DOVER – Brooke Duke loped toward the high-jump bar, soared over its 5-feet, 6-inch height and flopped into the soft blue landing pit.
Then she leaped out of that, jumping again, this time for joy.
Duke’s reaction to a career-best performance that made her Division I champion was a common sight Saturday at Dover, where the DIAA Track and Field Championships concluded in temperatures that reached the low 90s.
“I was super excited and I’ve been working at that all of outdoor season so I finally got it,” she said.
Such satisfaction and elation was everywhere, often closely followed by relief that, after getting off the track or leaving a field-event site, one could seek out the pleasing respite provided by shade.
The meet had begun Friday, when the 3,200-meter run took place, and resumed Saturday. DIAA officials did move the start-up two hours and shifted the 1,600-meter start so they could run in the morning, when the thermometer still registered in the high 80s.
But the meet still ran long, and it was early evening before championship teams – including one more than usual – departed with their hardware.
Padua won its 10th straight team title, the last eight in Division I, and 20th overall dating to 1983. But the Pandas’ 211½ points were the most in meet history, boys or girls, regardless of division, and first 200 or higher. Smyrna and St. Georges, which won two relays, were second and third.
“We’re just very balanced and a true team,” Pandas coach Marnie Giunta said, “and our girls handle this kind of competition well. They want to make everybody proud and keep the tradition going. They want to be a team other alums talk about.”
But Division II had two winners, and a bit of controversy.
Tatnall won the meet-ending 4×400 relay with St. Mark’s fourth, leaving the two tied for the team title. But it was discovered that an incorrect scoring entry in a field event could have given St. Mark’s an additional, decisive point. Meet officials met for an hour trying to hash out that decision.
“The official claims that he called out a mark that was mis-written down by the other person working,” said meet director Charlie Pollard of Lake Forest. “Can’t change that. Once it’s recorded and entered, it’s final.”
Pollard added that the decision was unanimous by a jury of appeals.
“The results are the results,” he said. “The officials are responsible to get them right.”
That meant two trophy presentations and a pair of happy teams. DIAA executive director Donna Polk presented the championship trophy to Tatnall athletes, who then gave it back to her so she could hand it to St. Mark’s. They’ll reach get their own eventually.
St. Mark’s title was its second in a row in Division II, with last year’s ending a 28-year drought.
“Friday we were up by one point and I was hoping we’d be up by 15,” St. Mark’s coach Mike DiGennaro said. “Tatnall just came to play. So I knew we were gonna have to have a big day today to do it and a couple kids stepped up.
“Stephanie Herrera went from last place to third in the last 100 meters in the mile [1,600]. If she stayed in last we lose states. When you win one you can spend the whole day ‘What if this? What if that?’”
Danni McGonigle won both the high jump and triple jump for St. Mark’s, the latter in a divisional meet record 38-3. Tiffany Herrera swept the 1,600 and 3,200 and Sarah Hessler won the discus.”
Tatnall’s Arianna Montgomery, a former Junior Olympic champ who is just in eighth grade, won three individual events – the 100, 200 and long jump – and was on the winning 4×100 foursome to spark the Hornets. Alexis Tarlue (100 hurdles), Katie Payne (800) and Darian Harris (300 hurdles) were other Tatnall individual winners.
Pat Castagno, who steered the Hornets to their 11th state title since 2007, said he could have done without all the drama. But he lauded his team for a high-level performance.
“The girls really came to compete,” Castagno said. “St. Mark’s probably has the most well-balanced team that we’ve ever run against in Division II and we just had to match up and do what we could in the events that we were strong in. And, in the end, look what it came down to [the 4×400]. I’m very, very proud of these girls.’’
Other Division II winners were Conrad’s Alyssa Napier (400), Lake Forest’s Kirja Hickman (shot put) and Ursuline’s Sophie Maguire, whose 11-3 pole vault was a Division II meet record.
In Division I, Padua had the meet’s lone four-time individual winner in sophomore Juliana Balon, who took the 100, 200, 400 and long jump, all while relishing the day’s scorching elements. Her 400 time of 57.84 was a personal best.
“The weather is hard but I like it from having run club,” Balon said of Delaware Elite trips to Florida and Texas. “This feels so great. I was so excited especially after the county meet last week when it was like rainy and 50 degrees. I knew the weather this weekend would make up for that.”
Teammate Sophia Curtis, also just a 10th grader, won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles plus the triple jump. And senior Mary Kate Dorsey owned the distance races, sweeping Friday’s 3,200 and then winning the 1,600 Saturday. Padua also had the pole-vault winner in Elce Walsh.
Middletown’s Isabelle Walsh thwarted a Pandas sweep of the track individual events, holding off three Padua runners to win the 800 after missing the New Castle County meet with knee and foot injuries last week. After finishing second, four seconds back, in the 1,600 in the morning, she wasn’t sure she had it in her.
“I was extremely tired and I didn’t know if I could do this,” Walsh said. “Padua has extremely strong runners and amazing strategy and there were three of them so I just went out and told myself I was gonna do my best.”
Other Division I individual winners were Mount Pleasant discus thrower Rhythm Hairston and Smyrna shot-putter Roarie Glenn-Rossum.
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