The remarkable show that the performers in the Homestead track sectional put on last Friday to rave reviews is going on the road.
And no doubt, it will have legs.
As well as speed, power, skill, drama and a whole host of other active verbs that will tell the 12,000 or so fans who will crowd into the newly revamped Memorial Stadium on the UW-La Crosse campus this weekend for the WIAA State Meet that they will be in for a very good, very quick time.
"It's kind of crazy," Highlander boys coach Dan Benson said. "You try to keep track of all the different scenarios. And then it gets really exciting if you have kids who you think can do it."
But the weight of expectation can sneak into the back of the mind of the average coach and make him feel like he's toting a large set of barbells across his neck.
Take Menomonee Falls boys coach Mike Burling, whose team won the sectional and will have three number one seeds going into the Division I meet: Hurdler Matt Widule in both the 110 highs and 300 intermediates and its blistering 800 relay, which has recorded the second-fastest time in state history. According to a pre-scored ranking based on sectional efforts, the Indians are slated to finish right ahead (Milwaukee Vincent) and right behind (Arrowhead) fellow Homestead sectional competitors this weekend at the very top of the state rankings.
And those three top seeds? Well, they're just some of the eight such rankings the sectional carries into state.
"I know, I know," Burling said. "I've done the math. The key is, can we find a few more points? Because if we perform, we have a chance (at winning it all)."
Which would be heady stuff, as no one in Menomonee Falls has won a team state title in anything since the 1981 Falls North boys cross country team.
"People around the school, people who don't know anything about track are coming up to us and congratulating us," Burling said. "I've gotten e-mails from people I haven't heard from in 15 years." Falls has won five meets in a row, including its first-ever back-to-back WIAA regional and sectional titles, and will bring nine individuals and two relays to state to see if it can make it six in a row on the biggest of all stages.
The sectional crown in the most powerful qualifying meet in the state was heady stuff for Burling and it's not like the Indians lacked for competition. Milwaukee Vincent will have two top seeds (defending 100 and 200 champ Centrell Minter in the 200 and the 400 relay) and Arrowhead (Chris Pendergast in the pole vault and the 1,600 and 3,200 relays) will boast three top seeds at state, all with efforts done at Homestead.
"We did put on a bit of a show, now didn't we?" chuckled Benson. Numerous second and third seeds will also push for state honors.
Not that the girls at the sectional took second-billing lightly. Tasha Allen of Milwaukee North Division will lead five top seeds coming out of the Homestead. Allen had long-time Homestead cross country head coach and track assistant Dan Claussen whispering quetly "We may see her in the Olympics in a few years," after she went well below the existing state 400-meter record in the sectional despite coasting into the line the final few meters.
She's ranked third in the 200 and second in the 100 as well, but look for her to be atop the medal stand in all three races when all is said and done on Saturday, maybe with all kinds of records left in her wake.
Homestead's Marissa Savitch is another who has a shot at history. The determined and visceral performer has gone under the 20-plus year old record in the 100 high hurdles twice already this year and also owns the best time in the lows. Her father Mike said she was a bit shell-shocked when she advanced to state in the 100 highs last season as a freshman and clobbered the very first hurdle she tried to clear. She used that frustrating moment as a launching pad, doing well in junior nationals and other regional and national competition last summer.
If she does win both races, she said, she will thank her sectional mates quite vigorously for the help.
"This was the best race competition," she said. "It was just so strong. ...It pushed me to work ever harder."
The heady nature of the speed that came out of Homestead, was also exemplified by the Milwaukee King 400 and 800 relays. The Generals have the top time in the state in the 400 relay. Further, they are second in the 800. The curious thing about that situation is, is that King is second in that race despite having run a time of 1:39.68. Before last year, when Bradley Tech did it, no girls 800 relays in Wisconsin history had gotten close to going below 1:40. Now, both Tech (1;39.3) and King have done it again, setting up a possibly delicious final on Saturday, with another record as well as a state title on the line.
A curious scenario is also developing for the 3,200 relay, as Onalaska, behind the high-powered Jami Hill was going to take a run at the hallowed and very, very strong state record of Marinette. But though Hill, who owns several of the top times in the state in distances ranging from the 400 all the way through to the 3,200, is still listed as an alternate on the relay, she will likely not be available for state.
That is a true loss for track fans, but her absence opens the door for the likes of the fun-loving and laughing out loud Germantown 3,200 team, which has the top seed in the state field. The Homestead sectional champs are working with new coaches this year who have the same energy and enthusiasm that they do, said head coach Greg Siegert.
"Now, instead of being happy just to advance to state, they now want to do well there," he said.
Burling knows that feeling. It was about seven-eight years ago that Falls coaches began to get the inkling that getting to stare up at the beautful La Crosse bluffs for a couple of days each year just wasn't good enough for them anymore. They wanted to move on and be like the Arrowheads and the Vincents of the world.
In short, they wanted to contend.
And now, here they are, with an opportunity to shine like never before, having won with the sectional, one of the most important meets in school history.
With the opportunity to do it one better.
But though Burling might be feeling that weight of expectation, his athletes apparently are not.
"The kids were joking with me after we won the regional (on May 26)," he said. "I said 'Yes, it's an upset now, but whether that thought stays that way depends on what you do with it. You've made a pretty big cake, but how much frosting do you want to put on it?'"
"They gave me their answer the other day when (Tyler) Trokan, Widule, (Nick) Zeman and (Brad) Tietyen came into my room with four large cans of frosting (laughs)."
Enough to cover one seriously enormous cake. Or one big gold trophy.