Entering a regional meet at Milford High School on May 21, the East Lansing girls track team didn’t expect to secure enough points to win the team title.
The Trojans knew they had a slate of runners and field athletes with chances to qualify for states in their respective events, but it was a small slate: 11 girls competed at regionals. With those relatively small numbers, the Trojans participated in just nine of the 17 available events. Against other teams with more athletes competing in more events, East Lansing had a narrow window to win the regional.
But as the final events wound down, and the points tally took shape, the Trojans could see they were going to win the regional.
By scoring in every event they participated in, the Trojans racked up 86.5 points to win a surprise regional title in a season full of successes.
“It was really shocking and surprising because we just — we were just thinking about our own events. Like we want to win what we’re running, and we weren’t thinking about like, ‘Oh, we could actually win regionals as a whole.’ And then when we did, it was like, ‘Wow, we’re that good.’ Even though we were such a tiny team,” junior sprinter Corinne “Corkie” Jones said.
On top of the team title at regionals, seven runners on the East Lansing girls track team qualified for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 1 state meet to be held on June 5 at East Kentwood High School. And locally, the Trojans — with more runners than they sent to regionals — have dominated. They won the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC) Blue Division meet on May 26 and placed a bevy of runners in the Greater Lansing Honor Roll meet on June 1.
Though the Trojans roster this season isn’t overly expansive, it is varied.
The 11 athletes competing at regionals were the swift duo of distance runners in senior Abbie Draheim and sophomore Anna Delgado, two junior pole vaulters in Madeline Loomis and Xuli Valdez, and two sophomore shot putters, Nia Long and Isabella Souza. Along with them at regionals was a bevy of sprinters: senior Jaida Thomas, juniors Comari Hawkins, Iyana Coates — who also does long jump — Jones, and freshman Janell Brown.
Of those 11 to compete at regionals, nine accounted for points in some way.
Loomis snagged pole-vaulting points with a seventh-place tie, and Coates finished fourth in the long jump. Long took third in the shot put, missing the cutoff distance to reach states by a literal matter of inches.
“The automatic qualifier is a 36-foot, 6-inch throw,” Long said. “I threw 36, three and a half.”
Delgado and Draheim finished first and second in the 1600 meter, respectively, with Delgado pipping the senior by .34 of a second for the win.
The roles were reversed for the 3200 meter, with Draheim just beating out Delgado to lock up second and third place for the Trojans in that event. Draheim beat Delgado to the finish by .42 of a second.
“It’s been really great to run with her,” Delgado said of Draheim. “You know, she pushes me because she’s faster and everything, but it’s also nice to just work together. And that’s helped me a lot this season, to move up with my pace and everything.”
Lastly, there were the sprinters and relays. Hawkins won the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes, and Brown took fifth in the 100 meter to boot.
The 4×200 meter relay team of Brown, Coates, Jones, and Hawkins won to qualify for states and the 4×100 meter relay team of Brown, Thomas, Coates, and Jones finished second to qualify as well.
That the Trojans did this well in all nine events, or qualified seven runners for states, wasn’t unexpected. But to usurp enough points from teams competing in almost twice as many events — with almost twice as many chances to score points — was a surprise.
“It was very surprising just because we hadn’t won any dual meets during the season and then to come out and win the regionals, it was just a great feeling,” Hawkins said. “It was overwhelming. It was a great moment to spend with the team.”
In the time between winning a regional and heading to states tomorrow, the Trojans cleaned up at the CAAC Blue league meet last week and ran at the Lansing Honor Roll meet on Wednesday.
The Trojans cleaned up at the league meet, winning with 130 points to Grand Ledge’s 115. Hawkins took first in the 100, 200, and 400 meter sprint races that day, and Draheim and Delgado paced the 1600 meter field. Delgado topped the 3200 meter, too, which Draheim was scratched from and didn’t run.
The 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams won, too. As did Long in the shot put. Loomis snagged fifth in the pole vault and Coates took third in the long jump.
Talking about the CAAC meet after the fact, the runners share that they treated it almost as a training session. They got the chance to go out and run their races against competition they’ve mostly already faced and knew they could beat — and did — to get tuned up for states.
And based on how things went at regionals, and in between, there will be no reason to be surprised if the Trojans turn in a winning result at states.