All you need to do is look at seniors like Andrew Kitto and Tyler Palka to understand how the Saline Hornets won their third straight regional track and field championship, even though they never won a single individual event and they won just a single relay.
Kitto, who normally runs four events for the Hornets, is struggling with an injury and was limited to just one event at Friday’s regional at Saline High School, which Saline won with 122 points (Pioneer was second with 96.5 points).
Kitto gutted through the 800 meter run and finished second in 1:57.34 seconds.
“Andrew ran today because he knew he could help the team,” coach Allan Leslie.
Tyler Palka, running the final leg of the 4-by-200 relay, passed three runners in the final 50 years of the race and edged the Ypsilanti runner by .06 seconds, giving the team another eight points and earning the relay team a trip to the state meet.
“I just wanted it. I wanted it a lot. I love running. I love competing,” Palka said. “I knew if we could get second, we’d have a trip to states.”
It’s that kind of attitude that the Hornets used to win team regional this year, coach Leslie said.
“I told the team early in the season that we didn’t have the star athletes last year’s class had. But that if we worked hard, we could be the senior class that was the first in Saline history to win three straight regionals,” Leslie said. “And our team responded. They’ve done everything you could have asked for.”
Saline’s lone victory was posted by the 4-by-800 relay team of Brian Diefenbach, Matthew Elms, Anthony Lamus and Ryan Wilke. The Hornets won their race in 8:01.16, more than 17 seconds faster than the second place team.
John Smutny continued his solid season, though things didn’t quite go his way. The junior qualified for the state meet for the first time in the shot put with a throw of 50-03, good for second. Smutny was four inches short of qualifying in the discus, where he finished third with a throw of 137-04. Nic Sawyer finished a solid sixth in the shot put with a throw of 45-03.
Skyler Bowden, Jesse Ouellette, Tyler Palka and Mitchell Suddendorf finished second in the 4-by-200 relay to clinch a trip to the state meet.
Andrew Kitto was second in the 800, giving way to Monroe’s Austin Dawn in the last 25 years. Kitto finished in 1:57.34 and qualified for the state meet. Ryan Wilke finished third in 1:58.30.
Kaj Althaus qualified for the state meet and was third in pole vault (13-10).
Gabe Becton (11.31) and Tyler Palka (11.37) went third and fourth in the 100 meter dash.
Grant Praschan (4:27.25) and Anthony Lamus (4:30.4) placed third and fourth in the 1600. Brian Deifenbach was eighth.
Ryan Gauche was third in the 400 with a time of 50.52.
The 4-by-100 relay team of Becton, Brad McCormick, Ouellette and Palka was third in 44:04.
Bowden was third in the 200 dash (23.24).
Grant Praschan was fourth in the 3200 meter run and qualified for the state meet on his time (9:35.42). Kevin Hall finished eighth and Dylan Jennings was ninth.
In the long jump, Brad McCormick was 4th (20-05.75) and Kevin Gross was sixth (20-01).
Austin Brenner was fifth and Joey Leptich was seventh in high jump (5-11).
Leptich was fifth in the 300 hurdles (42.66).
John Smutny – Shot Put
Kaj Althaus – Pole Vault
Brian Diefenbach – 3200 Relay
Matthew Elms – 3200 Relay
Ryan Wilke – 3200 Relay
Anthony Lamus – 3200 Relay
Skyler Bowden – 800 Relay
Jesse Ouellette – 800 Relay
Tyler Palka – 800 Relay
Mitchell Suddendorf – 800 Relay
Andrew Kitto – 800 Meter Run
Grant Praschan – 3200 Meter Run