It’s not often you can point to 15 seconds that symbolize an entire sports season for a team. But that’s what happened Friday afternoon at Ypsilanti-Lincoln, when a kid who probably should have been able found a way to push through the last leg of the last event, and help a team that shouldn’t have been able to win a regional title.
Cam Bacarella, who overcame knee surgery and rehab after an injury playing soccer last fall, won a furious race to the finish line to carry Saline’s 4-by-400 relay team to victory, clinching Saline’s 9th straight regional championship. Saline and Pioneer entered the final event with Saline holding a 0.5-point lead. A Pioneer victory would have given them the regional, snapping Saline’s remarkable streak. And on the final turn of the final lap of the final event of the meet, Pioneer’s runner made his move – and might have even pushed ahead of Bacarrella. But Bacarella found another gear as he scrambled to the finish and leaned over the line.
It would be tough to find another 15 seconds of Saline Hornet sports that better illustrates the spirit of the team.
Saline won the race by .08 seconds. Even though they were without one of their best 400 runners. Even though Bacarella thought his senior track season was over when he suffered a knee injury last fall. Even though coach Al Leslie put Bacarella, who’d only run the 4-by-400 once all year, in the anchor spot of the most pivotal race of the year.
Saline won the regional by 2.5 points. Even though the Hornets had no individual winners on the track. Despite having the 4-by-100 team disqualified for a dropped baton. Even though the Hornets lost their traditional home-field advantage when the meet was moved to Lincoln at the last second because of poor track conditions in Saline. Even though, on paper, at the beginning of the season, the Hornets had no business winning a regional.
“This win is special to me, because it wasn’t a given to me that we were going to win this meet. We had a lot of adversity – a lot of kids moved away, Chris Chuparkoff moved away, Cam Bacarella – to be able to come back and do that ,,,” Leslie said, trailing off with a loss for words. “Honestly, if you would have asked me at the beginning of the year, or the middle of the year, if we had a chance, I didn’t think we had a chance. But this is a special group of kids.”
Saline wins a lot of dual meets with depth. But depth doesn’t always work at regional meets full of top athletes. That’s where unlikely heroes step up to make important contributions.
“You see Silas (Schaerer) step up and give us two points in the high jump that we didn’t think about. Holden Collins was ranked 28th and he steps up and finishes seventh in the discus. That’s two points,” Leslie said, pointing to two athletes that provided the margin of difference.
Bacarella was admittedly nervous when Leslie put him in the anchor spot. Bacarella isn’t a 400-runner. He hasn’t run it since his sophomore year. He’s had a bit more experience in the relay, but had only done it once this year. But Leslie had an inkling it was the right call. Bacarella? He wasn’t as sure until he crossed the finish line.
“I expected to run the second or third leg, but they threw me in the anchor. I was definitely more than nervous. But I just really wanted to get it done for my team,” Bacarella said.
Bacarella threw everything he had into the final stretch.
“I was definitely getting ready to fall over, but I just knew I was almost there and I really wanted to get it for my team. I saw the line and knew I had it, so I kept pushing,” Bacarella said.
Streaks like Saline’s regional run can be a blessing and a curse. Embedded in success is important tradition and culture. But it can be a lot to live up to. The expectations can be unfair. That only made things sweeter for team that didn’t have the star power of past Hornet teams.
“We wanted to keep that streak going. We were a little skeptical at the beginning of the season that we wouldn’t even be able to keep our dual meet street going,” Bacarella said. “So we’re just super excited with the mount of kids who stepped up.”
One of those kids was sophomore Ian Hanby, Saline’s only individual champion. Hanby threw the discus 139’3.
“There was one guy ahead of me and he fouled out, so that gave me an opportunity,” said Hanby, who qualified for the state meet. “I’m really excited. At state I don’t know if I’m going to place, but as a sophomore, it’s just a good experience.”
Another key to Saline’s victory was Brock Boze, who finished second in the 800, helped the 4-by-800 team to a second place finish and ran the opening leg of the 4-by-400. Boze is a senior who made great strides this year.
“It’s definitely been a quick transition. Last year I think I ran one 800, and was almost 15 seconds slower than I’m running right now. It’s astounding was solid months of training and anaerobic development can do,” Boze said.
The following Hornets qualified for the state meet.
- Ian Hanby, discus (1st, 139’3)
- Andrew Victoria, 400 meters (2nd, 50.7), and the 4-by-400 relay.
- Brock Boze, 800 meters (2nd, 1:56.75), 4-by-400 relay, 4-by-800 relay (2nd, 7:53.64).
- Will Minette, 1600 meters (5th, 4:22.86) and 3200 meters (9:31.55)
- Eric Reuter, 4-by-400 relay.
- Cam Bacarella, 4-by-400 relay and 4-by-800 relay.
- Christopher Van Dyke, 4-by-800 relay.
- William Downey, 4-by-800 relay.
- Luke Atzinger, pole vault (8th, 13’0)
- Matthew Hardt (10th, 13’0)
- Silas Schaerer, long jump (2nd, 20’7.25)
The following Hornets earned all-region honors
- Schaerer, long jump and high jump
- Kyle Greenwood, long jump
- Zach Gabanyicz, 110 hurdles
- Will Minnnette, 1600 and 3200
- Simon Pfeiffer, 1600
- Brock Boze, 800
- Cam Bacarella, 800
- Christopher Van Dyke, 800
- Jacob Stuck, 400