Last year, Becca Langer was giving the baton to her sister. This year, she’s taking it.

Emma Langer finally won a state title after numerous close calls when the Waukesha West 4x800-meter relay to open the 2016 state meet in LaCrosse. Sister Becca, now a junior for the Wolverines, ran the third leg before handing off to Emma.

“Going into the meet, we knew we had a pretty good shot in the relay,” Becca said. “We trained really hard for that relay with our distance runners, and last year, she really wanted it badly, as did everyone else. Running the last leg before my sister ran, I just wanted to get a really big lead for her so that she wouldn’t have to stress as much or worry much about it. That was my main goal when I handed it off for her.”

Now, the stage belongs to Becca and other returning distance runners. Senior Samantha Hanson and sophomore Brooke Lytle also ran on that championship relay, and Hanson and Langer both ran in the 800 meters (Becca took fourth and is the top returnee aside from reigning state champ Cami Davre of Whitefish Bay).

“It has to do with your work ethic,” Becca said of the longstanding success of distance runners at West. “Collaboration with the runners and the coach. I definitely didn’t come in thinking I was going to be a champion. It’s the work you put into it.”

As good as West has been in the longer races, the Wolverines were also part of the fastest 4x400 in state history last year. The two Langers, Hanson, and current junior Maddie Frey ran 3:53.82, good for fifth place in a race where each of the top three teams eclipsed the previous state record.

“We are different because with our 4x4, we have the majority of mid-distance or distance runners,” Becca said. “We don’t have as big of a sprinter program as some other schools, so over the years we’ve gotten accustomed to trying it out with our mid-distance runners. I like to run that.

“Honestly, we didn’t know what time we were going to be running because even with the break, three of us had just run the 800,” Becca said of last year’s state meet. “We didn’t feel like we would run better than we did in prelims (when West posted the fastest prelim time). We just ran it like we’ve been trained to do. A lot of teams ran really well.”

You’ll already find Langer’s name on the state honor roll in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, and West has the fourth-fastest time in the 4x400 as of the first week of April.

“We’re trying to keep up with our training and do what we did last year and keep working really hard,” Becca said. “We’ll have a better understanding of what’s to come at the end of the season (later).”

Hanson took seventh in the 800 last year, and Lytle placed seventh in the 3,200.

Others to watch

Armoni Brown, junior, Waukesha South. Holds the No. 2 distance on the state honor roll in the long jump and triple jump and No. 5 in the 55 dash and No. 9 in 200. Took third in last year’s state meet in the long jump and is top returnee. Also competed in triple jump and served on second-place 4x100 team.

Jestine Green, senior, Waukesha South. Also part of 4x100 and competed at state last year in the 200. Currently on the state honor roll in triple jump.

Carly Burlingame, junior, Waukesha North. Appeared at state in pole vault and 100 hurdles last year.

Kathleen Hirsch, junior, Catholic Memorial. The anchor on last year’s state-champion 4x100-meter relay (with now-graduated Abby Finnegan, junior Josie Schrubbe and sophomore Tatum Straw) was part of a state-record performance in 49.03 seconds. She also anchored the 4x200 with the same crew for a title in 1:43.36, nearly two seconds ahead of second place. As if that wasn’t enough, she anchored the third-place 4x400 (joining Finnegan, senior Maddy Rondeau and sophomore Olivia Saggio). Rondeau also took fourth last year in the 200 meters.

Austin Rendon, senior, Waukesha South. Holds the No. 2 time on the state honor roll in the 800 after recording a 2:00.53 at the Nelson-Daniel Invite at Whitewater. Took seventh in the 800 at last year’s state meet.

Kendall Gould, senior, Waukesha North. Owns the top distance in triple jump on state honor roll (44-10), recorded at Nelson-Daniel, and also on state honor roll in long jump.

Dylan Schubbe, junior, Catholic Memorial. Like the girls, the boys have some firepower returning. Schubbe was part of last year’s state-champ 4x100 and third-place 4x200 team. Seniors Josh Karfonta and Max Cooper were also on the 4x1, and Cooper reached state in the long jump. Seniors Eric Fridl and Austin Ciezki were on the 4x200. Mike Oechsner also took sixth last year in the 400, and fellow senior Zach Engsberg took seventh in the triple jump.