As a layer of sweat fell off his brow and onto the track, St. Anthony's Jake Hensler raised his arms. His salute was one worthy of a champion and the senior certainly qualified.
Hensler won the 3,000- meters steeplechase in 9 minutes, 40.17 seconds at the NSCHSAA boys championships Saturday at St. Anthony's. The time helped the Friars win the team championship with 136.5 points, more than double the total of the next closest team.
The victory acted as a bit of redemption for Hensler. He came in second by a mere .05 seconds at last year's championships. He wasn't about to let that happen again -- not at his final league championship meet.
"Last year, I was hanging off another guy's shoulder and was going to outkick him on the final straightaway," he said. "But he held me off."
This year, Hensler had a plan and he stuck to it.
"[Second-place finisher] Jake Morales from St. John the Baptist is a very good runner," Hensler said. "He beat me a couple of weeks ago. My game plan was to hang on him for as long as I could and then, at the second to last water barrier, make a strong move."
The water barriers, always a make-or-break component to the steeplechase, treated Hensler well as he maneuvered around his home track.
"You want to surge toward it so you have momentum going over it," Hensler said. "Then you want to land one foot in the water and bring the other one right out of the water. Only one foot should be in the water so you can continue your stride. I did that very well."
Other Friars contributed to the championship. Louis Santelli came from behind to win the 1,600 in 4:16.25. Like Hensler, Santelli began the race with a conservative approach.
"There were only five people in my heat, so I was hoping to stay around second or third place for most of the race and see what I could do around the last two laps," Santelli said.
After being held off with 200 meters left, the junior out-sprinted Chaminade's Sean Kelly in the final 100.
"I put my head down and said, 'I have to win this,' " he said.
Santelli also took the 800, in 1:54.79, and teammate Mozai Nelson won the 100 in 11.29 seconds. After a false start, Nelson quickly had to refocus.
"I was a little skeptical that I was going to get out as well again," Nelson said. "But after I heard [the official say] 'set', I took a breath, got out, had a good drive phase, and finished strong."
Nelson worked on his drive phase all week, perfecting it by completing 50 starts per day.
St. Anthony's Joseph Percival and Brad Monegro finished second and third, respectively. Percival finished in 11.34 seconds. Monegro in 11.54 seconds. The trio gave the Friars 13 points in the event.
"Those points were great for us to build an early lead," Nelson said.