EAST TROY, Wis. - A sectional track meet is a unique beast among prep sports events.
It's the place where dreams are made to come true, or shattered, on the basis of a quarter of a second or a quarter of an inch.
Where a mis-timed hand-off or a slightly off-balanced leap can be the difference between going to La Crosse, or going home.
There was plenty of celebrating Thursday night at the WIAA Division 2 East Troy Sectional meet. And yes, some despair could be found as well.
Highlighting the evening's local performances was Clinton freshman Sylvia Johansen, who experienced something other than first place for the first time in her young career, while also qualifying for the state meet in three events.
Johansen couldn't quite overcome what she called her "slowest start ever" to beat Westby sophomore Grace Hebel, who ran a 12.55 to Johansen's 12.65.
"I'm going to have to work on that start in the 100," Johansen said. "I wasn't explosive enough. The starter was really holding everyone for a long time,and I think it threw everyone off. But I was really thrown off by it."
She had no such troubles in the 200, however, achieving a 'PR' of 25.72 to win going away.
'SylJo' was also the anchor in Clinton's winning 4x100 team, which also included Candice Koehl, Morgan Peterson and Hannah Welte.
Welte also qualified in the 300-hurdles with a strong second-place finish.
"I thought she was fully capable of running that time," Clinton coach Jacob Standiford said. "I wasn't sure that would be good enough for second place, but I thought she'd make the top four. She hasn't ran a lot of highly contested 300-meter hurdles races this year, but she's been training really hard. That was awesome."
Turner's Jo`Vontae Coleman continued to easily win the triple jump in every meet. Coleman jumped a 45-6 to win by nearly two feet and advance to La Crosse for the second straight year.
"Jo's best jump was solid," Turner jumps coach Nolan Otremba said. "It was exactly where he needed to be. We were focusing on getting him through in the triple jump, and we knew he had an outside chance at the 100 (he placed fifth). I know that he's super confident heading into state. He will come into that meet seeded first, so he's in great shape."
Brodhead-Juda's Jeff Williams qualified in the 100 with a second-place finish, while Cardinals sophomore Madelynn McIntyre placed third in the 3200 (11:42.33) to qualify, while just missing out in the 1600 with a fifth-place finish. Rhianna Teubert just missed out on qualifying twice, finishing fifth in both the 100 and 300-meter hurdles, missing by less than a second in both races.
The Turner 4x200 team of Jayla Chancy, Peyton Hasse, Breanne Baker and A' Blesin Wilson won the event with a time of 1:47.18, while the Clinton boys 4x100 team of Jackson Nelson, Luis Espinoza, Jordan Laatz and Tyler Stauss qualified with a third-place finish.
"We don't run a ton of relays throughout the course of the year with those guys," Standiford said. "Even at some of the bigger meets we didn't run those four together. After regionals, I knew they had a really good shot, and they put together three really good handoffs and ran a great race. It was such a tight finish, too."
Clinton's 4x400 team placed third with a 3:26, qualifying by less than a second in a hotly-contested meet. Stauss and Nelson were members of last year's squad that won at state while Laatz and Jordan Decker are newcomers to the team.
"I feel great about what that team can do," Standiford said. "Last year, we finished fourth in our sectional to qualify and ended up winning the whole thing, and I'm excited to see what they do next week in La Crosse."
Turner's Presley Hasse came in seeded 10th in the high jump and ended up setting a 'PR' and finishing second to qualify.
"I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do," Hasse said. "I got 4-10 at regionals and I saw all these tall girls and thought I didn't have a chance. But I had a lot of adrenaline. I was on my last attempt at 5-3, and I was the fifth person, so I realized I had to get this to go. I got it, and it's a great feeling."
Fellow Trojan Emiliano Reyes qualified for state as well after finishing fourth in the discus with a 133-11. Reyes also logged a solid sixth-place finish in the shot put.
• UP NEXT: The state meet will begin Friday in La Crosse, when those quarter-inches and quarter-seconds will again determine the fate's of competitors.