St. Johns vastly improved over the two seasons, wins Division 2 girls track title
Zeeland — Two years ago, St. Johns’ girls’ track and field team wasn’t even a factor in its own conference.
The Redwings placed fifth out of six teams, never daring to dream of what they accomplished on Saturday when they pulled off a surprise victory in the Division 2 state finals at Zeeland Stadium.
With senior Karrigan Smith helping to score all but four of the team’s points, St. Johns edged Flint Southwestern Academy, 36-34.
St. Johns had never placed in the top 10 in a state track meet, taking 21st last year when Smith won the 1,600-meter run. It was the first state championship for a girls’ team from St. Johns, which has five from boys’ teams (four in wrestling, one in track).
"I think I can speak for everyone when I say this is a surprise," Smith said. "A small town like St. Johns winning a state title in track and field? It’s an indescribable feeling right now."
St. Johns coach Neil Feldpausch figured his team could be in the hunt, but had Southwestern tabbed as the favorite by a 39-34 margin on his pre-meet mock-up.
"Definitely we thought (Smith) could score points, but coming in thinking we were going to win the state meet? No, it didn’t even cross my mind," Feldpausch said. "These girls have surprised me."
Smith repeated as the 1,600-meter champion in a rout, posting a time of 4:59.08 to win by 9.35 seconds. Smith set the Division 2 mark of 4:51.53 last year when she battled Megan O’Neil of Remus Chippewa Hills.
"It was a little bit weird," Smith said of the lopsided 1,600 final, "but I wasn’t going to count any competitors out, because when you come to the state meet a lot of people can do great things and surprise themselves. I was taking this race very seriously. I knew what I had to do. I knew what I could control. That’s what I did."
By not being extended too hard in the 1,600, Smith was fresher for her final two events. She placed third in the 800 in 2:16.94 and was on the second-place 1,600 relay team that clinched the championship. Southwestern didn’t have a team in the final event. Smith was also on the second-place 3,200 relay squad that posted a time of 9:31.57.
"I was very excited about how the whole day went," Smith said. "It made all the hard work we put in over the season worth it."
Senior Lyndsay Pung, junior Emily Wohlfert and Belgian exchange student Pauline Carbonnelle were on the fifth-place 800 and second-place 1,600 relay teams. Junior Anna Krumm was also on the 800 relay squad.
Juniors Jen Eaton and Milah Montle, and freshman Madison Maloney were on the 3,200 relay team.
An outstanding performance by senior Miaisha Blair had Southwestern in the lead going into the final event, but the Knights didn’t have a team in the 1,600 relay. Blair won a highly competitive long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 9.25 inches. The top three finishers cleared at least 18-3. Blair was also on Southwestern’s second-place 800 and 400 relay teams.
There were no multiple winners in the meet.