First comes talent, then comes inspiration.

That’s what the Oak Creek girls track team had in abundance on Friday, May 12, as the Knights worked off the demons of a mistake that cost them the Southeast Conference Relays title on May 2 to repeat as league outdoor champions on their own track.

First-year coach Dean Tutas, known for his unusual techniques and supportive manner, first pointed to his assistants for all their hard work and then to his athletes for their mental toughness and skill.

“The kids were so upset after the relays,” he said. “We had a big drop (of a relay baton) and that cost us. They came up to me afterward and told me that it would never happen again.

“It began right there (pointing to his left where three assistants were standing). My coaches and staff work so hard, but I also know that we have really good and talented kids who put in the work and who put forth the effort.

“We are blessed to have a lot of multi-sport athletes. They know what they’re doing and there’s rarely a dip in their performances.”

There were very few dips at the outdoor on May 12, as the Knights overpowered rival and rival Franklin, 169.5-146, for the title.

Such as senior hurdler Jazsmin Washington who both the 100-meter high (15.55 seconds) and 300 low (46.45) events.

Washington said that Tutas’ unique ideas have brought out the best in the Knights this spring.

“We’ve had such great workouts,” he said. “We’ve been dragging sleds, wearing weighted vests and using (drag) parachutes. It’s really helped. We’ve gotten so much better every meet.”

“Whatever works,” laughed Tutas

Washington, who narrowly missed out on a state medal last season in the 100 hurdles, is one motivated individual.

“I think coming in seventh (at state) really pushed me to get better,” she said. “I really want to get on that (top six) podium this year.”

Tutas said that weights coach Dave Hoagland also played a big role in the Knights’ clinching efforts, as Amber Lane (103-3), Lindsey Peterson (100-2) and Jenna Dankert (97-4) went one-two-three, respectively, in the discus to put Oak Creek ahead for good late in the meet.

Dankert also won the shot put with a personal best of 40-5.5 as Lane took fourth (33-10.5). Dankert is also a basketball player as are top relay runners Katie and Maddie Gard and Lea Finn. She said that helps make the team tighter.

“We’re a closer team because of that,”she said, “besides, I also like watching them run (laughs).”

For good reason, as the 4×100 relay team of the Gard sisters, Lea Finn and Alaina Holt, rolled to a victory in 49.72, and with Shannon Nelson replacing Holt, took second in the 4×200 relay in a very quick time of 1:45.26.

Isabella Nuck also won the pole vault with an effort of 10-0.

Other seconds included Nelson in the 200 (25.74), the 4×400 relay team of Natalie Block, Kassandra Bartek (another basketball player), Grace Paar and Kaleigh Johnston (4:14.06); and Nuck in the high jump (5-0).

All the good efforts left Tutas highly motivated and thinking of recently retired Knights’ head coach Bob Haberli.

“I told Habs the other day, who did a great job of putting this program together, that I’m going to do him one better,” said Tutas with a laugh. “I said we’re not only going to win conference but also a state title.”

Franklin made the Knights work for the title, as senior Hailey Migliano won both the 1,600 (5:12.09) and the 3,200 (11:50.55) while freshman Clare Pitcher continued her sensational debut season with victories in the 400 (58.19) and 800 (2:23.43).

Frosh Nadia Vo also won the high jump (5-1) and Haley Pyan claimed the triple jump (35-2.5). Brianna Oelke was second in the pole vault (9-6), as was the 4×100 relay of Pyan, Alyssa Colla, Kathryn Pecha and Vo (50.57); and Pyan in the 100 hurdles (15.62).