Compared to how he felt three months ago, Justin Niederhaus is in seventh heaven for more reasons than one.
Fresh from a 1,600-meter run seventh-place finish, the best place by any Gibson Countian in last weekend's state finals at Indiana University, the recent Princeton Community grad leads the Daily Clarion 2018 All-Gibson County Boys Track Team.
It's a 10-man team. Juniors Stephan Wilkerson, Zach Dove and Jackson Krieg, senior Chase Wilson, sophomores Tor'Jon Evans and Miles Bostick and freshman Cooper Clark join Coach Bill Niederhaus' youngest son in representing Princeton's Gibson County, Big Eight Conference, and Princeton Sectional champions.
Senior Trey Riggs and junior Travis Hart, state meet qualifiers like Niederhaus, Wilkerson, and Dove, represent Gibson Southern.
Niederhaus' senior track season seemed in jeopardy when a right leg stress fracture, discovered little over a year ago, shortly before Haubstadt's Laufenfest in which he set the world record for a five-kilometer (3.1-mile) run on crutches, flared again.
"I got some orthotics in early-season, and they enabled me to work my way back to the level I want to run at," said the Indiana State cross country and track signee.
Saturday's seventh-in-state finish, two notches higher than a year ago when he became Gibson County Male Athlete of the Year, came in 4 minutes 15.29 seconds as he again re-broke his school record.
This after winning the Big Eight 1,600 in 4:32.11, the sectional in 4:24.77 and the Evansville Regional in 4:17.49. He did not run the 1,600 in the county meet when he won the 800 in 2:02.57. He won 800 titles in the Big Eight in 1:57.50 and sectional at 1:58.78 before exhaustion kept him from placing in the regional.
Wilkerson, who placed sixth in the 2017 state meet high jump, but 22nd Saturday identifies with his distance-running teammate.
"Stephan's take-off leg has been hurting, and he has to ice the leg between jumps," Coach Niederhaus said.
Still, he became a sectional champion with a 6-foot-4 jump and regional champ by clearing 6-5, an inch below his season-best in the Princeton Invitational.
A 6-0 jump won county, but he did not compete in the Big Eight meet for an in-school disciplinary reason.
Following graduated brother and Vincennes University sophomore-to-be Ja'Von Wilkerson into the long jump, Stephan won the county meet by clearing 18-7 3/4 on his only attempt and then won sectional by going 20-10.
So that he'd stay fresh for the regional when his anchor run gave the Tigers' 400-meter relay team a third-place finish and a berth at state, he was scratched from the long jump.
Dove, like Wilkerson a basketball standout, won the shot put titles by reaching 47-7 3/4 at the county meet, 49-2 1/2 in Big Eight and 48-10 at sectional.
His 49-8 regional put brought a runner-up finish and a berth at state, where his 48-7 1/4 work was 24th. In the discus, after a 160-11 Southridge Invitational throw set the PCHS record, he won county at 160-3 and Big Eight at 154-0 before an off-night at sectional prevented advancement.
Riggs, to continue his track career at the University of Evansville, won 110-meter high hurdles titles by clocking 15.42 in the Pocket Athletic Conference meet and 15.18 at sectional. He did not run the highs at county.
A third-in-regional finish in 15.04 sent him to state, where he ran 23rd in 15.16. After winning the 300 hurdles in 42.32 at county and 41.47 in the PAC, Riggs placed second at sectional in 40.81 and third at regional in 40.36 to reach state, where his 40.18 was 21st.
Hart, county 1,600 champ in 4:41.75, placed fourth at PAC in 4:24.25 and second at sectional in 4:28.07. His school-record 4:22.01 as regional third-placer brought a trip to state, where he finished 18th in 4:22.29.
Second in the county 3,200 in 10:49.14 and fourth at PAC in 10:31.30, he won sectional in 10:10.72, before exhaustion from the regional 1,600 put him far back in the 3,200.
Krieg won the county 3,200 in 10:32.11 and became PAC champ in 10:13.99. Second at sectional in 10:17.95, he placed ninth at regional in 10:09.86.
Second in the county 1,600 in 4:43.46, he placed third at PAC in 4:35.12, third at sectional in 4:31.35, and challenged for a state trip when he placed fifth at regional in 4:30.39.
Wilson's 13-3 pole vault in the Princeton Invitational set the school record. His 13-0 vaults won county and placed third at sectional before a 13-2 work placed sixth at regional.
Evans, who like brothers Tre' and Tory transferred from Evansville Central to PCHS in the winter and joined Wilkerson on the 400 relay team that reached state, won 100 dash titles with times of 11.93 at county and 11.60 at sectional.
Second at Big Eight in 11.61, he narrowly missed a state berth when his 11.29 at regional placed fourth.
Bostick won the county 200 in 24.44 before placing third in Big Eight in 23.89 and second at sectional in 23.94.
Clark, county 400 champ in 53.17, ran fourth at Big Eight in 52.51 and second at sectional in 52.52 before he and Bostick ended their seasons at regional.