Claire McLoughlin couldn't let herself go there.

When the Valiant senior heard the Valley Catholic girls' track team was in the running for first place at the 3A State Championships on May 24, McLoughlin didn't think about standing atop the medal stand. Daydreams about first-place medals and school records danced in her head momentarily. But, McLoughlin promptly vamoosed the vaporous victory and zeroed in on cheering her 4 x 400 relay teammates to a stirring first-place win in the last event of the day.

Valley Catholic ended up taking second place overall behind Vale with 69 points, which clinched the highest state place in school history for the girls' squad. McLoughlin — the second leg on the triumphant 4 × 100 relay — said securing a silver and inscribing her name along with the likes of former Valiant legends was icing on the cake.

“We got fourth last year, so it's a step up, and I'm proud of what the team accomplished. It was a good way to end my senior year,” said COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR  - The Valiants 4X100 relay team of Makenzee Cleveland, Claire McLoughlin, Mikaela Bernards, and Reilly Blood won the state championship with the help of assistant coach assistant coach Marica Bomber.

Makenzee Cleveland scored the most individual state points in school history by winning the 400 (59.06) and also anchoring the 4 × 100 (50.57) and 4 x 400 (4:12.87) relays. Cleveland ran both relay squads with Reilly Blood, Claire McLoughlin and Mikaela Bernards on the 4 × 100 team. Hannah Rehm, Meg Rapp, Blood and Cleveland won the 4 × 400.

“There's a lot of pressure to do well in your (individual) event because no one can save you, so that's different,” said Rehm. “But running relays is great because you really do feel like a team. You totally count on each other.”

“It was really exciting to win a state championship with a team because I feel like it means a lot more to do something together and win it together,” added Bernards.

In addition to her leg on the 4 × 100 relay, Bernards took third in the 100 dash and the 300 hurdles while notching a fourth place in the 100 hurdles. Both Bernards and Cleveland were kept busy through the second day of state competition, commuting from one event to the next while sneaking in enough rest time to refresh the legs.

“Last year I only did three events, so it was good to have another event and just keep going throughout the day, just being ready for the next event,” said Bernards. “Each event was like a warm-up for the next one. It was a little bit mentally wearing just trying to be prepared for the next event, but it was fun.”by: COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR  - The Valiants 4X100 relay team of Makenzee Cleveland, Claire McLoughlin, Mikaela Bernards, and Reilly Blood won the state championship with the help of assistant coach assistant coach Marica Bomber.

Cleveland ran a 59.8 in the 400 last year as a sophomore and dropped to a 59.06 with the aid of a fierce group of state title hopefuls.

“It was a great honor to run at Hayward Field,” said Cleveland. “Being second in state means a lot to all of us. We were trying really hard and trying to get a lot of points in so we could either get first or second. It was a great accomplishment for the whole girls' team.”

The 4 × 400 relay got to run in the late evening with the Hayward Field lights shedding illumination on the oval and the grandstands going bonkers during the most dramatic event of the day. Rehm, Blood, Rapp and Cleveland beat Vale's long relay by less than two seconds to secure Valley Catholic's third first place of the day.

“Watching the 4 x 400 when it got dark was like the coolest thing ever, just really exciting,” said McLoughlin. “Makenzee brought it home the last 100 meters, so it was a good way to end.”

The galvanic Hayward aura was far and away unlike anything the Valiants had experienced before, but it was an adventure they'd never forget.

“You feed off the nerves, the energy and the atmosphere there because you know some of the most incredible runners have been there,” said Rapp. “Being on that same track is just incredible.”

“It's insane running because you're up there on the big screen,” added Rehm. “It's just so different running on a big track like that in front of all those people, but it's worth it. It's so nice being down there.”

The 4 × 100 unit beat Westside Christian by a second thanks to unwrinkled handoffs and a quartet of powerhouse sections of the race.

“For the 4 × 100 we were really focusing on the first leg, which was me handing off to Claire, our second leg,” said Blood. “We had to progressively get it, and by the state meet, it looked really good. We just focused on getting the baton around the track. Everything looked really smooth and fresh.”

Almost all of the girls' track team played fall and winter sports, which fed their assertiveness and athleticism on the track.

“We know about discipline and focus and what we have to do to achieve our goals, so we're used to it,” said McLoughlin.

With Blood, Cleveland, Rehm and Bernards returning to Valley Catholic next season, head coach Herb Lommen said expectations will be at an all-time high heading into the year.

“We had a lot of third-place finishers at districts this year who did not get to go to state. They all want to get there next year — the girls' goal is to get a girl in every event to state next year,” said Lommen. “We see another good year next year with hopefully the number one spot.

“The athletes have worked hard for this. They have plans of having more of their teammates with them next year. We are very happy for their success and look forward to next year, and they can do it.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top