Lincoln High has its first state championship in boys track since 1960.
How the Links learned they had won, however, constitutes one of the wackiest closings ever to the state track meet.
They thought they were a half-point short of Lincoln Southwest after the last event, the 1,600 relay. And the Silver Hawks were thinking they had just pulled off a boys-girls title sweep, with their teams rushing to each other along the fence at Burke Stadium.
Didn’t Millard South, in the slow heat, run a time better than Southwest?
Brett Schuster, Southwest’s coach, might have been the first to realize it. He quietly, quickly broke the news to his crew.
The Links still didn’t know. But once they did, the celebration was on. Teammates ran to their relay team — Darius Luff, Isaiah Winston, Zay Parks and Leeaaron Berks — from all parts of the stadium and making the long, joyful walk from his perch high in the east stands was longtime coach Bob White.
“Up there, everybody was running towards me,” White said. “We thought we had lost by the half-point. You really don’t lose, you take second.”
With Lincoln High taking fourth in the relay and Southwest seventh, the Links won 76-75.5 on yet another Saturday when the forecast of stormy weather didn’t come true.
Southwest’s girls and Lincoln High also were the winners of The World-Herald’s Gregg McBride Award as the meet’s grand champions based on gold-medal scoring.
The 120th state meet’s only all-class three-gold winner was Southwest’s Caelyn Christiancy. The South Dakota State softball recruit swept the two hurdles titles and ran a split of the Silver Hawks’ winning 1,600 relay.
Nebraska football signee Cam Jurgens of Beatrice was one of three double gold winners in boys events. He helped the Orangemen to the Class B team title. Ryan Eastman of Omaha Creighton Prep won the 1,600 and 3,200 and Alex Nelson of Elkhorn South the 100 and 200.
Other team champions were Hartington-Newcastle in C and Axtell in D in boys; and Syracuse in B, David City Aquinas in C and Giltner in D in girls.
Saturday’s only class record set was by Dundy County-Stratton senior Phalen Sanford. He lowered his Class C 300 hurdles mark to 38.61, which also held up for the all-class gold. He finished with four class titles and 40 points after running anchor on the Tigers’ winning 1,600 relay.
So many meet records were set during the two days that they exhausted the supply of flags for the poles in the north end of the stadium. One of Saturday’s banners would have been for the 48-2¼ shot put by Superior sophomore Kalynn Meyer, a day after she repeated as the discus gold medalist.
Lincoln High didn’t hit as well as the season charts predicted. Among the hiccups was a fourth in the 400 relay, in which the Links went onto the all-time chart at No. 7 with their 41.95 at districts.
They had three Class A wins. After Dauntavis Lawrence won the triple jump Friday, Darius Luff won the 110 high hurdles — the Links’ first gold medalist in the event since 1930 and their only gold this year — and the 300 hurdles.
“The hurdles don’t even come close to this (winning a team title),” Luff said. “This is everything. This is what we worked for all year.”
Berks took the baton for the anchor lap in sixth. He said he passed Southwest’s runner and then another to move up into fourth in the relay, in which the Links had their season best.
But he had looked up at the scoreboard and so had Luff, neither immediately realizing what Millard South had done to help them out.
“I had no idea. I was just watching my kids run the race,” White said. “This is really neat. The key the last two days was the whole team. I can’t really say that there was one specific kid or one specific performance that outdid any others.
“To get them to the relay at the end took everybody in all 16 events.”
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