GOSHEN – All was not lost for Wawasee at the Goshen Boys Track Sectional.
While several areas of strength did not show well as the sectional unfolded Thursday night for the Wawasee boys track program, there were a few moments of glory that will parlay into regional appearances at Kokomo next Thursday.
Early noise from Wawasee at Goshen had JJ Gilmer win the high jump in a blossoming rivalry against Warsaw’s Stephen Kolbe. The two went jump for jump, and after NorthWood’s Devon Hunsberger bowed out at 6’2″, Gilmer and Kolbe upped the ante and cleared 6’4″. Gilmer, however, cleared the mark first, giving him the edge as neither competitor could raise the bar any further. A sectional championship was awarded to Gilmer, the first postseason win of his career.
Just a few minutes later on the track, Clayton Cook took aim on the 110-high hurdles and outsprinted Cameron Kitson of Fairfield to the finish line for a 15.08 winner, just .05 ahead of Kitson’s lean.
“It was nice to see those two come through because those two have put in a lot of work this season to get to this point,” stated Wawasee head coach Scott Lancaster. “I’m hoping they will both be in the hunt next week. At Kokomo, things are going to get a lot tighter and the competition is going to get a lot stronger. I’m hoping they come through with enough to advance to state.”
The magic for the two, who both had two events to go, however, ran out. Gilmer entered the long jump as the two-seed with a best leap of over 21 feet. On Thursday, Gilmer could not best his previous mark and settled for a distance of 20’03.75″, which was about five inches short of Fairfield’s Dillon Lockwood. Fifth place for Gilmer, one spot out of regional qualifying.
Cook ran into trouble in the 300 hurdles, literally. Speeding along without much hesitation, Cook had reached four hurdles without any problem as he built a decent lead. But as the final 100 meters approached, Cook slowed down as the rest of the pack caught up. With two hurdles to go, not only had Goshen’s Cristian Barron caught and passed Cook, but the pitter-patter of several cleats were all around. When the shuffle had reached the finish line, Cook was deemed fifth-best at 41.20, .02 slower than Warsaw’s Taylor Cone and .14 behind second-place Michael Presnell of Northridge. Barron won with a time of 40.33.
The 4×100 relay, with Gilmer and Cook running third and fourth, could not keep pace with the rest of the field as the Warrior relay – with Michael Pena and Jake Hutchinson running the first two legs – landed eighth at 45.37 after posting a seed time of 44.42.
The best of times, the worst of times.
“Clayton was so far ahead of everybody, but at the fourth hurdle, he almost came to a complete stop and jumped over, but was still in the lead,” began Lancaster of the 300 hurdles drama. “Because he did that, his steps were off. So all the hurdles after that he was not in step and everybody caught up. It just goes to show what the potential he has in the event. His touchdown times showed he had a 38-39 second race. That’s disappointing that he can’t have another chance to see if he could actually run that.”
Wawasee had just one other competitor automatically qualify for the Kokomo Regional, and for the first time in the 3200, Adam Doll can breathe a sigh of relief. After two seasons of running well at the start only to fade at the finish, Doll put together a strong two-mile Thursday night. Refusing to fall behind Elkhart Central’s Hunter Niemzyk as the packs began to form, Doll remained locked on the heels of Blake O’Dell of Northridge for much of the race.
As Warsaw’s Jacob Poyner, the runaway winner at 9:33.28, and Elkhart Christian Academy’s Joe Hartman (second, 9:39.54) separated themselves, O’Dell and Doll sped along as a second cluster with Niemzyk fading fast. Even a late push from the Central freshman couldn’t catch Doll as he finished fourth at 9:54.15, four seconds behind O’Dell, but a full 18 seconds ahead of a third year of misery.
“Today was the culmination of a weird offseason of injuries in cross country and increasing his strength,” Lancaster said of Doll. “We cleaned his plate of everything else and let him focus on just this race. And good for him, he gets to move on. I’m happy to for Adam to have another week to race.”
Wawasee had just three other individuals take top-eight at the sectional. Zach Cockrill was sixth in the super-competitive 800 at 2:01.10 and Chad Eppley closed out his high school career in both throwing events. The senior sent his best shot put toss 45’11” for sixth place and spiraled the discus 130’07” for eighth overall.
Wawasee as a team scored 42 points to land in seventh place, one point ahead of Jimtown and 12.5 in back of Goshen.