DayShawn Berndt held his fingers an inch apart, smiling wide while a few of his Free State teammates came up to hug him.
In his first race as a member of the Firebirds, the senior was just that close to setting a school record Tuesday at Lawrence High.
Berndt — a transfer from Baldwin — posted a 21.75 in the 200 meters, missing a school best by just 5 hundredths of a second.
“It was just so exciting,” Berndt said, “because I didn’t know I was going to be able to do that.”
The senior also ran the anchor leg of Free State’s 4X400 victory that clinched the Firebird boys’ 69.5-66 team win over Lawrence High.
The Free State girls also won with 79 team points.
Berndt’s effort was made more impressive considering he was coming back from injury.
Last year, he pulled his hamstring in the second meet of the year. He ended up running in regionals but wasn’t at full strength because of pain and also poor conditioning.
The senior was flashy Tuesday for another reason as well: He wore different colored shoes, a green Nike on his left foot and a blue Nike on his right one.
“It was just part of the design,” Berndt said. “I thought it’d be cool to be a little different with some different-colored spikes out there and decided to roll with it.”
Berndt wasn’t the only Baldwin transfer that had a standout performance Tuesday.
LHS’s Monica Howard took second in the high jump and javelin and third in the shot put while also running as part of the Lions’ first-place 4X400 relay team.
Before Tuesday, Howard had never participated in the shot put during a high school competition.
“I threw yesterday about five times, and I was told, ‘Hey, you’re going to throw it tomorrow in the meet,’” Howard said. “So I came over after I did all my other events yesterday in practice and threw it around a little bit. It felt good today to go out and do it for the first time.”
Another highlight for LHS was Steven Hill, who was first in the triple jump and second in the long jump.
The senior’s 19-foot, 9.5-inch long jump was a new personal record.
“I closed my eyes, so I really don’t know what went right,” Hill said with a laugh. “I closed my eyes, and I just jumped.”
LHS’s Nathan Stringer also set a personal record, finishing second in the 3200-meter run with a 10:30.78. That was 20 seconds better than his previous best.
“A group of guys and I ran over (spring) break, so we’ve been working hard,” Stringer said. “It’s just sort of a reflection of our work.”
Free State’s girls picked up a boost from freshman Gabbi Dabney in her first meet. She placed second in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.
“It was a good start for the season, but there’s still a few months left,” Dabney said. “There’s a lot more that I can do to improve myself.”
Other highlights for Free State included Lynn Robinson and Bailey Sullivan, who finished 1-2 in the girls 800.
The Lions’ Jeffrey Moses also set personal records while finishing second in the shot put and third in discus.