Fuller completes four-peat

Manistee senior Annie Fuller crosses the finish line of the 1,600 meter run in front of Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough at the Division 3 Michigan High School Athletic Association State Finals in Comstock Park for her fourth straight championship in the event. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee senior Annie Fuller crosses the finish line of the 1,600 meter run in front of Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough at the Division 3 Michigan High School Athletic Association State Finals in Comstock Park for her fourth straight championship in the event.
(Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

COMSTOCK PARK — Manistee athletic history was written in the rain at the Division 3 girls track state finals at Comstock Park High School near Grand Rapids on Saturday.

For the second consecutive year Manistee finished third in the state, and for the third straight time Annie Fuller came away with two state championships, in the 800- and 1600-meter runs. The Chippewas finished with 57 points, a considerable improvement over the 33 they scored last year and just five points short of winning it all.

Pewamo-Westpahlia won the Division 3 state title with 62 points and Frankenmuth was the state runner-up with 59.5.

“It’s the best finish we’ve ever had,” Manistee coach Mike McGuire said. “If you’d have told me going in that we’d score 57 points and not bring home a (team state championship) trophy, I’d have called you a liar.

“With only five points separating first and third, that’s a pretty intense meet.”

It is nearly impossible to overstate Fuller’s accomplishments. Her legacy as the best runner in Manistee history was assured, if it hadn’t been already, with her sixth and seventh state titles in the last meet of her memorable and historical high-school career.

Fuller won the title in the 800 for the fourth consecutive year, setting a new record each time. This year, on a cold, rainy, windy, miserable day for running, she ran the 800 in 2:09.61, two seconds faster than last year’s record time. But it was not her best time of the season, she posted a 2:07.40 at a meet in Big Rapids on May 22.

“This year, I’ve just been running unexpected times,” Fuller said. “I never expected to be running this fast this year. The weather was kind of bad.”

In the 1600, Fuller won her third straight title in a time of 4:57.40. She lost the only individual race of her four-year career in the state finals in the 1600 when she placed second as a freshman.

“Everybody in the state knows about Annie Fuller,” said Scott Werner, coach of Division 3 state champion Pewamo-Westphalia. “She’s just a phenomenal athlete, and should do great things at the next level.”

Manistee senior Jessica Gustad clears a hurdle during her Division 3 statec-championship-winning performance in the 100-meter hurdles in Comstock Park on Saturday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee senior Jessica Gustad clears a hurdle during her Division 3 statec-championship-winning performance in the 100-meter hurdles in Comstock Park on Saturday.
(Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

But it was far from a one-girl show at the state finals for Manistee. Jessica Gustad won the state championship in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.93, her personal best. Gustad also placed third in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the 200-meter dash.

Emma Burns also brought a state champion’s medal back to Manistee, winning the high jump with a leap of 5-foot-3, a personal record. Burns was seeded 19th after jumping just 4-foot-10 at the regionals, but she had been consistently clearing five feet for the latter part of the season.

“We were hoping to get anywhere between 2 and 5 points out of the high-jump,” McGuire said. “But in the last two weeks she’s put in quite a lot of work in practice, and in the week leading up to the state meet she went over 5-4 in practice. We knew that if she could duplicate that at the (state) meet, she’d be right in the thick of things.”

Manistee’s 1600-meter relay team of Fuller, Gustad, Audrey Padilla and Natalie Kott, finished second in the state, up one place from last year’s third-place finish, posting a time of 4:06.36.

“We ran our best time so far, so I’m pretty happy with it,” Padilla said.

Ashley Lindeman placed ninth in the 1600 and 12th in the 3200, posting times of 5:14.91 and 11:42.08, respectively, and Tegan Wayward’s shot put of 29-feet-8.5-inches was 24th at the state finals for the Chippewas.

“We were going down there to win this thing,” McGuire said. “We weren’t going down there hoping, we knew we had a legitimate shot at it, and the girls were all on board. I give the girls a lot of credit, they went down there and gave everything they had against the very best in the state.”

On the boys’ side, Carter Eckhardt finished second in the 400-meter dash and eighth in the 200, in 50.07 and 22.88, respectively, both season bests. Tai Allen’s leap of 18-feet-9-inches was good for 23rd in the long jump.

Eckhardt finished second in the 400 to the defending state champion, Jaylin Golson of Madison Heights Madison, and missed out on a personal goal of his, breaking the 50-second mark, by a slim fraction of a second, possibly due to the weather.

“It was not the best,” Eckhardt said. “The headwind on the back stretch was pretty strong, and it was rainy. The temperature was pretty warm, but that wind kind of killed you.”

Eckhardt, a junior, said that he is already setting his sights on next year’s state finals.

“I’m not satisfied,” he said. “Next year, I want to come stronger and with more guys. Our (1600-meter) relay is looking pretty strong for next year.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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