TERRE HAUTE — When honoring athletes after a season of excellence, the phrase “what might have been” doesn’t usually come up.
But in the case of Terre Haute South’s Jackson Bertoli and Terre Haute North’s TaPring Goatee – the Tribune-Star’s Athletes of the Year for spring sports – there’s an air of unfinished business despite obvious recent successes.
And the evening of April 26 was a key for both their seasons.
That night, the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference championship track and field meets at Ben Davis, was Bertoli’s first competition for South since his cross country campaign in the fall – a season for which he also earned Athlete of the Year honors, incidentally. All he did was win a conference championship in the 3,200-meter run, surprising his coach in the process.
“He’d had one true workout before the MIC,” said Kyle Walsh, who helped his junior standout through an injury that threatened to turn into another injury. “He never had a doubt [that he was going to win]. That’s the sign of a champion. He believes in himself no matter what.”
Goatee didn’t win her final race that night, but she left an indelible impression nonetheless. With her Patriots tied for first place in the team standings with meet favorite Carmel going into the final event, she got the baton on the last leg of the 1,600-meter relay with North trailing the Greyhounds by about 20 meters.
Coach Mike Dason, the meet’s official scorer who was confined to a tent at the finish line, had no hopes. Then he heard the noise build.
He burst out to the track to see Goatee making up ground with every stride, and it took the electronic monitoring to determine which runner had lunged across the line first.
“That last race really made me angry,” Goatee recalled earlier this week. “I lost by [a couple of centimeters]” … and 0.002 of a second.