Belson wins State Title to lead SPASH boys track
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Senior Liam Belson won the State Title in the 800 run to lead the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) boys track team at the WIAA Division 1 State Meet at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2.
Senior Trent Hamerski also placed second in the long jump for the Panthers, who tied for 12th in the team standings with 20 points, while Kimberly had 74 points to win the State Title over Oak Creek (45) and Muskego (33).
“It was amazing,” said Belson of winning the State Title. “It kind of brought everything together over the past three, four years, and I couldn’t have ended my high school season better.”
“The State Meet is always interesting, because your team scores are based on how well your individuals and relays do,” said SPASH boys track head coach Kevin Streveler. “And we had some really good things there.”
A NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin recruit, Belson came in to state with the 12th-best seed time in the 800 run at Sectionals with a 1:57.79, and was the lowest-seeded runner in the top heat.
“He was really worried at the end of Sectionals that his time wouldn’t be fast enough to get into the fast heat, obviously that’s a big determination on how you could possibly do at the State Meet, but he snuck in,” said Streveler. “And as far as seeding goes, he was really in a perfect spot, being the last seed in the fast heat, because he could kind of dictate where he wanted to run the first 200 meters, being on the outside.
“So that kind of played into an advantage for us, getting him in some great spacing,” he said.
“We were out a little slow, but the second lap was really, really quick,” said Belson. “I made a move on the inside on the back stretch, which was kind of risky, but it worked out in the end.
“I knew the guys who were going to be in the top three, and I knew it was going to come down to the last 100,” he said.
In a tight race down the wire, Belson won at the finish line in 1:53.54 to beat senior Rhys Koch of Whitefish Bay (1:53.71) and senior Ansel Fellman of Kenosha Bradford (1:53.95) to capture the State Title in the 800 run.
“When I was coming down the stretch, I was in a lot of pain and it was all right in my head, so it kind of just came from the heart,” said Belson. “The biggest thing was, with all of the hard work I put in, I wasn’t going to give up right then and there, I had to give it my all in the last 50.
“And I threw my arms out at the end, I was so excited,” he said.
“He came around the first lap in perfect position, where the coaches wanted him to be, and with 300 left, it looked a little bit sketchy,” said Streveler. “He was kind of boxed in, but he made a great move to get to the front, and just out-kicked the guys to the finish line.
“Our last State Champion was our pole vault coach Jesse Johnson (in 2011), and I was sitting with Ryan Kawski, one of my assistant coaches, he was one of our previous State Champions, and we were just going, ‘come on, just hold on, hold on, you’ve got it, you’ve got it,’” he said. “And Liam’s reaction at the finish line kind of said it all.”
Hamerski, a NCAA Division II University of Minnesota-Duluth recruit in football, entered the State Meet with the 13th-seeded mark in the long jump at 22-00 from the D.C. Everest Sectional.
“We knew Trent had some pop and some explosiveness in the long jump, and certainly anything can happen, you just need one good jump,” said Streveler. “But we were worried about him because he has had some hamstring injuries, we have gotten bitten by the injury bug here in the last few weeks, which is really unfortunate.
“He ran the 100 first and his hamstring wasn’t feeling so good, and on the way over to long jump, we kind of talked about, ‘this is your last meet, go after it, there’s nothing to hold back,’” he said.
After finishing 24th in the 100 dash at state earlier Friday, Hamerski had a jump of 23-05 in the long jump to place second behind senior Ty Olejnik of Sussex Hamilton (24-05.75).
“His first jump was a scratch, and his second one, as soon as he took off, you’re like, ‘oh that’s a big jump,’” said Streveler. “And 23-05 was huge, breaking our school record that is over 50 years old by Rick Reichardt.
“So that was a tremendous finish to Trent’s career,” he said. “He was certainly hoping for more out of his other events, but to get two school records, one in the long jump and one in the 4×100 meter relay, is pretty exciting for him.”
At the end of the first day, SPASH was in third place with 18 points, behind Whitefish Bay (20) and Kimberly (19).
On the second day, the Panthers added a pair of eighth-place finishes to close out the team’s scoring.
Hamerski, senior Colton Kizewski, senior Alex Karpinski and senior Nolan Metz combined to finish eighth and set a school record in the 4×100 relay (42.77 seconds); while junior Blake Milkowski, senior Monty Flatoff, junior Chad Franz and Belson teamed up to finish eighth in the 4×800 relay.
“Colton, just doing warm-ups the day before the State Meet, his hamstring started to tighten on him, so we had three guys running that relay with hamstring injuries, that we’re holding together with band aids, and them breaking the school record with what we had on the track is pretty impressive,” said Streveler. “If they were fresh and healthy, I think they’re in the top two or three in the state and maybe have a chance to win it.
“And the 4×800 relay team probably gets on the stand if they’re in the fast heat, but unfortunately we were in Heat 1,” he said. “After Blake Milkowski ran a great first leg, we were in the lead and our guys were running by themselves the entire race, so they had nobody to race with, and we just missed the stand by a second or so. If we were in the fast heat we certainly get on the medal stand without a problem there.”
Among the other individual qualifiers for SPASH, Franz finished 11th in the 800 run, senior Johnny Hyland was 15th in the 3,200 run, senior Connor Pliska tied for 18th in the high jump, and Milkowski was 24th in the 1,600 run.
In the 4×400 relay, Kizewski, Hyland, Metz and Belson were 12th; while Karpinski, senior Evan Brocken, Metz and Kizewski combined to finish 16th in the 4×200 relay.
“Getting 16 guys to the State Meet in 11 events is the most we have ever had since I’ve been coaching, and we had just a tremendous group of seniors,” said Streveler. “Those kids were awesome all year long.
“And when you win seven Conference Championships, Indoor, Relays and Outdoor in a row, and the Regional Championship and Sectional Championship six years in a row, that’s really impressive,” he said. “It says a lot about the kids that we had on the team and the coaching staff.”