by Eric Oslund
On Saturday, June 10, the Spectrum Sting finished up what was arguably their most successful track and field season in school history. Not only did they qualify a school-record five events for the state tournament, but they had been setting new standards throughout the season.
“We qualified for sections in 20 events. 20 individual events and five relays, and that far exceeded what we’ve ever done,” explained head coach Rick Peterson. “Then to even make it on to state in five different events, that was the best and certainly has been our most competitive team to date.”
Lorna Bechtel continued to build on her impressive resume at Spectrum. She has made it to the state tournament more times than any other Sting athlete, and was looking to leave her mark during her senior season.
She was once again competing in the 100-meter hurdles, which she finished in eighth a year ago at state. Her goal was to finish even better than that as a senior, and she knew she had a shot to do just that when she qualified for the finals on Friday.
“It’s fun,” Bechtel said of qualifying for the finals. “It’s always fun running your senior year because you can put your all into it since it’s the last time you’ll be able to do it. It’s exciting to be here your last time on the track.”
Along with placing higher than eighth, the senior athlete also wanted to set a new personal record. Leave everything out on the track and have no regrets. And she would do just that, placing in seventh with a time of 15.10 seconds – 0.19 seconds faster than her previous personal best.
She was also 0.002 seconds away from moving into sixth place, in what was an exciting finish to the race.
“They virtually came across, it looked like a complete dead heat, and it was going to be interesting to tell how they separated them,” Peterson said. “It did come down to a photo finish for sixth, but it was a close race. She ran well. She is a very relaxed individual. She doesn’t put a lot of access pressure on herself, but once the gun sounds and it’s time to race, there is no more fierce competitor than Lorna. She is ready to go and it was a good race.”
The other individual from Spectrum to finish on the podium, the school’s highest finisher, was senior Tyler Schwinghammer in the 300-meter hurdles.
His preliminary race may not have been his fastest, as he knocked down a couple hurdles on his way to the finish line, but he still crossed with a time of 40.71 seconds, which was good enough for the seventh seed.
He was then able to improve on that time in the finals, on Saturday, coming in sixth with a time of 40.57 seconds – his personal best.
“You certainly can’t ask or expect anymore than if someone gives their very best and sets an all-time personal best, and that’s what both of those did,” Peterson said of both Bechtel and Schwinghammer.
Zack Anderson and Clay Jackson were the two other athletes to compete at the state championship, and while neither of them were standing atop of the podium on Saturday, both had very good showings.
Jackson was the only Sting athlete to compete in two events, as he qualified for both the 100- and 200-meter dash – finishing 14th for both of them. Not only that, but he was also the first athlete in the school’s history to make it to state as a sprinter.
“He ran very well,” the head coach began. “In Clay’s own words, there was nothing left. He gave it his very best and I’m proud of him for that. He’s our first true sprinter that we’ve brought to the state meet. We’ve certainly brought others in other track and field events, but we’ve never brought anyone in the 100 or 200 before, for boys or girls. It was very exciting.”
Peterson said that Jackson’s success in his senior season is a real testament to the work he put in during the offseason to help better himself. He dedicated a lot of time to the weight room and getting stronger, and it showed.
Now he is just hoping that work ethic rubs off on the younger athletes. To show them that hard work really does pay off.
“It’s a credit to this past year,” Peterson said. “He spent a lot of time in the weight room, and a lot of time just working out on his own this past winter in particular. He put himself in a position for the success that he had this season. That, I think, is pretty well known among our team of all the extra work Clay did.”
The final Spectrum athlete that advanced to state was Anderson in the 1,600-meter run. There were no prelims for this event on Friday, which meant he had to wait until Saturday to get his shot, though, he probably would have preferred to race on the first of the two days.
Saturday was a hot, and those higher temperatures always make it more difficult to perform at a high level in the distance events.
“He just fell back in the third lap,” Peterson said. “He was right there. In the first two laps he was right with the lead pack. It was a really hot and muggy day, and the heat just got to him a little bit more than he thought it might. He really kind of struggled that third lap, and he fell back. Then he tried to make up ground on that last lap, and he did in fact make up a couple places on that last lap, but by then he had fallen too far back to make it up on the award stand.”
The goal for the Sting now is to use this season to motivate all the younger athletes to continue to improve. It will be hard as the Sting will lose Bechtel, Jackson, Schwinghammer, and a number of other talented athletes, but they also know there are plenty returning who have the potential to do great things.
“I think our future’s still bright too in terms of those that will be back next year,” the head coach said. “If they can have the mindset and follow through like Clay and some of the others did this past year with their offseason training, we’ve got a number of others that have the potential to be able to be at that state meet. A lot of it is just going to be determined by how they are going to approach this next year.”