D3 state T&F: Benzing medals in three events; Schmitt places third in boys pole vault
LA CROSSE — All she does is medal.
That’s mainly been the case over the past three seasons for Dodgeland junior Meygan Benzing, who captured her sixth career medal in seven events competing in Division 3 at the WIAA Track and Field Championships at UW-La Crosse.
Benzing went 3-for-3 on trips to the awards podium at the two day event. She was part of a medal-winning girls 3,200 relay team for the third straight season when the Trojans placed fourth on Friday. Later in the day, she used a late kick to grab the sixth and final spot on the awards podium in the 3,200-meter run.
She used that strategy again in the 1,600-meter run on Saturday, this time winning a three-person sprint to the finish to place fifth in 5:18.24 after working her way up from the back.
“It’s kind of a sneak attack,” Benzing said. “I wasn’t really built off speed last season, so I knew if I had more speed I would be able to keep up with them, and then outkick them at the end. With my long legs, I knew I could do it, I just had to figure out how.”
After surviving hot, muggy conditions on Friday, Benzing and everyone else at the event enjoyed cool, overcast conditions on Saturday.
“It was nice,” Benzing said. “The weather felt really good.”
Dodgeland track and field coach Kevin Klueger had to be talked into allowing Benzing to try these three events heading into the postseason. He certainly isn’t regretting the decision now.
“It’s tough to triple,” Klueger said. “She really wanted to and she talked us into it. One thing that we’ve noticed … she’s switching her race style. She used to like to lead. We’ve been working her sitting back a little bit more. A lot of that (late kick ability) comes from the speed work we’ve been doing with her. She’s been running a few more 400s and getting confidence in her speed. It wasn’t there when she was younger, but it’s there now. It makes her more versatile, in terms of where we can put her.”
Dodgeland senior Hannah Cramer tied for 10th in the girls pole vault on Saturday after clearing 9 feet.
“Everybody had a great meet,” Klueger said. “We brought home a few medals. We didn’t do quite as well as we wanted it to be, but we are very happy with the way things ended this year, especially considering the luck we had toward the end of the year. We had a lot of injury and illnesses thrown at them and they came through here.”
As a freshman, Benzing made a fourth place medal-winning finish at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships in cool, evening temperatures look easy in the Division 3 girls 3,200-meter run.
One year later, she ran under some sweltering afternoon heat and finished well out of medal contention.
She didn’t look like she was having a lot of fun on the third go-around, either, but Benzing had determination and a game plan in mind.
After sitting back in eighth place for much of the race, Benzing made a late surge and passed two runners to grab the sixth place medal in the two-mile in 11:36.15.
“Coach (Andrew) Perkins told her to sit back and not go out (hard), but this year, with the weather and things like that, she wasn’t exactly where we wanted her to be,” Klueger said. “In fact, up until Jamie (Huber) got sick she was not going to be running in the 3,200. She was going to be running in the 4-by-4. She begged us to run it. She wanted redemption from last year, because she had a little heat exhaustion. She was in good spirits at the start of the race and went out and competed. It kind of played out the way we wanted it to. She sat back and had a good spurt at the end and earned a medal.”
Benzing had a sly grin after leaving the awards area.
“It was like a redemption year for me,” Benzing said.
Earlier in the day, Benzing teamed with three new relay runners — junior Jada Kohn, sophomore Rachel Parbs and sophomore Kaitlin Pickart — to earn a fourth place medal in 10:06.89.
Kohn, Parbs and Pickart, all members of the Division 3 state championship cross country team, enjoyed their first races at the state track and field meet. All three were vital to the team’s success after junior standout Jamie Huber was lost for the season to mononucleosis.
“It felt pretty good, honestly,” Kohn said. “I’ve never been an 800 runner, so it was kind of interesting when I got the spot. I definitely think I have endurance from cross country that allows me to run the 800. Feels like (cross country in August).
“I was an alternate last year,” Parbs said. “I really like it. It was a good experience. I was a lot more nervous here than in cross country, because there, you don’t see everyone in the stands like you do here. It was really nerve-racking. I passed a couple girls and caught up to a third one a little bit.”
“It was equally amazing (to my experience in cross country),” Pickart said. “I was an alternate on the 4-by-8 last year. Being able to run it this season was really my goal. I wanted to make it to state. This is a completely different state experience. There’s more stress here. Everybody is in one area the whole time.”
Pickart caught two more runners to set up Benzing, who powered the team from ninth at the start of the race to fourth by the finish.
The Trojans ran for Huber and earned the program’s third consecutive state medal in this event.
“It definitely was (for Jamie), a lot of it was,” Benzing said. “(My 800) felt fast, but the last 200 my legs felt dead. I was just trying to finish. It’s interesting (to run with a new team). It’s a different experience for them, because they’ve never medaled before. It’s an expectation for me, but for them, they’ve never gotten this. I am happy for them to have this new experience that I could help create for them.”
Klueger was delighted.
“They did exactly what we wanted them to do, to keep us in the race,” Klueger said. “Those two girls (Pickart and Benzing) have been running great all year and Rachel and Jada set us up and then Kaitlin and Meygan did what they were supposed to do. They finished strong and brought home a medal for us.
“It shows a lot of adversity for the girls, stepping up in a big moment when so many things happened with that group of kids. Losing Jamie was huge. They stepped up.”
In Division 3 boys competition, Dodgeland senior Zach Schmitt medaled for the second straight year in the boys pole vault after clearing 13 feet.
“He’s had a great season,” Klueger said. “He’s looked so good all year in the vault. Things didn’t quite fall his way today, but third place two years in a row in that event is a pretty big thing.”
“It was all right,” Schmitt said. “I would have like to have done better, but with the hot weather, I have no regrets. I had no misses until 13-6. I am thankful for my third year being here. It’s always awesome with the weather.
He thanked pole vault coach Doug Miller, who has been with him all three seasons.
“He’s the best coach I could have asked for,” Schmitt said. “He knows everything to do. I couldn’t have done it without him. I am thinking of doing it at UW-Stout.”
Junior Dalton Klentz did not clear the opening height in the pole vault.
Dodgeland’s 400-meter relay team of senior Dan Moynihan, sophomore Cameron Nelson, Schmitt and senior Kyle Engels finished 13th in 45.58. The 800 relay team of Dan Moynihan, Nelson, freshman Evan Finger and Engels also took 13th in 1:35.99.
Finger finished 14th in the 800-meter run in 2:05.81.
“Matt Moynihan hurt his hamstring right before conference,” Klueger said. “He was one of our big sprinters and that kind of set us back a little bit. We had a bunch of young kids step up and got us here. We tried running him at sectionals. He re-injured his hamstring. We tried to get him to go in both relays today, but he wasn’t able to go. We still ran some of our best times, even though the handoffs weren’t great.”