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Head and heart combine as Schimenz wins 800 state title

Sophomore uses big push at end to capture gold

June 7, 2011

If you stretch out Brown Deer sophomore WIAA state Division 2 800-meter track champion Jake Schimenz, he might reach all of 5-7 ½, but if you count the size of his heart and add in the amount of determination he throws into everything he does, he would be more than 10-feet tall.

Because that's what Schimenz felt like as he emerged from a crowded pack with 200 meters to go and then won a headlong sprint Saturday to take the event in front of 9,000 screaming people at La Crosse's Memorial Stadium.

"I really didn't think I could do this," said Schimenz afterward. "There were just so many fast runners in this race. Don't get me wrong, I was still confident and I've always wanted to be a state qualifier."

Ever since he was three or four years old, his family would bring him up to La Crosse to watch his state relay champion brothers David and John (about nine state medals between the two of them) as well as Zach.

"I wanted to keep the lead, but I wasn't sure what kind of race it would be," Schimenz said. "I went out and when we got towards the end, I felt a couple of guys right on top of me, but I was able to make a move and give it all I had."

Which was good enough for a win in 1:57.68 as Nekoosa junior Michael Peterson was second in 1:57.78. All told, there were four runners within .22 of a second of each other.

That Schimenz prevailed out of such a tight pack was no surprise to his distance coach, Bob Van Lieshout, who pointed out an amazing little fact about the Falcons' latest state champion.

Schimenz couldn't say enough about the help he got from Van Lieshout, who is better known as the Falcons' swim coach.

"To the best of my knowledge, Jake was the only event winner at any level, boys or girls who had not qualified in that event last year," Van Lieshout said. "Going from none to one is unbelievably difficult, was quite an accomplishment for him, and I think it should be recognized."

It has been.

"He's not your traditional middle distance runner," said veteran Falcons head coach Rob Green. "He's not very tall but he is all determination …That came up late, because at about 600 meters they made a move on him and I thought they'd box him in, but one kid took a slightly different angle and that opened the door for Jake and he took full advantage of it.

"He took it and just took off. Power is his game. He's not a big kicker, but he's got a lot of power and conditioning and I don't care what sport he's doing (he's a four-sport man), he really goes for it."

Schimenz praised his brothers for setting a very high bar for him to chase after.

"And they set it high for being people as well as being athletes too," he said. "I really didn't want to let them down."

And there's a very good reason for that, seeing as they are brothers, with all kinds of rivalries going on.

"John was giving me a hard time all week, and I was getting all kinds of text messages from all of them," he added. "They can do that because they're still a lot bigger than me (laughs)."

The only other qualifier for the Falcons was junior hurdler Evan Naber who was just .05 of a second out of the finals in the 110 high hurdles at 16.33 (taking 12th) and was 15th in the 300 intermediate hurdles (43.31).

"Evan has worked so hard all year," said Green. "He'll learn from this."

Schimenz's 10 points put the Falcons in a tie for 24th in the Division 2 team standings. La Crosse Aquinas won with 45.

On the girls side, freshman Sabrina Wimer was just .1 of a second out of the finals of the 300 low hurdles, taking 11th in 48.62.

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