We are the champions:
The odds of the Saugatuck boys’ track team winning the Division 4 state title were, in Indian coach Rick Bauer’s estimation, nearly non-existent heading into the final event of the meet.
And there seemed to be good reason for that outlook.
After all, Saugatuck trailed Muskegon Western Michigan Christian 31-30 at that point and the Indians hadn’t beaten WMC in that upcoming event—the 1,600 relay—all season. Among those losses was a four-second defeat in the most recent showdown in regional action.
“In my mind, we could not win,” Bauer said. “WMC was so much better than we were in that event and they were a lock for the win in my eyes. In fact, some parents asked me after the 3,200 (second-to-last event) what our chances were and I said, ‘It will take a miracle.’”
And a miracle is what they got.
The Saugatuck 1,600-relay team of Aaron Rasmussen, Cole Hartman, Joe Brown and Blake Dunn ran a 3:32.06 to finish 74 one-thousandths ahead of WMC. That gave the Indians 40 points, tying them with Concord for the state title.
WMC finished with 39 points.
“This was the most improbable and amazing team effort I have ever seen,” Bauer said. “Going into the season I wasn’t ever sure we’d run a 1,600 relay as we only had two guys I felt could run it in Joe and Blake. But we were able to put some solid role players around them.”
A senior, Rasmussen returned to track after not competing since his freshman year as a way to get in shape for the Navy. Hartman, meanwhile, didn’t run the 400 during the season as he specialized in the 200.
“Aaron was a key to our success in the event as he ended up developing into a solid 400 runner,” Bauer said. “And Cole was a gamble we had to take. Based on his 200 times and the way he had run workouts, I told him about a month ago that he needed to get ready to run the 4x400 at state. We did a test run with him and he ended up being faster than our fourth runner, giving us about a second-and-a-half we didn’t have before.”
The state title is the second in three years for Saugatuck, which finished runner-up in the state last season.
Bauer said comparing the two championships was difficult.
“In 2013 it was special because it was the first one and there was a lot of doubt that we could do it even though we were the favorite,” he said. “This year was special because we weren’t the favorite and outside of our team no one thought we could do it. I think the way we won was more spectacular this year.
“Now that we’ve been fortunate enough to win a few of these, I just try to take in the moment and really enjoy it. I didn’t know how to react the first time and now it is just much more enjoyable.”
For full story, pick up a copy of the June 4 issue of The Allegan County News or The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.