Elite-level running was on showcase once again this past week, this time at West Allis Nathan Hale High School outside of Milwaukee where some of the best and most accomplished distance runners in the midwest gathered for the annual Hale Distance Night.

While initially created for the intention of creating fast races for those top level athletes, Nathan Hale cross-country coach Danny Machmueller said it has turned into so much more.

“The night has brought together the Wisconsin distance running community for a party under the lights,” he said. “Seeing teammates run over to celebrate another teammate will never get old, and neither will the sportsmanship, camaraderie and smiles shared among everyone in attendance. It was an absolute blast!”

A total of 116 athletes crossed the finish line with 113 of those posting either a personal- or season-best time. There were 95 all-time personal bests in the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs.

“Three meet records were broken in the women’s 800, men’s 800 and women’s 1,600,” said Machmueller. “I know many school records were also set tonight.”

One of those school records that were broke came at the hands of Northland Pines sophomore Nora Gremban, who along with her brother Sam was invited to take part in the 1,600 meter run.

“This race was one of the most anticipated races of the night,” said Machmueller. “The field consisted of two cross- country State champions and many who were in the top 10 this fall among all three divisions.”

Gremban took off from the opening gun and set the pace for most of the race while Monona Grove freshman Mackenzie Babcock ran right on her heels before having a strong finish to steal the victory in a meet-record time of 4:51.56.

Three women broke the five-minute barrier including Gremban who posted a new Pines school record and personal record time of 4:55.56. The other runner who plunged below five minutes was Benton-Scales senior Kayci Martensen who crossed the line third in 4:59.75.

“This race definitely did not disappoint as seven more girls came in under the 5:20 mark,” said Machmueller. “Babcock looked to use the great competition to just latch on and see what she had in the last lap, and that strategy definitely paid off.”

Gremban’s time is the top time posted so far this year in the State for Division 2 while Martensen’s is the top time in Division 3.

With the event time and finish, Gremban also qualified to run in the Nike Outdoor Nationals as part of the Champion Division. That meet will be held in Eugene, Ore., this June, on campus at the University of Oregon. The four-day event will feature four separate divisions. Gremban’s run will take place Sunday afternoon as one of the feature events of the entire meet.

On the boys side, Pines senior Sam Gremban continued his outstanding early season as he took part in the Hale Distance Night in the 1,600-meter run.

“One of the closest fields in terms of previous personal bests from top to bottom, the boys mile looked to be anyone’s race,” said Machmueller. “

Machmueller said that with such a big race of evenly matched athletes, he wasn’t surprised that the race turned out to be a bit tactical early.

“That was until Zach Vance of Oconomowoc set the tone into the second lap,” he said. “(Kyle) Knutson of Homestead stayed on his shoulder and tried to make a move the third lap, but Vance held it off all the way to the finish for a victory in 4:22.35.

Gremban set an unbelievable pace for himself as he would cross 14th overall in the field of 20 runners, His time of 4.34.71 was more than six seconds faster that his time he posted just a week earlier in Illinois at the Palantine Distance Showcase. With a new personal-best time, he also is now just three seconds off the school-record pace he continues to chase.

“The night provided some fast times and amazing races,” said Machmueller.