NORWICH -- It was a day of redemption for some and a day of firsts for others, but whichever way the results came the Mount Anthony Union High School indoor track team enjoyed a successful meet at the Vermont Indoor Track Championships.
The girls placed second in Division I, their highest finish since 1998, behind the efforts of the 4x200-meter relay team and the individual events they participated in while the boys finished fourth in D-I, winning two events.
Essex took first for the girls with 159 points to MAU's 107 while St. Johnsbury was third with 99. South Burlington ran away with things in D-I for the boys with 148 points, followed by Essex in second with 66, Mt. Mansfield in third with 63 and MAU with 61.
For the girls, one of the biggest highlights of the day was one of few near-guarantees in the meet.
The 4x200 team of Taylor Gruber, Raheemah Madany, Chelsea Corrow and Leniesha Williams redeemed themselves after the team's disqualification in last year's meet, living up to their top seeding with a win in 1 minute, 50.98 seconds, with Williams finishing the anchor leg three seconds faster than Essex.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world right now," Williams said. "Compared to the last meet we did, we just ran a lot better today."
"It was so tough to see that last year," coach Kathleen Newton said of the team's disqualification. "You don't forget about stuff like that easily. This year, to see the baton go around all three times, you are holding your breath because anything can still happen. They ran one of their best races of the season today."
And on the boys' side of things it was another relay team that provided one of the brightest moments.
The 4x800 team of Andy Seward, Matt Strano, PJ Seward and Andrew Brandmeyer, racing for only the third time this season, set a school record on the way to a 8:38.92 win despite trailing entering the final handoff.
But even with that gap, Brandmeyer took the baton from PJ Seward and went to work to turn around the race and get the win over South Burlington (8:43.67).
"I told them in the beginning we are all competitive athletes and we could handle it," Brandmeyer said. "All season, probably none of us expected to win. I knew the kid that was the anchor (for South Burlington) was good, I've run against him before, but I managed to pull ahead and get him."
Newton had Brandmeyer down for a 2:01 split in his leg and noted how impressive the run was.
"That is unheard of," Newton said. "I don't even think Mark (Andrew's older brother and former track and cross country state champion) ran that fast. They each kept running and Andrew got it and blew it out of the water."
But the event wins didn't stop at the relays.
Williams took home first in the 55 dash and set a school record herself, running a 7.36 to beat teammate Raheemah Madany (7.49) in second. Gruber also placed, finishing fourth in 7.69 seconds.
"We are both trying to beat the school record and fight against each other but she did very well in the block starts," Madany said.
"She pushed me," Williams added while pointing to Madany. "In the last meet she beat me. But again, it was the block start. It was horrible that day."
In the 300, Williams and Madany were considered favorites to win the event but it was Gruber who earned the medal, racing out to a 44.58 win and crossing the line just 0.03 seconds before Williams and setting up a 1-2-3-4 finish with Grace Page third and Madany fourth. The sweep gave MAU 28 team points to keep them close.
"I couldn't believe I just did it," Gruber said. "I told myself I was going to win and everyone else told me ‘No, I'm going to win.' I really picked it up at the end. I was really focused. I worked on my arm drives and just tried my hardest."
Newton was excited for her junior sprinter.
"She just really shined in that event today. She has successfully been getting better in the 300. I think she came in with some confidence and knew what she wanted to do today."
Nathaniel Durfee rounded out the event winners by taking first in the triple jump with a 40 foot, 1 inch jump, also breaking a school record in the process. His jump was nearly two feet longer than his personal best and qualifying jump.
"After every jump I would go over and talk to [coach Bob Kurtzner]," Durfee said. "It was basically getting my foot under my hip, planting it and go. I wasn't getting that in the first couple. The last one, I was able to put my foot where I needed to put it, basically."
"We talked about [Durfee] earlier this week, as a freshman and sophomore [him] never placing a point on this team," Newton said. "Then he got into hurdling, which was his thing. Then we started really getting into jumping because he built confidence jumping hurdles, and then today and he does a personal best like that. It was exciting and a great way as a senior to end his indoor career."
Durfee also took third in the 55 hurdles.
Beyond the event winners, MAU girls shot put had a solid day as Firdous Madany led a 2-3-4 finish with Taylor Haynes and Brittany Brochu. Madany threw 35 feet on the day, a half-inch behind event winner Charlotte Stuart of Essex.
Williams' fourth event on the day was the long jump, which she finished in third with a 15'6" jump, setting another school record. Gruber also placed in another event, taking fourth in the high jump.
The sophomore Page took second in the 600 in 1:42.35, also setting a school record. In the 1000, Asuka Kosaki took sixth. Kosaki also ran on the 4x400 team with Page, Hayley Richmond and Abbie Crosier that took fourth and the 4x800 team with Crosier, Richmond and Cheyanne Guetti that finished third.
For the boys, Ben Seward took fifth in the 300 and fourth in the long jump while Andy Seward was third in the 600. Brandmeyer and Pat Cody finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 1000 for MAU. Owen Page was sixth in the triple jump.
The 4x200 team of Alan Bernard, Tanner Jelley, Page and Durfee were fifth, while the 4x400 team of Brandmeyer, Andy Seward, Brad Myers and Ben Seward took second in 3:37.64.
"It's great to win, but we don't have the numbers and depth other teams have," Newton said. "But we have a lot of heart, and that's what counts."