The final two laps of Luke Bertolet’s high school athletics career are going to include a whole lot of strategy and very little subtlety.
Bertolet has 800 meters to cover at today’s IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals — an engraved invitation for the Greenwood senior to lift what’s already a respected reputation in track and field circles to new and exciting levels.
Seeded fourth based on the 1:55.45 he ran in dominating the competition at last week’s Connersville Regional, Bertolet, who is undefeated in the 800 this spring, understands he’s one fabulous effort from contending for the top spot on the awards podium.
“There are different ways to run the 800. You want to go out fast and get your position, especially at state,” said Bertolet, who also runs cross-country for the Woodmen. “At regional I knew I was seeded first and wanted to come out fast and run a 55- or 56-(second) first lap, and I did that.”
Bertolet made it to state as a junior in the 400-meter dash (he placed 17th in 50.34 seconds) and as anchor for Greenwood’s 3,200 relay (15th in 8:01.12).
This season he made the switch to the 800, a decision that’s pushed him into the limelight.
“I just like the 800 better. You can go out fast and there is always strategy depending on what you want to do,” he said.
Gary Austin of Pike won the event in 2012 in 1:52.17. Austin has since graduated, as have 16 of the 17 runners placing behind him in the 800 in last year’s state finals.
Only Matt Dorsey of second-ranked Lawrence Central, the fourth-place finisher a year ago in 1:53.42, returns. Dorsey posted a time of 1:52.69 in winning last week’s Ben Davis Regional over Lawrence North junior Joe Murphy (1:52.99) and his Lawrence Central teammate, Adam Turner (1:54.33).
Bertolet mixed into this swift Lawrence Township trio makes for what promises to be one of tonight’s most exciting finishes.
Unless he decides to compete in the Midwest Meet of Champions on June 15 in Fort Wayne, this represents Bertolet’s swan song in terms of organized athletics.
Bertolet, who ranks 10th academically in Greenwood’s senior class with a 4.43 grade-point average, will major in economics at Northwestern University. Thus, the focus turns solely toward academics.
He aspires to one amazing memory to fall back on.
“I used to play other sports until sixth grade. I played basketball and baseball but then started to focus on running,” Bertolet said. “It probably wasn’t until cross-country season of my sophomore year that everything just kind of clicked.”
It’s still clicking. Perhaps the loudest its ever clicked two laps from now.