About mid-race, Luke Vance looked around and saw he had a lot of work to do in the final 50 meters.
The G-E-T senior sprinter entered the WIAA Division 2 state track and field 100-meter dash final as the top overall seed, but soon found himself in fifth about midway through Friday's race.
"I thought I was done for, not going to lie," Vance said. "I just figured I mine as well try my hardest to see how far I could get up. It worked out pretty well."
Vance found his extra gear, sprinting past the competition and wowing the crowd at UW-La Crosse in the process, to win the Division 2 100 meter title with a time of 10.93 seconds.
He just edged Loren Neitzke of Catholic Memorial (10.97) and Jefferson's Brady Gotto (11.01).
"It's surreal," Vance said. "Looking back as a freshman, I never thought I would make it this far."
It was part of a banner day for Vance, as he also won a state title in the 200 and finished third in the 400.
"Four years of work really pays off I guess," Vance said after winning the 200. "... Being able to call myself a state champion in two events just feels great."
Yet, it was the 100 that set the tone for his meet.
He got off to an admittingly slow start out of the blocks and it appeared the dream of winning a state title in the 100 was out of his grasp. But he never counted himself out.
"It's a little scary at first," said Vance, who will run Division I track at St. Francis Brooklyn next season. "But you just keep your heart in it, work as hard as you can and you get through it sometimes."
In the 400, Vance was disappointed once again with his start but was able to find it to place third (49.62). He just missed second, finishing behind Denmark's Simon Alexander (49.59). Shorewood sophomore Nathan Cumberbatch won at 48.55.
"I thought I could have came out, but my start was bad because my legs were tired," Vance said.
But even after admitting his legs were a little heavy, Vance reiterated that he was more than confident in the day's third to last event of the day in the form of the 200.
He entered as the top seed at 22.51, but once again a slow start forced Vance to enter the back half of the race with some work to do.
And once again he was more than up for the challenge.
An impressive final 100 meters vaulted Vance from third to first, setting a school record in the process with a winning time of 22.02. Shawano's Elliott Lowney finished second at 22.16.
"I think I came out a little slow again," Vance said. "I just knew I had to give it everything to pass those guys ahead of me. ... I definitely had to find the afterburners."
Wenthe podiums in 100 hurdles
G-E-T junior Quinn Wenthe placed sixth in the 100-meter hurdles on Friday (15.898) — just missing out on a fifth place finish after Rice Lake's Trinity Roberts was timed with a 15.895. It's an impressive performance considering this was the first year Wenthe had done the 100 hurdles.
"This was the first year I did 100s," Wenthe said. "I didn't know how to three-step and if you know anything about hurdling you know that's important. So I was just super happy to make it to state and to take podium — I expected it but i was still surprised."
Wenthe also earned a state medal in the 3200 meter relay where the Red Hawks took sixth (4:08.76). Wenthe anchored the team, joining senior Rachel Amoth, senior Caden Miralles and freshman Kaylee Hauge.
"I'm on top of the moon," Wenthe said. "I just still feel I'm on that runner's high. ... Coach (Ryan) Mendez has been telling us since freshman, 'you guys are going to make podium at state.' With two seniors, this was our last chance so getting on top of that podium was special."