Malafa, Christensen earn state berths for Falls' boys
Coach's pep talk helps out in the end
Menomonee Falls - Assistant boys track coach Mike Burling laughed at the thought and then decided to use it anyway.
Because in this rebuilding year for the Indians, he thought the kids could use all the help they could get.
The story, roughly paraphrased, goes like this: 23 years ago, when Burling was in school at Falls, he qualified for state in the 400 meters out of lane five at the sectional held at Homestead.
The exact same lane current Indians junior Matt Christensen came out of to earn a state spot in the 400 May 26 in another WIAA sectional held at Homestead.
"I thought it couldn't hurt to try," chuckled Burling, of his own personal tale.
And in Christensen's eyes, it helped. He had come to the 400 late. Falls had tried all season to get its specialty, the 800 relay, the event it is the defending state champion as well as the state record-holder in, to come around, but it just didn't quite happen.
Christensen was the only underclassman on that relay a year ago. He said his road to the 400 started back then.
"It was last year at the Burlington meet," he said. "It was senior banquet, and we had a lot of guys gone, so I got to run it that night. I thought I might be running the 200 (in the state series), but coach Burling thought that might be a little too tough with the (meet-ending) 1,600 relay.
"He gave me a pep talk before the race and it worked out."
Christensen turned in a time of 50.95 seconds in taking third on a windy and cool day.
Christensen will be joined at state by senior Ndiva Malafa, who, despite the conditions, turned in a personal best of 22-21/4 in the long jump, good for second behind only defending state triple jump champion and the state long jump's top seed, Josh Dixon of Cedarburg.
Malafa will be seeded sixth when the long jump is contested on Saturday at the state meet on the UW-La Crosse campus (starting at 10:30 a.m.). Christensen, meanwhile, will compete in trials of the 400 when the Division 1 program starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
"I know my experience can only help me," Christensen said. "I know I won't be so nervous. The wind was really tough today. You really had to push through it the first 100-200 meters, but this is something I definitely wanted to do."
Burling only shook his head later and said: "Now we have to find someone for Matty to run with." He was referring to the Indians' penchant for advancing relays to state, something they almost did with the 1,600 unit at sectionals May 26.
The team of Christensen, P.J. Weyer, Andy Von Bank and Malafa were in the top three for most of the race, but just ran out of gas at the end, fading to fifth in a still fine time of 3:28.71.
"It's nice to go (in the long jump), but it would have been even better had we been able to get the relay in, too," said a disappointed Malafa after the 1,600 relay.
"It was a good race by those kids," said Indians head coach Bobby Regent-Smith, "but Ndiva's legs (he had also competed in the triple jump) were just gone by then."
Malafa was a strong sixth in the triple jump with an effort of 42-4 just one foot-seven inches out of a state berth.
Falls tied for ninth in the team standings with 29 points as Arrowhead won the sectional title with 149 points.
Other finishes for Falls at the sectional included the following: high jump: Robb Gardner, sixth (5-10); 400 relay: Christian Almonte, Jordan Bostwick, Matt Conrady and Yaphay Harvey, seventh (45.87); 3,200 relay: Dan Hyde, Dominic Thomas, Dan Farrenkopf and Alex Hrovat, sixth (8:40.43).
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