Nothin’ but gold: Cathedral runners exceeded expectations, aim high for next year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NATCHEZ — Cathedral School’s Ty Bertelsen did not know what to believe after he crossed the finish line of the 4×800 meter relay event at the MAIS Class AAA Track and Field Championships.

But when his teammates — Ryan Skates, Zack Mann and Cade Miller — ran up to him with overwhelming joy, Bertelsen finally realized what just happened.

“I was mostly tired,” Bertelsen said. “But I was happy when I heard we won state.”

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The team of Bertelsen, Mann, Miller and Skates won the MAIS 4×800 meter relay event with a final time of 8:35, which was two and half seconds short of beating a 43-year-long record.

While the four runners and Cathedral’s coach Tommy Smith were all smiles standing on the podium with gold medals in hand, the group only ran two times competitively together before state.

“Our best sprinter decided he wasn’t going to run anymore,” Smith said. “I started scrambling for where we can get points at state … So, Ty is running well in the 4×400 event. When things started happening, I pulled Ty to the side and asked him to do something for me.

“I just told him that things are changing and we wouldn’t have a chance in the shorter relays. So I told him he wanted to jump in the 4×800 team.”

Bertelsen met the transition to the 4×800 team with hesitation at first.

However, Smith said he told Bertelsen how confident he was in him running in the event.

“I told him, ‘Surely, you can run a pair of 65 (seconds, when it came to running 800 meters),” Smith said.

Bertelsen was convinced by Smith. Then, his teammates got to work to make sure Bertelsen was ready to run the 4×800.

“(Smith) got me to pace with (Bertelsen),” Miller said. “(Smith) told us to try and see how (Bertelsen) felt running around 2 minutes and 20 seconds (in the 4×800).”

In his first 4×800 practice, Bertelsen ran his portion in 2:21 seconds. But then he fooled Smith by shaving 11 seconds off that time at state. With that performance, Bertelsen immediately went to the top of list to become the fourth wheel in the Green Wave’s relay team.

Bertelsen wasn’t the only member to cut seconds off his time this year. Mann shaved what Smith described as “decades” off his time. Mann went from running 2:24 to a 2:10. Miller and Skates also reduced their times by four and six second respectively.

“What’s crazy in my mind, I thought we were not going to run anywhere near the time we posted,” Smith said. “I had it in my mind that we would be lucky if we ran in the high 8:50s.”

But the team of Bertelsen, Mann, Miller and Skates did exactly what Smith likes: prove him wrong.

“It’s becoming a regular thing,” Smith said. “It kind makes it all worth it, for me and them.”

The Green Wave overcame losing its best sprinter and its best distance runner by taking four guys who could scrub seconds off their times instead finding that superstar. However, Smith said Cathedral might have found a star in Bertelsen.

Next season, the Green Wave doesn’t have to worry about replacing anyone of team, as all four return — Bertelsen and Miller will be seniors while Skates and Mann will be sophomores.

With all four coming back, it will be hard to trump any of their expectations next season.

“We are going to beat that state record,” Skates said. “For sure.”