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'This is absolutely unreal. It was like watching a miracle.'

Drew Bullen said it, but he was participating in the miracle far more than observing. The senior crossed the finish line of the 4x400-meter relay at the end of the WIAA Division 1 state track meet in La Crosse on June 4 in exuberant fashion but not knowing the jackpot he had hit.

He knew the event title was amazing by itself because the Spartans had entered the race seeded just eighth out of the prelims. He also knew that the victory meant the team had won its fourth state team title in the last six years.

But what he didn't know is that he and teammates Mario Carr, Saxton Williams and Avery Barnes had chased down a bit of history as well.

Their time of 3:15.87 had broken one of the oldest and most hallowed records in state history, the 3:16.09 of the legendary Nicolet team of 1990. In fact, the anchor of that relay, Bryan Jones, who still holds the state 400 record, was at the meet this weekend.

Bullen was overcome with emotion at all he and his teammates accomplished.

'This feels absolutely amazing,' he said. 'We were seeded eighth, and to finish that well, to make up that kind of gap ... we were just so surprised that we got first.'

But they shouldn't have been.

Respected Homestead track coach Todd Brawner, who led Germantown to a state title in 2006 behind an impressive 4x400 relay, said it best: East does it all the right way.

'They get all the best athletes out of that school, and then they get those kids to buy into it all,' Brawner said. 'They're all on the same page.'

In short, the team concept that surrounds East runs deep.

'Everyone together helps everybody else out,' said 4x100 relay runner Morris Seaton.

To coach Mike Steiner, who oversaw three straight state titles at East from 2011-13, it means trusting the seniors and putting the best man on the anchor of every relay. It means imbuing each and every kid with a feeling that they can be their absolute best when it really counts.

It's a mantra that has helped the Spartans win those four titles in six years.

'Our kids are really tough,' Steiner said. 'They'll accept the challenge that's presented by this meet. I'm just so proud of our seniors. They came through in such excellent fashion. I'm just so happy for them.'

The Spartans had qualified well out of their trials at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Memorial Stadium on June 3. Then they had a meeting that night to discuss what they were going to do with their opportunity.

'The coaches told us that we have a shot (at the title) if we do what we're supposed to do,' said senior 4x100 and 4x200 runner Will Schmidt

Steiner was exceptionally pleased for Bullen, who wasn't even available to the Spartans full-time until early May because of an injury.

Called a 'world-class athlete' by some of his teammates, it was Bullen who was entrusted with the anchor position of the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays.

And he came through.

He finished second in the long jump (22-111/2), anchored the 4x100-meter relay team to a school-record runner-up spot of 42.05 and won an electrifying three-way battle at the tape in bringing home the 4x200 relay to a school-record state title of 1:26.95.

In that 4x200, less than 0.01 of a second separated East from Plymouth and Menomonee Falls.

'He (Bullen) just came from out of nowhere,' said an amazed Schmidt.

Bullen added, 'I was that close; I knew I had to get them.'

But could he summon one more great race?

By virtue of the 13 points it earned in the 3,200, Middleton had shot ahead in the team standings with 41 points with only the 4x400 left to count. But the Cardinals did not have an entry in the race.

However, both East (39 points) and Kettle Moraine (39) did have a relay, as did lurking Franklin (35).

Carr, the third-place finisher in the 300 intermediate hurdles earlier in the day (38.41), said the instructions going into the race were clear:

'We had to beat Kettle Moraine,' he said

Bullen's teammates put him in a position to succeed with a lead.

Kettle Moraine was well back, but no one knew that at the time, so Bullen ran with every ounce of energy and determination a future West Point cadet like himself could muster.

Oak Creek anchor Caleb Ogden, the two-time state 400 runner-up, was coming, and the noise at UW-La Crosse's Memorial Stadium was deafening.

Ogden got the stick in fifth and picked off three runners but could not get Bullen as Oak Creek finished in 3:17.8.

History was thus made in threefold fashion for East, again with the emphasis on the team concept led by the seniors.

'Talk about two seniors (Carr and Bullen) peaking at the right time,' Barnes said. 'Talk about building a legacy.'

Carr added, 'We came here to win, and that's what we did.'

Steiner pointed to other seniors who helped pave the way, such as discus thrower Cameron Allen-Aylesworth, who moved from 10th to fifth in the finals (162-2), and shot put putter Mike Caliendo, who took sixth with a toss of 56-41/2.

Others on the 4x100 relay were Seaton, Saxton Williams and Schmidt, and on the 4x200 supporting Bullen were Barnes, Williams and Schmidt.

'We hadn't talked much about this (the state title) until the last week,' Steiner said. 'That's when we put our best lineup forward. Our path was a little different this year, with the emphasis on the relays.'

With a top-level anchor man in place.

'We recognize that he is a very special talent,' Steiner said of Bullen. 'We've just got good kids all-around. They're motivated, and they want to be good. I really just can't say enough about the kids and the coaches. They do everything we ask, everything we hope for.

'They're passionate about being good.'

Including leaving a foundation for the future, as Williams noted this title was a 'farewell gift to underclassmen' like himself.

Not to mention a just reward for the hardworking seniors.

'I couldn't ask for anything better,' said a happy Bullen.