Willis breaks State, National records in State Title run
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) freshman Roisin Willis turned in a record-setting performance to win the 800 run in her first appearance at the WIAA Division 1 Girls Track and Field State Meet.
Willis finished in 2:05.68 to win the State Title in the 800 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse Friday, May 31, as she shattered the previous State Meet record and eclipsed her United States freshman record that she set earlier this season.
“It was just a really good experience, my first State Meet, to be able to accomplish something like that,” said Willis. “It was just a really exciting moment, and I probably won’t ever forget it.”
“For everybody that was in the stadium, that was a special thing,” said SPASH girls track co-head coach Nate Olson. “To consider the people that have owned that record in the past and what they’ve gone on to do, and the fact that she didn’t just barely beat it, she destroyed the thing and blew it out of the water, that was really, really cool.
“Roisin is such a quiet and humble kid, and I know how hard she works,” he said. “A lot of people don’t always see that, they just see the results, so for me as a coach, it was neat to see all of the hard work pay off.”
Willis opened her freshman season by winning the 800 run at the New Balance National Indoor Meet in New York City March 10, as she ran the fastest time ever for a United States freshman in the 800 at 2:05.7, to break the old mark of 2:06.48.
This season, Willis went on to win a Regional Title and a Sectional Title in the 800 run to advance to state, where she entered with the top-seeded time at 2:07.13.
At the State Meet Friday, Willis pulled ahead in the 800 run and was all alone down the final stretch, as she finished in 2:05.68 win the State Title over sophomore Lydia Malacek of Onalaska (2:13.43) and break the previous Division 1 State Record of 2:09.22 set by Cami Davre of Whitefish Bay in 2015.
“Once I got like 300 meters to go, I started to pick up the pace a little bit,” said Willis. “And then with 100 meters to go, I just made eye contact with the line, and just sprinted absolutely as hard as I could until it was over.
“It was just a really happy moment, with the crowd and everything,” she said. “It was just a really exciting experience, after I crossed the line.”
“I knew she was going to do it, so it wasn’t a question of if, but how much was she going to beat it by, and what her time was going to be,” said Olson. “But as a coach in track, you’re amongst the fans, it’s not like you’re on the sidelines like a football coach or a basketball coach.
“And it was cool because you hear everybody talking about her like, ‘oh my gosh, did you see that girl’ or, ‘wow, what a split, that’s amazing,’” he said. “And it’s neat for the kids in our program that train alongside of her, and as a coach, you definitely are very, very proud of her.”
Willis’ time in the 800 was also the second-fastest in the United States this season, behind junior Athing Mu of Trenton, N.J. (2:01.38 on June 1), who Willis beat to win the New Balance National Indoor Meet March 10.
After winning the 800 at state Friday, Willis had to go straight to the preliminaries for the 4×400 relay, as she helped the team finish with the top time to advance to the finals Saturday, June 1.
There, Willis went on to team up with senior Taylor Konczal, freshman Mallory Greenwood and junior Maddie Hyland to win the 4×400 relay, and cap her first State Track Meet with another State Title.
“Winning the 4×400 was definitely the highlight of last weekend,” said Willis. “When it’s four people who all just work together for it, there’s something that’s a lot harder about it.
“And when you accomplish it, it just means so much more,” she said. “That was my favorite part of the State Meet, winning that 4×400.”
“Obviously as a freshman, I know that she’s going to continue to do great things, but it was a great coming out statement,” said Olson. “She’s on the map now, and people are aware of who she is.
“I think she got a lot of fans this weekend and kind of is a new sweetheart of Wisconsin track and field,” he said. “It was really cool to see her get that recognition that she deserves, and to hear the fans, when they understand what they just witnessed.”