KOKOMO – Wawasee boys track coach Scott Lancaster expected great things out of both JJ Gilmer and Clayton Cook at the Kokomo Regional Thursday night.
The dynamic duo didn’t disappoint him.
The stellar sophomores performed like seasoned veterans on a cold and blustery night at Walter Cross Field.
Gilmer soared to a regional championship in the high jump and Cook calmly earned a runner-up finish in the 110 meter hurdles.
The pair combined to earn 18 points, good enough to land Wawasee in a tie for 13th place in the final team standings.
But, much more importantly, it landed both of the standouts a spot in the State Finals set for May 31 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Gilmer was seeded second in the long jump after clearing 6-4 last win to win the sectional title at Goshen. Cook was the No. 2 seed in his specialty.
“This is where they should be,” said Lancaster. “Both JJ and Clayton should have been competing for a championship tonight. They both have competed at a high level all season against good competition. They both had a lot of confidence coming into tonight.
“We wanted both of them to just relax and compete tonight. This is do or die. Our aim was for both of them to advance (finish in the top three). We wanted them to jump clean, run clean and give themselves an opportunity.
“You never know what to expect with the high jump here. A lot of people come here and jump well and tonight JJ came out on top thank goodness.”
Gilmer cleared 6-6 to earn his regional championship. Kokomo senior Waylon Culter was second at 6-4, while defending champion Stephen Kolbe of Warsaw placed fourth as he cleared 6-2. Culver senior Bradley Beaver, who was the top seed coming in with a height of 6-5, only made 5-10 Thursday night.
“I was really happy to make it here and my goal tonight was to advance to State, so it feels cool to win it and to be going to State,” said Gilmer. “It’s pretty exciting.
“I was kind of frustrated early on tonight and then I made 6-1 and that pumped me up and got my adrenalin going.”
Gilmer, who had been dealing with shin splints, attempted 6-8 1/2 to try and break the school record of 6-8, but did not make it. His personal best is a 6-7 jump earlier this season versus Goshen.
Cook just wanted to hold on to that No. 2 seed spot. He did just that after posting the top time in the prelims Thursday night with a 15.01. Cook claimed the runner-up spot in the finals by clocking a 15.05, topped only by the 14.87 turned in by South Bend Clay senior Jordan Hunt.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” said Cook about his runner-up finish and State Finals berth. “I was seeded second and wanted to maintain that and I did. There was a ton of pressure to stay in that place tonight.
“I felt pretty good about my race in the prelims. In the finals, I hit the first three, maybe four hurdles. My No. 1 goal was to make it out and I did that.”
Cook competed in the 110 hurdles at the regional a year ago, but failed to qualify for the finals.
Junior Adam Doll was the third Wawasee athlete to compete Thursday night. He placed 11th in the 3,200 with a time of 10:08.70.
Triton senior Trenton Stackhouse finished in 14th place in the 1,600 with a time of 4:49.69. Triton freshman Jeremy Jones competed in the prelims of the 100, but did not qualify for the finals with his time of 11.68.
Tippecanoe Valley junior Nolan Sponseller was ninth in the 400 with a time of 52.91 and clocked in at 23.72 in the prelims of the 200, placing 11th to miss the cut for the finals.
Valley sophomore Michael Thacker tied for 12th in the prelims of the 100 with a time of 11.62.