LA CROSSE -- Johnson Creek junior Hannah Constable won her first two state titles in the Division 3 girls 800-meter run by sitting back and outkicking her opponents to the finish line.
Opponents haven't figured out a way to stop it just yet.
Fennimore sophomore Brynlee Nelson, whom Constable outdueled down the stretch to win last year's final, got out of the gates hot in Friday's final, hoping to put enough of a gap between herself and Constable to reach the finish first.
Constable found herself trailing by 10 meters in the early stages, but Nelson's lead began to slip heading into the second lap and Constable made the rest seem inevitable, winning her third state title in a personal best and school record time of 2 minutes, 14.84 seconds at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships.
Nelson faded to third over the final meters as Benton Co-op freshman Kayci Martensen passed and came perilously close to catching Constable at the line before taking second in 2:15.07. Nelson was next in 2:15.54.
"This race is always the race where I can't get excited until after I finish it, because it's the one that is mentally hard, I guess," Constable said.
"Last year, I passed her with 200 left and I had to hold her off there. This year was different because I had to chase her down. It's just something I enjoy doing more, but it was different than last year."
Constable's mother, Johnson Creek head coach Paula Constable, pressed her daughter to improve the early portion of her race during the season and it paid off here.
"This is definitely the race that she's been thinking about mostly," Paula Constable said. "Coming in, she knew it was going to be good competition, all of them. She was really looking forward to running with competition to push her. Her race strategy is to typically sit and kick, and she did it again. She's been working all season on going out harder in the first part of the race. She was doing it all season, so I am real proud of her that she was able to do it mentally.
She knew that was a possibility (that Nelson) might do that (move to get out early)."
Hannah Constable didn't crack under the early pressure, thanks to the hard work preparing to get out faster herself at the start of races.
"I would say she did go out pretty fast, the first 200, more than I am used to," Hannah Constable said. "Not that I had a lot of competition earlier on, but it was different. I knew that going out hard my first 400 was really important because last year, I got stuck when I got far back and I didn't want that to happen again."
Constable gained a ton of confidence competing against Division 1 runners at the Myrhum Invitational in early May, where she won the 800 in 2:15.89.
"That was really good for me to do mentally, to be able to tell myself I could really do it and coming in here," Hannah Constable said. "My seed time was five seconds slower, but to run fast I need competition. I just knew I had to stick with them and do what I always do at the end. For me, the 100 today was when I started going, so not as early (feeling like I had it) as I am used to but the weather didn't make it any easier."
Earlier in the day, Constable won her 400 trial race in 58.81.
"The 400 was good," Hannah Constable said. "I didn't really feel very good after that one. The 400 is always really draining for me, but I feel like I got into a good spot (for the finals)."
Constable outdueled Nelson once again in Saturday's 400-meter final, crossing the line in 58.11 to win her first state title in that event after placing fourth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. Nelson was second in 59.83.
"Last year, I ran a 56.99 (in the state finals)," Hannah Constable said. "This wasn't near a PR, but it was all right. I came up here and got this (medal). That's pretty cool."
Constable and Nelson ran in separate heats in Friday's 400 trials. Nelson earned the top seed with a 58.53 while Constable won the other heat with the second best seed time, just 0.28 of a second behind her.
Nelson snuck into last year's 400 final and finished 10th in 1:00.31.
"She wasn't as close (last year)," Constable said. "Being on the outside lane was a little more difficult to gauge off her, but I think I (did OK). It was all just off of feeling. At state, I think everything for me is off of feeling, not necessarily times."
The weather on Friday was hot and sunny, while the early portion of Saturday it was a few degrees cooler and overcast.
"I was little fresher today," Hannah Constable said. "It didn't hurt as much as yesterday. The weather was a little different. We started off with the rain. I think we were just lucky with the weather. I was looking forward to running with Hilbert/Stockbridge's Makaylee Kuhn. She took second last year. She unfortunately hurt herself, so I wasn't able to meet her here. It sucks."
Paula Constable again stressed the need for a stronger start in this race, and her daughter followed the plan.
"Hannah knew she was in a good position to win the 400 this year," Paula Constable said. "All season, her focus was to get out hard. She didn't really have competition in the open 400 until state and it was a great opportunity for her to work on the front of her race.
"When she has someone to chase down, she is able to really turn on her speed. She ran a 56.5 split on her anchor leg of the 4-by-400 at sectionals and that gave her a ton of confidence coming into the state meet. The times were slower this year across all divisions.
"We knew she could win the race, but we weren't expecting her to run the fourth fastest time across all divisions. She worked all season on key components of her races in training and in competition and it paid off big time. I am so proud of her. She has a nice smooth stride and she makes it look easy, but behind that is a lot of work."
She also teamed with seniors Taylor Hallam and Kittana Kulig and junior Mateah Roehl to qualify for the finals in the 1,600 relay with a ninth-place time of 4:14.30 in Friday's trials. They finished ninth again in the finals in 4:14.29, which was four seconds shy of the time they would have needed to match the group's sixth-place medal-winning finish a year ago in 4:10.90.
"I think the girls started planning for this season the moment they stepped off the podium at last year's state meet," Paula Constable said. "It was great to have all four girls back. They were seeded ninth going into to finals this year. Taylor led off with a great run, her fastest split of her career. She's a consistent and strong runner and I like having her out in front.
"Our second leg, Kittana, has been dealing with a stress fracture in her foot for most the season. In order to try to get her healthy for the end of the season, she gave up individual events (shot put, 100) and spent time cross-training. It was tough for her to give up so much but she was willing to do it for her relay team to get back to state and it was a chance that paid off.
"Mateah's job as the third leg is to move the team up in spots and keep in contact and she has done a great job with that all season. She ran her fastest split for the season. We hoped that there would be close enough contact so when Hannah got the baton, she could possibly move up a spot or two. She got out hard and ran a good leg considering this was her fifth race in two days and she was able to get the team into ninth.
"I'm most proud of how the girls each knew what they had to do for the benefit of the team and they all approached it with intensity and positivity. They never stopped being positive and that is something that matters on and off the track."