Geneseo boys track coach Don Fredericks did not expect this result from his team at Saturday's annual United Township Kiwanis Invitational.
Despite missing key contributors trying to return from injury or others who were taking the ACT, the Maple Leafs had big performances up and down the entire lineup to edge past the host Panthers and claim the team title at the 10-team event at the Soule Bowl.
It was the second championship for the Maple Leafs in the last three seasons as Geneseo won it in 2015 and finished second last year to United Township. Geneseo finished with 266 points followed by United Township (258), Dunlap (190.5), Sterling (179) and Moline (166.5).
The meet, which is divided into A, B and C flights, meant that every point mattered as the host Panthers led almost the entire meet before Geneseo clinched the win with victories in the 1,600-meter relay in both the A and B flights. The group of Nick Swartzendruber, Cayson Frerichs, Kyle Sellers and Reed Vanderheyden won the A flight by shaving nearly two seconds off their seed time to finish in 3 minutes, 28.35 seconds.
Fredericks said he had no problem being pleasantly surprised at his team's performance.
"That's what is great about this meet is so many guys are in scoring positions," he said. "I knew we were having a good meet but I didn't think we were in the position to contend until the end. Every single guy in every single event mattered and that means a whole bunch to me because I want them to truly grasp that and realize that everything they do in practice comes out in the meet. If you don't train at a high level, then you can't expect great things in competition."
While leading off the victorious 1,600 relay for the Leafs, Swartzendruber also anchored the 3,200 relay team that also claimed first place in 8:13.25. He teamed with Sellers, Frerichs and Andrew Benhart for that win. Swartzendruber also took first in the top flight of the 400 dash, getting past Dunlap's Gabby Gavino Dacosta in a time of 50.88.
Swartzendruber said he just wanted to do the best for his team while battling 15 mph winds and coming off an illness that he had to fight through from Monday and Tuesday.
"It was a little windy but there is nothing you can do about that, you just have to go with the conditions," he said. "Everybody contributed today and I really proud of that."
Vanderheyden was the other staple for the Leafs as he won the 300 hurdles (40.04) and took second in the 110 hurdles (15.72). Vanderheyden was also part of the 400 relay that took third (44.95) with teammates Dalton Stamp and Andrew and Colton Pischke.
The 800 relay team of Andrew Pischke, Jordan Seeley, Stamp and Sellers completed Geneseo's strong relay performance, taking third place (1:34.21).
Sam Thomas had the other first place for Geneseo, winning the shot put (51 feet, 10 inches).
The Panthers picked up a relay win in the 400 behind the group of Jacob Bodeen, David Ortega, Travis Griffith and Demariye Carpenter (43.56). Dalton Martin won the 800 run (2:01.97) for UT, while Jean-Luc Soglohun won the triple jump with a distance of 45-04.
Martin also was third in the 1,600 run (4:39.79). Carpenter was second in both the 100 and 200 dashes while Xavier Wickersham was second in the discus (144-05) and third in the shot put (46-02).
UT's 800 relay team of Griffith, Bodeen, Carpenter and Blake Ringier was second (1:32.21) while Logan Francis grabbed second for the hosts in the high jump (6-02).
The Panthers were in the same boat as the Maple Leafs missing athletes to testing and others who were out injured. United Township coach Evan Holschbach said he was still pleased with his team's performance.
"I thought we had a good chance to win it this year but we just had a few miscues," he said. "Great efforts and we were really looking for the kids who could step up and get us points in some absences and we definitely saw that today."
Holschbach said he enjoyed the competition from Geneseo and his team will get a few more chances at the Maple Leafs as both teams will attend the same invitational the next two weekends.
"It's tough to beat a great team and Geneseo just had it today," Holschbach said.
Rock Island's Courtney Lindsey swept the 100 and 200 dashes in times of 11.24 and 23.03 respectively, both times getting past UT's Carpenter. Lindsey showed a particularly impressive burst of speed down the stretch to win the 200.
"I'm just trying to get better every week, get stronger," Lindsey said. "It's good to have competitive races and to be pushed by guys. It makes me faster."
The Rocks' 800 relay team of Lindsey, Michail Sudberry, Casey Commodore and Jalil Gay took first place (1:30.32) while Commodore was second in the long jump (20-8).
For Rock Island Alleman, Spencer Smith had two runner-up finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 run with times of 4:39.57 and 9:47.16. Nathan Graves won the discus for the Pioneers (160-33) and was third in the high jump (5-10).