OMAHA — Even before the spring sports season began, the 2011-12 school year was already a special one for Scottsbluff High School boys athletics.
It might even be the most memorable one now, thanks to the Bearcat boys capping off the school year with a dazzling performance in the Nebraska Class B state track and field meet.
Led by state championships by Isaiah Castellaw in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the 4x100 relay team, Scottsbluff celebrated its first state boys track and field championship since 1968 on Saturday at Burke Stadium in Omaha.
It was the third boys state team championship captured by Scottsbluff High School this school year. The Bearcats won a Class B state cross country championship last fall and then claimed the Class B state basketball championship this past winter.
“What a great way to end a magical track and field season,” Scottsbluff coach Jim Barker said. “It was an unbelievable experience for those boys. We’re happy for everyone that got involved in this. It’s the first state title since 1968, so it’s been a long time coming.”
Winning state championships in cross country and in basketball, Barker said, seemed to make the Bearcat boys track and field team even more determined to claim a state championship.
“As I look back, I think that in itself was a huge motivator because it’s a rarity to win one let alone three during a school year,” Barker said. “This is definitely special.”
Scottsbluff finished the two-day state meet with 48 points, while McCook settled for second place with 41 points. Not surprisingly, the battle for the top spot came down to the last of 17 events. Scottsbluff clung to just a two-point lead, 43-41, over McCook heading into the final race – the 4x400 relay. And since both schools had qualified for that race – they were even in the fast heat together – the Bearcats knew they needed a big-time effort to stay in front.
They did just that, recording a fourth-place finish to secure the title. The foursome of Matthew Klein, Warren Eubanks, Tayler James, and Isaiah Castellaw crossed the finish line in 3:25.566, about 4 seconds ahead of McCook, which netted ninth place.
Barker said he sensed before the relay race that his runners were ready to step up to the challenge.
“You know it gave us that extra incentive to put it on the line because we knew what was at stake,” he said. “Boy, they stepped up to the plate. That was an exciting 4x400.”
As was expected coming into the meet, the Bearcats piled up the majority of their points Saturday. Scottsbluff, which scored eight points in the first day of the meet Friday, got rolling right away on Saturday. James and Ben Willis-Teff both earned medals in the 800 – James placed sixth (1:57.955) and Willis-Teff was eighth (2:00.053).
Scottsbluff then got a huge lift from its 4x100 relay team of Castellaw, Matthew D. Klein, Matthew T. Klein, and Luke Worden, who blazed to a first-place finish in 43.161. Their time was just a couple tenths of a second off the school record.
“When the 4x100 relay won, I think that gave us a big boost,” Barker said. “That’s always a nail-biter relay because of the fact that if you miss a handoff, you’re done. But those guys ran a phenomenal race. They did a great job from start to finish. When Isaiah got the baton, there was no question we were going to win it.”
Moments later, Scottsbluff received another big boost when Worden, a junior, recorded his best race of the season in the 100 to earn a runner-up finish in 10.913 seconds. Cozad sophomore Jake Paulsen finished just ahead of Worden in 10.877. Worden’s performance was key, especially since he had the sixth-fastest time in the prelims on Friday.
Even with the eight points that Worden collected in the 100, though, Scottsbluff still trailed both McCook and York. That soon changed, however, when the 300 intermediate hurdles rolled around. Castellaw put on quite a show in that event, turning in a time of 39.062 seconds to win the championship.
“From the gun, he just took charge,” Barker said. “With him taking command early on, that’s what did it for him. I think he was bound and determined that he was going to get to the finish line first.”
Castellaw, who was part of Scottsbluff’s state boys basketball championship in March, wasn’t the only Bearcat who scored in the 300 hurdles. Matthew Klein, a junior who just started hurdling this season, registered a sixth-place finish in 40.976.
Scottsbluff’s Justin Pritchard and Jon Maag also competed Saturday. Pritchard placed 12th in the 1,600 (4:35.596), and Maag was 15th in the discus (140-10).
Barker said he was impressed with how all of his athletes competed to give the Bearcats their first championship in 44 years.
“We oftentimes say that we’ve got to have a miracle, and I felt like we got some of those today, where we had some performances that really stood out and maybe gave us that extra boost,” Barker said. “I thought everybody did their jobs and did the best they could. We had a lot of season bests. It’s what a team is all about. Everybody competed for each other.”
In other Class B boys action, Gering came close to celebrating a top-10 finish. The Bulldogs tied for 13th place with 21 points – just five points away from the top 10.
Gering had two runner-up finishes Saturday. Danny O’Boyle capped his remarkable prep athletic career by placing second in the 400 with a time of 48.634 seconds. That time broke the school record that he set earlier this season. Cody Rush of Grand Island Northwest won the 400 in 47.308, which set a Class B state record and Class B state meet record.
O’Boyle was also part of Gering’s second-place 4x400 relay team. O’Boyle, Dillon Wademan, Dillon DeMott, and Ryan Schwartzkopf posted a time of 3:22.952 – just behind Grand Island Northwest’s winning time of 3:21.938.
Two other local teams earned medals in the 4x400 relay. Alliance’s squad of Mitch Pancost, Keagan Hill, Cody Robinson, and Gaige Lehl placed fifth in 3:26.642, and Sidney’s foursome of Chase Frerichs, Lucas Rosenbaum, Marcus Hauge, and Dakota Morrison placed eighth in 3:29.510.
Three local jumpers picked up medals in the long jump. Alliance’s Mitch Pancost placed fifth (21-2) and his teammate Kyle Hooper was sixth (21-2); and Sidney’s Barrett Browne was seventh (20-9).
In the 800, Sidney’s Marcus Hauge was fifth (1:57.851), and Gering’s Ryan Bustinza was 12th (2:01.350).
Gering’s 4x100 relay team of O’Boyle, Zach Smith, Wademan, and Mark Pieper ended 13th (44.633).
Alliance placed 22nd in the team standings with 11 points, and Sidney was 23rd with 10 points.