It seemed ironic that on one of the the first warm, sunny days of spring last Friday, April 20, the River Falls track and field teams were hosting the Wisconsin-Minnesota Border Battle Invitational inside UW-River Falls' Knowles Fieldhouse.
But that's the kind of sense of humor Mother Nature's had this year.
It didn't matter to the Wildcats though, who continued their assault on the school record books by setting two new marks and tying another on their way to first- and third-place finishes at the 10-team event.
River Falls coaches Matt Kumershek and Kristi Wagner have been planning the meet since the middle of summer, trying to attract the best competition and a wide range of schools for an event that was originally scheduled to be held outdoors at David Smith Stadium at Ramer Field.
"Then when all the snow came, we made every attempt to secure the indoor facility to ensure we didn't have a canceled meet," Kumershek said.
This year in addition to the host Wildcats, Hudson, Osceola, Menomonie, Chippewa Falls and Stevens Point represented Wisconsin in the competition while White Bear Lake, Anoka, East Ridge amd Irondale came from Minnesota.
The River Falls boys took the team title with a total of 135 points while the girls placed third with 66, behind Hudson (128) and White Bear Lake (72).
Junior Jared Creen tied the school mark in the 55-meter dash, while the girls saw two records go by the wayside, including one set by sophomore Emily Banitt just a week earlier at the Mustang Open in Menomonie. Banitt broke her week-old mark of 26.84 seconds in the 200 by running 26.81 for a fourth-place finish at the Border Battle.
Banitt was also part of the girls record-setting 4x200 meter relay, teaming up with junior Sofia Naranjo-Mata, junior Sarah Langlois and freshman Rachel Randleman for a first place time of 1 minute, 47.31 seconds, 0.17 seconds faster than archrival Hudson.
"Sofia, Emily, and Sarah did a great job," Wagner said. "We were pretty confident that they would give Rachel the lead, which they did, but how Rachel held off a very talented (Hudson) senior was absolutely brilliant."
Naranjo-Mata, Banitt, Langlois and Randleman beat the old mark of 1:49.12 set by Amelia Kjos, Izzy Schafer, Karissa Murphy and Rachel Shew in 2014.
"Those four girls on that previous record were pretty darn good athletes, and for us to break that by nearly two seconds is crazy," Wagner said. "We needed a hot race to accomplish that and Hudson definitely provided that for us."
On the boys' side, Creen tied John Maillette's five year-old record of 6.65 seconds to win the 55, and added a first-place leap of 21-feet, 11.75-inches in the long jump. Senior Connor Hines cleared 21-1 in the long jump for second place while Creen was second in the triple jump with a distance of 41-9.5 and sophomore Logan Graetz took fourth with 39-11.
"Connor had a great meet in the long jump and is getting back into form," Kumershek said. "Our jumpers can really put up points in our conference."
Sophomore Payton Flood won the 400 by nearly a full second with a time of 53.19 seconds while senior Tyler Cernohous and junior Jared Syverson finished one-two in the 800 with times of 2:06.13 and 2:06.7, both personal best times.
"It's great to see them pushing each other," Kumershek noted.
Cernohous also placed second in the 1,600 in 4:45.76 and sophomore Stefan Klechefski was second in the 200 in 23.51 seconds. Senior Michael Rebozo cleared a personal best 12-6 to take second in the pole vault.
"He has been ready to clear this height the last couple weeks and it's great to see him do it," Kumershek said.
Sophomore Sarah Schneckenberger contributed a first-place time of 2:30.48 in the 800 to help the Wildcat girls' team total, and Naranjo-Mata was second in the 55 in 7.48 seconds while senior Sam Krueger took second in the pole vault with a height of 9-6.
The Wildcats will finally get a chance to get outside at the Richfield, Minn. Invitational this Thursday, April 26. Kumershek said being limited to indoor meets has been tough on all the athletes, especially discus throwers like senior Jack Haskins and sprinters like Klechefski.
"I know Jack is itching to start throwing discus now that the weather is nice," Kumershek said. "And the indoor 200 can be hard on taller athletes with the tight turns.. So everyone is excited to race outside."