ROCHESTER — Worn out in the midst of a tough workout schedule, Waverly Neer set her own pace Tuesday.
That pace was good enough for two records at the Rochester Girls Track and Field Sectional as the Culver Girls Academy phenomenon blazed to record-breaking championship wins in both the 1600 and the 3200, registering respective times of 4:50.51 and 10:27.16. Not only were those times good enough to lap many of her competitors, they also easily broke the 5:02.35 and 10:57.81 records CGA alumnus and Indiana High School state distance legend Alex Banfich set in 2006 and 2008.
“I was never given a specific time in the 1600 or the 3200, but just to post some pretty good performances,” said Neer.
“It’s nice to leave a little bit of a legacy, but that’s not always the goal. I want to go out feeling good about my runs. That doesn’t mean I have to always hit those records, but it’s certainly a nice cherry on top.”
“She’s gone through a very tough week of practice, and she was tired today,” said CGA head track and field coach Michael Chastain. “We wanted to try to hit the 1600 nicely. Originally the weather forecast was almost no wind, and we thought oh that’s great, but it was a little bit windier than we had hoped. But she still ran a crisp 1600 and came back with a smooth 3200. We didn’t even talk about tempo; just get into a rhythm and try and keep it, and she stayed pretty consistent.”
Neer’s two individual titles helped propel CGA to the team championship, as it upended defending champ Plymouth 168.33-146.33. Triton finished four with 61 points behind Rochester, meanwhile, while Culver Community’s Gwen Zehner earned top four regional-qualifying spots in both throwing events and tallied 16 points for her team.
“The girls are excited about it,” said Chastain. “We knew Plymouth would be a big battle because both teams have so much depth. The girls did a pretty nice job with things up and down the line.”
“We finished where I thought we’d finish,” said Plymouth head coach Paul Patrick. “Our kids performed well, and Culver performed much better, and really I thought they would.
“For us to be in the running in the end, we probably had to be 20-plus with those original seedings. We saw the Culver girls run at our first indoor meet in March, they won that. We saw them at the Culver Relays the first week of April, they won that meet. We saw them at the Goshen Relays three weeks ago, they finished runner-up in that meet… They haven’t done anything differently tonight than they’ve done all year. They just showed their strength.”
While Neer’s two titles helped, the Lady Eagles had no shortage of sectional champs at Tuesday’s meet. CGA notched a total of seven wins at Rochester as sprinters Ashley Taylor and Anne Marie Dumas won the 100 and 200 dashes, respectively, while serving as members of the Eagles’ winning 400 relay squad along with Laura Ma and Emily Rich, and freshman Amber Cowell grabbed dual titles in both hurdling events.
Plymouth won championships in the 1600 and 3200 relays, while Haley Smart finished with her third straight championship in the 400 and Meagan Fisher won both the high jump and the 800.
In fact, Fisher, a mere sophomore with the Pilgrims, was a four-time champ in her second Rochester Sectional. Last year she celebrated her birthday with a trio of wins at the meet, and Tuesday she added turns on Plymouth’s winning 1600 and 3200 relay teams to her championship high jump and 800 finishes.
“I wasn’t expecting to win high jump; I was expecting to get second or third,” said Fisher. “Then in my 800, I was seeded first there, so that was exciting.”
“She’s a super kid, very humble and really ran well,” said Patrick of his sophomore.
Triton was unable to seriously contend for a team title with just 10 squad members at the sectional, but the Lady Trojans did manage to put up 61 points ahead of some larger programs. Breanna Lemler took second in the 100 and third in the 200, while Triton grabbed its lone sectional championship in junior thrower Megan Howdeshell, who overcame some nerves as the top seed in the discus to beat out the rest of the field there prior to a regional-qualifying fourth-place finish in the shot put.
“I scratched my first two throws, which really threw me for a mental whirl, so I had to just take a step to the side and re-focus myself,” said Howdeshell. “I was focused on just getting my third one in between the lines; just getting into the finals was my first goal. I threw a 121’, and that got me in the finals and just helped boost my confidence.”
It was Culver’s Zehner who claimed top honors in the shot with a winning throw of 38-08, 5.5 inches ahead of Plymouth’s Hannah Christy. But it wasn’t Zehner’s farthest throw that had coach Mike Buschman as impressed as her consistency at the meet. Zehner also placed third in the discus to advance to next Tuesday’s Bremen Regional there as well.
“More important than her good throws or her good finish, she didn’t have a throw under 36,” said the Culver coach. “Nice consistency, it’s nice to see that, especially going into a week of working on stuff. It’s easier to tighten things down when there’s a lot more consistency there.”