MILTON -- When Southern Columbia distance standout Andrew Steely crossed the finish line in the 1,600-meter run, he gave his team a 20-8 lead over Milton in a battle of unbeaten track and field teams.
What happened behind Steely was what helped spark the Black Panthers, who rallied from the early deficit Wednesday afternoon for an 84-66 Heartland Athletic Conference Division II victory.
Milton's Zak Lewis made a late charge to take second place (and the three team points it was worth) from Southern's Javon Ring.
The move by Lewis did not go unnoticed by his teammates, particular Wade Heidel, who won the 400 (53.1 seconds), placed third in the 800 and anchored the winning 1,600 relay.
"Really when Zak Lewis took second in the mile passing that kid with like 10 meters to go, that was a really big momentum swing," said Heidel, who won the 400, anchored the winning 1,600 relay and took third in the 800. "It got me pumped up and it got a lot of us pumped up, and ready to run our races."
Milton coach Tom Leeser, whose Black Panthers are 4-0 overall, 3-0 HAC-II, also pointed to the effort by Lewis in that race as a key momentum swing.
Leeser said, knowing that the Tigers had a pair of stars in Steely and hurdler/jumper Luke Rarig, he told his kids, "We're not racing the first guy, we're racing the second guy and the kids did a pretty good job with that."
He said a good example was Lewis coming back for a second instead of a third.
"I think if there is such a thing as momentum in track, that really gave us some," he added.
He said that, before that race, "We started feeling like it might be slipping."