The boys track and field machine known as the Brookfield East Spartans are heading back to the WIAA state championships on Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, at UW-La Crosse to a very strong contingent.
East won the West Allis Hale sectional on May 26, beating New Berlin Eisenhower, 117-104, for the championship.
The Spartans qualified 16 athletes to the state meet, covering 10 events.
'We are so proud of the way our kids competed on Thursday,' coach Mike Steiner said. 'We have incredible senior leadership, and our kids just won't back down. They faced some stiff competition, and they dug deep to compete at a championship level. We will never, ever question our kids' desire. We qualified a significant number of kids to La Crosse, and that is special.'
Steiner was disappointed with who didn't make it.
'Jack Leonovicz did not qualify in the shot put,' he said. 'He finished fifth in a loaded event. Jack missed as an extra qualifier by a half an inch. We are so disappointed for Jack. He has had an incredible year, and to see him just miss was heartbreaking. He defines what our program is all about. He has an incredible work ethic, a deep passion for track and field and is determined. He just didn't have his best day.'
The other disappointment was Mario Carr getting robbed in the high hurdles.
'Mario got clipped in the high hurdles and got knocked to the ground,' Steiner said. 'Very unfortunate. It was very controversial as it appeared he was interfered with by the runner next to him. He would have made it (in that event). He got tangled up with the runner next to him, and there was some contact. We didn't like the officials' explanation of it, which was unfortunate. The fact no official saw what happened was disappointing. It will not define Mario. He was disappointed but bounced back and had a strong meet.'
Carr qualified for state in two individual events, the 300 hurdles (39.60 seconds) and the triple jump (45 feet, 2 inches), and the 4x400-meter relay.
East worked hard to qualify all four relays, and the Spartans did just that.
The 4x200-meter relay of Avery Barnes, Will Schmidt, Saxton Williams and Drew Bullen broke the school record (1:27.63) and are seeded No. 1 going into state.
East also had another top-seeded relay in the 4x100 (42.29) with Morris Seaton, Williams, Schmidt and Bullen.
'Will Schmidt had a heck of a week,' Steiner said. 'Being a member of a pair of record-setting relays is something he will always remember. Will has been so solid the entire season and has been a key contributor to our relays since the start. The best thing about Will is his consistency. He has been steady all year and has earned this opportunity.'
The 4x400 relay was seeded third going into state (3:19.54) behind Carr, Barnes, Williams and Bullen.
The 4x800 relay is seeded 12th at state (8:04.88) behind Nick Krueger, Maek Stack, Jas Wodnicki and Sam McTaggart.
'Our 4x800 crew really gutted this one out,' Steiner said. 'They ran a season-best time and responded to the challenge. We are fortunate to get Sam McTaggart back from injury. He had knee surgery this past winter, and this was just his third meet of the year. He responded well and made a huge difference.'
Then Steiner pointed out a key to the Spartans' relay strategy.
'The common thread with the relays was Bullen,' Steiner said. 'Our relays ran extremely well on Thursday. We are in a great position heading into Lacrosse. It will be interesting to see how fast they can go. They are at an elite level right now, and having a healthy Drew Bullen certainly makes a difference. He is a special talent and is a difference maker.'
Bullen also won the long jump (22-41/2) and is a No. 1 seed for the state meet.
'Drew took two jumps,' Steiner said. 'He had a pretty busy day, and he put the long jump to rest in prelims. He is in a great position heading into La Crosse, so the hopes are high for Drew.'
Other individual qualifers were Matt Szews in the high jump (6 feet, 2 inches), Cameron Allen-Alysworth in the discus throw (164-feet) and Mike Caliendo in the shot put (56-9).
'Mike has been steady all year, and he set a PR by over a foot,' Steiner said of Caliendo. 'He responded well in a very difficult event, and to see him qualify was well deserved. He earned it.'
Steiner also had some encouraging words for sophomore Justin Parbs, who didn't qualify but finished fifth in the pole vault (12-6). '
Justin did not qualify, but this experience will help propel him into next year,' he said. 'Justin has been a pleasant surprise in the vault, and he's a hard worker. We have high, high hopes for him moving forward.'
Steiner said his crew is ready for the next step.
'We had an incredible day despite a few setbacks,' he said. 'We are ready to take the show on the road and bring our very best to the state meet. We have some talented kids and excellent leadership. The state track meet is special, and all of our kids understand the goal. We will be ready.'