Heinbuch is fourth at state, relay just misses getting medals
The step up to Division 2 was steep, but the St. Croix Central track girls showed they could compete with the state's best in the 2003 WIAA State Track and Field Championships this weekend at UW-La Crosse.
Last year Central's Megan Heinbuch was the state champion in the Division 3 400 meter dash. This year Heinbuch was right with the top 400 runners in Division 2. She was the fourth seeded runner following Friday's preliminaries and she held that spot in Saturday's finals, taking fourth place with a time of 59.5 seconds.
Central's 1600 meter relay team also advanced to state. The team of Heinbuch, Anne Redmon, Katrina Brummer and Darcy Tharp were seeded ninth going into state. In Friday's preliminaries they moved up to seventh place, finishing .18 of a second behind sixth place New Richmond.
That was a preview of what would happen in Saturday's state finals. Central and New Richmond again were battling throughout the race for sixth place. The race came down to the final lap, when Heinbuch and New Richmond's Ayla Mitchell waged a momentus individual battle. Each of them made moves during their lap to take a lead, only to see the other battle back.
Down the home stretch they raced shoulder-to-shoulder, the picture of two standout athletes locked in a fierce battle. In the final strides Mitchell was able to get ahead of Heinbuch by a few inches as they hit the finish line. The difference in their times was one-tenth of a second.
In the race the Central girls reset the school record they had already established in the 1600 relay.
Central coach Gretchen Krahn said the only place the Panthers could have made up any more time in the relay was in their acceleration out of the handoffs.
In preparing Heinbuch for the 400 meters, Krahn tried to get her away from setting goals for this year's meet. Going into the state meet she was tied for the eighth best time in the Division 2 400 meters.
"After she made it into the finals she said her goal was to make it onto the (awards) stand and I agreed with her," Krahn said.
Just as in Friday's preliminaries, Heinbuch got out to a strong start in the 400. She stayed right with the leaders throughout the race. She finished in fourth in the finals, less than two seconds behind the race winner, Heidi Heiberlein of Kiel.
Redmon and Heinbuch were the only seniors on the Panther team and served as the captains this season. Krahn isn't known for dishing out big compliments, but she had this to say about her seniors.
"They were dedicated, hard-working good leaders, truly captains. They have a winning attitude and will be missed," Krahn said.
Krahn announced these team awards for the Panthers for this season.
Most Valuable: Megan Heinbuch
Most Improved: Katrina Brummer
Top Rookie: Darcy Tharp
100 Percent Award: Tracy Gillis
Roadster: Laura Skala
Speedster: Anne Redmon
Trackster: Anna Williams