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State champion relay members contemplate new goals ahead of sectionals

Sarah Minor —
This year's Wheaton Warrenville South 4 x 800-meter relay team consists of Erin Herrman (left), Helen Majer, McKenna Kiple and Hope Schmelzle.
Sarah Minor — This year's Wheaton Warrenville South 4 x 800-meter relay team consists of Erin Herrman (left), Helen Majer, McKenna Kiple and Hope Schmelzle.

WHEATON – With the 2013 state series set to begin, the one year anniversary of a special moment within the Wheaton Warrenville South girls track program is fast approaching.

On May 19 of last year, the Tigers’ 4 x 800 quartet of Amy Yong, Erin Herrmann, Hope Schmelzle and McKenna Kiple not only captured a state title but set a new state record in the event with their time of 8:59.03, nudging out Glenbard West (9:00.72).

“A lot of people ask what is the thing that stands out the most,” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Harvey said. “Was it winning a state championship? No, there are state champions every year in that event, actually three (Class A, AA and AAA). Was it getting a state record? No, somebody will get a state record again, somebody will break that time.

“What it is, is being the first team to run under nine minutes. There will never be another first team under nine minutes. The legacy they will leave will last far beyond the four years they were here.”

Three members of the quartet, Herrmann, Schmelzle and Kiple, are back competing in a Tigers’ uniform this spring. And although it is a new year, memories are fresh.

“I remember it was really hot,” said Schmelzle. “We had run against Glenbard West at the sectional and all season. We were really excited about getting down there and seeing what the competition would be like. And being there with your great friends and your support group made it so special.”

Adding to the experience was the fact that the Tigers had come up short in the event the year before. As for their final clocking, the group had no idea what their time was.

“We didn’t know we had set the record until someone was interviewing us,” Herrmann said, “and they asked what it felt like to break nine minutes.

“And the fact that the team had gotten second (in the 4 x 800) the year before, our goal was to finish first.”

The idea of going under nine minutes, first broached by Harvey, initially was met by skepticism.

“Coach Harvey had told us he thought we had the opportunity to break nine minutes,” Kiple said. “I remember after we were running on the Prairie Path and we turned to each other and said, ‘He thinks we can break nine minutes. Yeah right. He’s crazy. Each of us would have to run 2:15, that’s not going to happen.’”

Now, with the trio back in the fold, the natural inclination is to wonder if they could emerge with back-to-back championships while breaking their own record. But because of their abilities in other events, there is a good chance Herrmann, Schmelzle and Kiple won’t get that chance. They have only competed together in the 4 x 800 relay three times this year, at the indoor and outdoor DuPage Valley Conference meets and at the Tiger Invite.

The sectional meet is Friday at York, but possibly missing out on the relay repeat doesn’t seem to bother them.

“It’s such a cool thing we already did,” Schmelzle said. “It’s such a strong memory we’ve already had.”

Instead, the girls have a much bigger goal in mind.

“It would be cool to come home with a trophy,” said Schmelzle, who, along with Herrmann and Kiple, has played a part in claiming three cross country state trophies. “If we’ve ever done that in our program, it’s been a long time.”

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