Monday, June 9th, 2008
By Bruce Monnin
New Bremen boys finish third in the state
  COLUMBUS - The New Bremen boys were the highest-placing area team at the state track meet, coming in third in Division III, one position short of getting acknowledged in front of the crowd at Jesse Owens stadium and receiving the big state runner-up trophy.
The Cardinals earned 29 points, behind the champions from Bluffton with 54 points and the runners-up from Gates Mills Gilmour Academy with 40 points.
Senior Scott Schnelle got the ball rolling for the Cardinals with his second-place finish in the high jump on Friday.
Then senior Bryce Bergman continued the recent Cardinal hurdling tradition by winning both the- 110 and 300-meter hurdles races.
Finally the 1600-meter relay team of Bergman, sophomore Zach Speckman and juniors Jeff Kremer and Kyle Knapke provided a glimpse of the future by finishing eighth to round out the Cardinal team scoring.
When Kremer heard the team had finished third, the highest finish ever for a Cardinal track team, he was quoted as saying that in the terminology of teammate Speckman, it was "Sweet, awesome and cool!"
Speckman confirmed this, only adding that it was also "gnarly."
When they got serious, the trio of undergraduates on the relay team expressed confidence in the future.
Knapke summed up their thoughts.
"We have some alternates right now, to tell you the truth, who could easily keep this team where it is next year. It is kind of disappointing that the relay came in eighth. But we are looking for big things next year, too," said Knapke.
Those seem to be the themes of the Cardinal track program. The upperclassmen are charged with passing on the knowledge and desire to succeed to the underclassmen, while everyone looks to bring the program to a higher level.
The Cardinals starting attracting attention in 2003, when Troy Lammers began a three-year run of placing in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, winning the 2004 and 2005 state titles in the 300 hurdles.
"Troy and those guys got us started," recalled coach Gary Jones. "These guys took it to the next level. Now, we are obviously hoping that we can continue to grow from this. The underclassmen now know what it takes.
"For our two seniors, it is so nice to see them go out on top. Scott (Schnelle) gets a personal record at 6-7 in the high jump and ends up second to a guy who almost breaks the state record. Bryce came back and got those two first-place medals that he has been working so hard for his whole career. It is just wonderful," continued Jones.
But like all successful coaches, Jones is not satisfied to see his team finish in third place.
"I'm not going to say we're not a little disappointed because we were hoping for even bigger things. That's the good thing, that we are hoping for those better things," acknowledged Jones. "We're getting to the point where younger guys and coaches can keep working and hopefully we can continue to grow."
Bryce, Bryce, Baby
While New Bremen was the area team of the day, Bryce Bergman was definitely the individual of the day.
Bergman started his day with a victory in the 110-meter hurdles, an event he finished third in last year.
This year he cut 0.14 seconds off his 2007 time, giving him a comfortable margin of victory in the race.
"It's a great feeling, something I have never experienced before. I don't have words to explain it," stated Bergman. "I had a real good start. I've been struggling with my starts lately, had a little stutter step in there the last couple of weeks. Today, I had a clean start and good speed between the hurdles."
Later in the morning came the 300-meter hurdles.
Last year, Bergman finished with the exact same time as Columbus Grove's Heath Nickles. The judges examined the finish-line photo and awarded the victory to Nickles.
"Last year was tough. It left a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth," admitted Bergman. "I thought I had won that one. That was my motivation throughout the offseason. I have a picture in my room of that podium. My face on the podium wasn't too happy. I kept that in the back of my head the entire year."
Bergman shot out of the blocks at the start of the race, and by the time the first 100 meters were over, it appeared the race was his if he could run it clean.
But clean would but a gross understatement of Bergman's performance. He finished half a second faster than his time at state last year, which was also half a second faster than his personal record. Nickles was again Bergman's closest challenger, but this year he finished 0.37 seconds behind Bergman.
No examination of the photo was required this year, except to see Bergman's arm shoot up in celebration as he crossed the finish line.
"This one was the one I really wanted. I had a great start and great speed in between the hurdles. That really helped in shaving off the time," explained Bergman.
True to the Cardinal team spirit, while Bergman derived great joy from his victories, he seemed to draw more satisfaction from the overall team success.
"That (third-place finish) means a lot, not only to me and the team, but also to the coaches and the community (who were out in force once again). It is a huge accomplishment for us," said Bergman.
Like Jones, Bergman traced this weekend's successes back a few years.
"I think Troy Lammers started it all. We found a good thing, and it keeps going on from year to year. We are all big into helping our underclassmen," said Bergman.
Bergman will not be able to rest on his laurels for long as new challenges are just over the horizon as he will soon be attending the Air Force Academy, where he will be studying either mechanical or aeronautical engineering.
Along the way, it will be back to the track, where he anticipates he will be competing at the collegiate level in the long jump, high hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and 4x400 relay, much as he did at the state track meet.
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