Butterflies, state-meet hype can’t keep Grafton junior from racing to 400-dash crown in Division 1 state meet
You would have never known from the results, but Erick Huertas was feeling butterflies during last weekend’s WIAA state track and field meet at Memorial Stadium in La Crosse.
“To be honest, I was really nervous because it was my first time at a state meet in an individual event,” the Grafton junior said.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I kept my focus and I was prepared.”
Living up to his billing as the top seed in the Division 1 boys’ 400-meter dash, Huertas raced to first place in 47.76 seconds. Runner-up Daniel Freiberg of Madison LaFollette was clocked in 48.33.
Coming on the tail of a school-record 47.53, first-place time in the preliminaries, Huertas firmly established himself as the state’s best quarter-miler this season.
“This meet shows how good Erick Huertas really is,” Grafton coach Kevin Kriegel said.
“He’s been hidden in relays the last two years, but this season he stepped up and demonstrated what kind of talent he has. And he’s only a junior.”
Huertas’ preliminary time broke the Grafton team mark of 48.4, set by Dan Murray in 2000. It also came within a whisker of the state-record of 47.12, established by Nicolet’s Bryan Jones in 1990.
Huertas wasn’t done there, either. For good measure, he placed fifth in the 200 dash (22.12) and anchored a sixth-place 1,600 relay that also included Sam Miller, Alex Gall and Patrick Tobianski (3:20.82).
On his relay leg, Huertas ran a blistering 46.7, taking the Black Hawks from last place to the medal stand.
That gave Huertas a hand in all 17 points scored by the Grafton boys, who placed 15th in the team standings.
“It was exciting, but you have all the pressure of representing everyone in your school and the community,” said Huertas, who became only the second Grafton athlete to win a Division 1 state title in track and field.
“I knew I was prepared, but I couldn’t believe all this was happening. It was a great meet.”
Grafton’s two other state qualifiers were Sam Hoffman, a senior who took 19th in the pole vault (a personal-best 13 feet), and the 3,200 relay of Jacob Woolf, Alec Weinhold, Zach Greenwood and Tobianski (21st in 8:21.45).
“We had some really good performances,” said Kriegel, who noted that the 3,200 relay was Grafton’s first Division 1 state qualifier in that event.
“We thought we could finish in the top 20 (as a team), so that worked out.”
The Port Washington boys got their top Division 1 finish from senior Jack Skelton-Miller, who was 16th in the 1,600 run (a personal-best 4:22.84).
The Pirates’ other finishes were a 17th by the 3,200 relay of Taylor Godersky, Bill Ernest, Eagan Norman and Skelton-Miller (8:14.26); 18th by senior Jason Marhal in the 3,200 run (a personal-best 9:44.09); and 22nd by junior Darius Will in the triple jump (40-8-1/2).
“All in all, the meet went pretty well,” Port boys’ coach Mark Pasten said.
“The 4-by-800 relay finished about where they were seeded, and Jack and Jason both had personal-best times, so it was good to see them end their high school careers that way.
“I was happy to get a few underclassmen up there along with a few seniors.”
Brookfield East won its third straight Division 1 boys’ title with 51 points, one more than runner-up Green Bay Preble.
Grange carries Grafton girls
Sara Grange capped an outstanding high school career by doing all the scoring for Grafton in the Division 1 girls’ meet.
The senior finished fourth in the 400 dash (a team-record 56.86) and fifth in the 200 dash (25.44), giving the Lady Hawks nine points and a share of 30th place.
In the high jump, Grange tied for 11th place in the high jump (5 feet) along with teammate Cathy Brunette, a senior.
“Sara had a phenomenal weekend again,” Kriegel said. “She ran really well against some amazing runners.”
By breaking a mark that had stood since the 1980s, Grange finished her career as the record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes.
Among Grafton’s other state qualifiers, junior Ashley Tanski was 24th in the discus (90-1); the 800 relay of Anya Dillahunt, Alina Dillahunt, Hannah Weber and Katelyn Gallun was 15th in the preliminaries (1:47.95); and the 1,600 relay of Gallun, the Dillahunt sisters and Grange was disqualified for a false start. With a 4:01.86 seed time, the latter team had been a good bet to medal.
The disqualification “was disappointing, really rough to go through,” Kriegel said. “It was just one of those things that happens.”
The Port girls’ two state qualifiers were senior Bianca Benkley, who placed 23rd in the 1,600 run (5:34.84), and freshman Natalie Bozikowski, who was 23rd in the preliminaries of the 400 dash (1:02.59).
“It was just good for them to get to state,” Port girls’ coach Joe Adamak said. “There were no expectations of top-10 finishes.”
For Benkley, the state appearance was her third in four track seasons, to go with four state cross-country races.
“In four years, she’s faced some high expectations and had a lot of success,” Adamak said. “She’s had an outstanding career.”
Kenosha Tremper won the Division 1 girls’ title with 48 points, and Waukesha West was second with 46.
Image Information: ERICK HUERTAS won the 400-meter dash and had two other top-six finishes at the WIAA Division 1 state meet last weekend. Photo by Sam Arendt