Evan Schuster ran the 400 meters less than a half dozen times this season, but it was definitely enough.
The last time he ran the race was at the WIAA State Track & Field Championships in La Crosse, and it was good enough for a third-place medal in Division 2.
Schuster added a second medal in the 200 meters, taking fifth, to lead Racine County boys entries at state.
The sophomore’s double-medal performance on the state’s biggest stage also earned him the honor as the All-Racine County Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. He won a majority vote against four other athletes — senior Taylor Schneider of Case, junior Jayvian Vinson of Horlick, junior Nick Webley of Burlington and senior Sean Pritchard of Waterford — who were also nominated for the honor.
Schuster didn’t expect to be the Athlete of the Year.
“I was very surprised,” Schuster said. “I thought a senior would get it — I didn’t think a sophomore would get it.”
As a freshman, Schuster primarily ran in the 100 and 200, running in the 400 just four times, all in May 2017. He won the Metro Classic Conference title in the 200 and 400 last year, just missing a state berth in the 200 after winning the regional 200 title.
This season, he ran the 400 indoors at the beginning of April, but didn't run it again until a month later at the West Allis Hale Invitational.
After winning the 200 and 400 at the MCC Meet, he repeated the double victory at the Division 2 East Troy Regional, then broke the 50-second barrier at the Whitewater Sectional with a time of 49.88. He was second in the 200 in 22.50 seconds.
Schuster faced a challenge at state by running both races on consecutive days for the first time.
“I was shaking and was very nervous,” said Schuster, who was the only underclassman to earn a medal in the two events. “But the more I ran, the more I got used to it. By the end of the 200 race, I was used to it.”
In the preliminaries, he ran the 400 in 50.03 and the 200 in a personal-best 22.11.
On Saturday, the butterflies still remained, but he found his next gear.
“The mentality was to run your race and see what happens,” Schuster said. “I think I ran pretty well.”
Indeed. He finished third in a personal-best 49.45, earning his first trip to the podium.
“I was not expecting to run that time, especially since I was nervous,” Schuster said. “I was feeling kind of tight in the blocks and I didn’t feel like I would run my best race. I’m happy I did.”
In the 200, he was a little off his preliminary time, but still finished fifth in 22.46 for his second medal.
Both of those times would have given him the same finishes in Division 1.
Tom Scheller, who has seen his share of athletes in 41 years as Angels head coach, said Schuster ranks with the best runners to come through the St. Catherine’s program.
After Schuster’s runs at state, Scheller said Schuster has the third-fastest 400 run in Angels’ history.
Schuster was the only underclassman to finish in the top six in the 400 and the 200.
“He did all the prep work we asked of him this year, and he was ready for the preliminary and final races in the 200 and 400 at the end of the year,” Scheller said. “He made the statement two months before the state meet that he would like to run ‘some time’ against the best in the state, Kenneth Bednarek of Rice Lake.
“He got his wish.”
Bednarek swept the sprints, winning the 400 in 46.73 and the 200 in 20.98, and also winning the 100 in 10.66, all state records.
With two more years left, Schuster can really rewrite the St. Catherine’s record books.
“I think (Scheller) and I are on the same page,” said Schuster, who does speed and strength training at St. Catherine’s and runs the hills at Lockwood Park to build his endurance. “I’ll stick with the 200 and 400, my strongest races, and I’d like to come out on top of both of them."
COACH OF THE YEAR: Scheller had a small squad of boys and girls this year, but made the most of them. In addition to Schuster, Tiana Marshall qualified for state in the girls 100 meters and Timothy Carthron was a second-team selection in the shot put.
That made Scheller the choice for Coach of the Year.
“We didn’t have anywhere near the best team, but we think we do a good job with the athletes we do have each year,” Scheller said. “Thanks to the other Racine County coaches for the votes."
Scheller deflected a lot of the credit to his assistant coaches — sprint coach Dan Miller, jump coach Ken Kiedrowicz and throws coach Alex Kiedrowicz.
“We have been together for a long time,” Scheller said. “Their dedication to their craft and their ability to teach their athletes the techniques and skills needed to know their events has served our athletes well.”