘Let’s see what we have moving (forward) and try to get things to state,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal for some of these kids, is to get to the state meet, and (today) kind of sets us up in a positive way for some of that.”