GOSHEN – The Warsaw Lady Tigers’ third place team finish in a very close-scoring IHSAA regional track meet still resulted in several of Warsaw’s athletes earning berths in Bloomington for the June 3 IHSAA state track and field meet.

The regional meet’s team finish was the closest among the top three teams in recent memory. Culver Academies hoisted the team title hardware (61 team points), followed by Penn (57), and then by Warsaw (56).

Whitko (25 points, tenth place), Manchester and Wawasee (14 each), Triton (4), and Tippecanoe Valley (3) rounded out the scoring among area teams.

The Lady Tigers punctuated the thrilling finish with a 0.21-second win in the 1,600-meter relay (4:03.60) fighting off a fierce attempt by Culver Academies’ four-lappers to take the reigns in the evening’s final race.

Junior distance runner, Joey Rastrelli, who already finished second in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs to qualify for state, grabbed the baton in the anchor leg of the relay with less than a 10-meter lead.

She immediately sensed the heat of her competitors’ anchor legs and used her trademark steady stride to maintain a lead, which was challenged by Culver Academies’ anchor leg drafting right behind Rastrelli’s right hip from the final turn, to the straightaway, and passed the finish line.

Madison Smalley, one of Warsaw’s teammates in the relay, was using her strength to hold Rastrelli up after the gritty, victorious finish.

“I was focused on maintaining the lead and delivering a win for these three girls who worked their butts off to stay ahead,” Rastrelli said while still catching her breath a few minutes after the race, followed by a television interview.

Each of the Lady Tigers’ legs of the race discussed their experience in the evening’s final event.

“There’s some stress involved in getting out ahead (quickly),” sophomore Ali Barkey said regarding her role as first leg. “You (have to) give your teammates a lead that they can work with.”

Madison Smalley, the relay’s second leg added, “Keeping whatever (Barkey) had was my focus, and if we would have been behind… I would have made sure I maintained the same (trailing) distance so we could move ahead in the next legs.”

Mikayla Mimnaugh, the lone senior in the quarter, and the third leg noted, “I could feel (the other runners) coming down the homestretch in a pack, and I fought to stay ahead because I didn’t want to lose it for us. I did my best to keep the lead for Jo (Rastrelli) so she could bring it home.”

The race was Warsaw’s only first-place finish, but a few other teammates will join them in Bloomington Saturday, June 3.

Sophomore Camryn Burner qualified for the state meet with a third-place finish in the 100-meter dash (12.45 sec.). Burner will wait by her phone for any vacancy in the 200-meter dash, where she finished fourth (26.10 sec), landing in that spot due to a 0.07 second gap between here and the second and third place finishers.

Federica Guiliana, Manchester’s 200-meter state qualifier (26.07 sec.), leaned ahead of Burner in a phot finish.

Rastrelli’s runner-up finish in the 800-meters (2:18.96) behind regional record-setter Julie Economou (Penn, 2:15.42) showcased tow athletes who turned in almost exact comparative finishing times from the previous week at their respective sectionals (Mishawaka, Warsaw) with Economou also setting a record in the Princess City the week before.

Another Penn Kingsman, Mary Eubank, dug deep to run her fastest time of the season (5:01.40) to finish first ahead of Rastrelli (5:04.21) in the 1600-meter run. There are more than a handful of other four-lappers in the central part of the state who could likely push both athletes below the five-minute mark, some rarified air Rastrelli has already experienced.

Manchester’s Kadence Fox (fourth place, 3200m run, 11:08.04) will be another area athlete keeping her ringer on for a possible call to join the state meet’s 3200-meter field.

Elliana Transparenti (third place, pole vault, 10-09) will join her Lady Tiger teammates in Bloomington June 3 while teammate Anna Bazzoni will wait for a call from the IHSAA following her fifth-place vault of 10’6” landing there due to number of missed attempts.

Emerson Harper, a Whitko sophomore, heads to the IU long jump pit courtesy of her third-place leap of 17’4.75”, and teammate Gwen Howard, whose throws are discussed in a separate story, will head to Bloomington with a blue-ribbon performance in the shot put, and a third-place finish in the discus.

Wawasee’s Emma Yoder was crowned champion in the discus (148-11) returning to Bloomington with the challenge of topping her third-place 2022 IHSAA state-meet finish.

There’s more to the throwers’ stories in a separate article.