DAYTON — With a third place finish at the OHSAA Division I Dayton Regional the Wayne boys track team saw two of its relay teams and two individual athletes advance to the state meet.
Junior Joel Crain took 1st place in the shot put to advance to state with a toss of 55-feet, 2.75-inches.
It’s the second consecutive year a Wayne thrower has won the regional meet in the shot put (2016 Mazon Walker).
“It was Joel’s day to shine. He’s throwing well as of late, and we think he’s ready to unleash a big one. All his throws were over 51 feet,” said Wayne Coach Michael Fernandez. “I don’t think he’s content with just making it to state either. He’s ready to prove he belongs with the best throwers in the state.”
Teammate Ben Jackson was 8th with a toss of 50 feet 9.25 inches.
“Unfortunately, Ben didn’t throw his best here. It’s a shame, because he’s been consistent all year,” Fernandez commented. “He belonged here, and he’s had a great two years throwing for us. Not bad for someone who didn’t start throwing until last year. He’s the consummate professional, and a big part of our team success this year.”
In the discus, Crain was 5th, throwing 158 feet 7 inches.
“Joel was fourth most of the meet, but got bumped to fifth on the last throw. He had a shot, but wasn’t meant to be this year,” Fernandez said.
Sophomore Zarik Brown qualified in the 200 meter dash placing third in 22.29 seconds, a personal best. Only the top four placers in each event advanced to state.
“Zarik had a great start, but even a better finish, all from lane 8,” Fernandez noted. “I’ve been saying all year long that he was going to be something special. He’s not done either. His confidence has grown these past 3 weeks. It would not shock me to see him on the podium this weekend at state.”
Brown almost qualified in the 100 meter dash as well. His time of 11.15 was .01 from qualifying 4th (he placed 6th).
“The 100 meter race was so close, a matter of centimeters. Less than .15 separated the top 6 places.”
Brown also qualified for state as a member of the 4×100 meter relay team along with sophomores Davonte Jackson-Reddick, Justin Harris and senior Kevin Wright. They clocked their best time of the year in 42.55 seconds to place 3rd. Because of the postponement of Day 1 events due to weather , all running events were to be ran as a 2 heat timed finals, instead of the traditional 1 heat with top 4 advancing.
“With the weather on Wednesday and no other contingency plan, we had no choice but to run a timed two heat finals for the sprint races and relay. It made qualifying a little bit tougher. We knew we had to run our best, and run for time and just hope we did enough,” Fernandez said.
Usually running the first heat (considered the slow heat), the chances of qualifying was slim. However, this relay took the opportunity and had their best exchanges of the year, bettering it’s time by over a second.
“We ran what I thought we were capable of doing all year long. We had some constant turnover of athletes running this event, but at the end, we had the best four runners on the relay and it showed.”
The 4×400 relay team also qualified for state. Also in the dreaded slow heat, the quartet of Joseph Collins, Terrion McGhee, Justin Harris and Elijah Hill ran a season’s best time of 3:24.39, winning their heat and placing fourth overall, edging GWOC foe, Lebanon, who ran 3:24.43 from the second heat.
“We watched for three plus minutes, the second heat, and when the time flashed for Lebanon, we all jumped for joy, knowing we advanced by .04 seconds. I’m so proud of these guys, because they ran their hearts out. We will have our hands full to qualify for the finals at state, but they surprised many by getting there, anything can happen.”
However, with the excitement of qualifying, there were a few heartbreaks as well.
The 4×200 meter relay team of Brown, Harris, Wright and Caleb Butcher ran the season’s best time of 1:29.14, but placed 5th overall.
“We were actually in the fast heat, but coming out of lane 8, we just didn’t have enough to get through,” Fernandez stated. “This was probably the relay that had the best chance to advance, but it wasn’t meant to be. We ran well, had great exchanges, but had to run in the 1:28s to get in.”
Lucas Houk, a sophomore, placed 7th in the 1600 meter run, running 4:27.35.
“Lucas did awesome. I think the immediate goal was top 8, and it took sub 4:18 to qualify,” Fernandez commented. “He got some tremendous experience running with the competition. He had a great season.”
Justin Harris placed 6th in the 110 hurdles.
“Justin didn’t have his best race. I know he’s disappointed, but he will bounce back and is ready to get here again next year. We hope he learns and grows from this. He’s no doubt, one of the best hurdlers returning next year.”
Others competing at the regional were senior Kristin Liljuson who placed 9th in the pole vault, clearing a personal best of 13 feet 6 inches.
“A great way to end his senior year. Kristin improved from a 10 foot vaulter last year to a regional qualifier,” Fernandez commented.
Jalil Pollard finished 13th in the 300 meter hurdles at 41.28 seconds.
Lucas Houk finished 12th in the 800 meter run in 2:092.57.
The 4×800 meter relay team of Pollard, Houk, Henry Jones and Jacob Miller competed Wednesday in the torrential downpour and finished 11th in 8:41.89.
“To place 3rd as a team was a huge accomplishment,” Fernandez said. “We had our chances to place even higher. We would like to think if we were able to run the preliminary on Wednesday that maybe the outcome would be different. But we were dealt this hand, as all teams were, and we did our best. I will tell you, these next two years we can be pretty special. But for now, we have some quality athletes and events representing Wayne High School for the state meet.”
Two Girls Advance
Junior Taylor Robertson broke a 40 year record in the long jump. Her jump of 18 feet 2.5 inches broke the mark of Dawn Preyor, who went 18 feet 1.5 inches in 1977.
“Taylor had an incredible day jumping,” Fernandez noted. “Her series were 16-feet, 5.75-inches, 18-feet, 2.5-inches and 14-feet, 4.75-inches in the first round, then 16-feet, 8-inches, 18-feet, 1.7-inches and 18-feet. So she had three jumps over 18 feet. She placed fourth, the second straight year she’s qualified in the event. You can tell she felt relieved after that record breaking jump. That was the oldest record we had. I think she has a shot to rewrite the record books again at state. Taylor placed 8th last year, so she knows what it’s going to take to get back on the podium.”
Graysen Simmons, a senior, qualified for her first outdoor state meet, by placing 4th in the pole vault, clearing 11-feet, 4-inches.
“I am so pumped for Gray to qualify for state,” Fernandez stated. “She’s been working hard for four years to get here. I know she didn’t have her best meet, but she can rebound by jumping what’s she’s capable of at state. Like Taylor, Simmons broke the school record earlier in the year. She too can rewrite the record books at state as well.”
The 4×100 meter relay team of Robertson, Amani Westry, Makayla Portis and Diamond Jones ran their season’s best time of 49.95 to place 7th.
“We were hoping for top 8 and these ladies ran their best race of the year. Our region is so tough in this event. We have broken 50 seconds all year. I’m so happy they were able to get on the podium.”
Amani Westry also qualified to the regionals in the 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash.
The 4×200 meter relay team Ka’Niya McGowan, Kennedi Smith, Amaya Howard and Charity Smith placed 14th, Robertson placed 9th in the 100 hurdles, and Simmons placed 13th in the high jump.
The 4×800 relay team of Brooklyn Cassidy, Kristen Hoelscher, Madi Cochren and Sabryna Creech placed 16th.
“We had a good representation of athletes here at the regional meet,” Fernandez added. “We always would love to have advanced more, but in our tough region, we competed well and advanced two pretty good athletes, both who have a great chance of placing.”
The state track and field championships for Division I teams will be held Friday starting at 4:45 p.m. and resumes Saturday at noon at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind