WARSAW – Jake Poyner’s track career at Warsaw Community High School is set to come to a close Friday night.
The lasting impression made by Poyner, though, is sure to carry on for a long, long time.
Poyner, the epitome of a student-athlete, is ready to compete for the final time as a Tiger at the State Finals.
The dedicated distance star, who is bound for Wake Forest, says he feels different this time around than in his previous three trips to the State Finals.
“I’m feeling good and I’m excited for Friday,” said Poyner at practice Tuesday night. “It’s so different from past years for me. In the past, there have been things that scared me at this point.
“I know I have nothing to lose. These are my final races. I’ve learned to trust God more, when in the past I had doubts.
“I’m more fit and more confident this year. My mind is free and I just plan to go for it.”
Poyner is seed No. 2 in the 1,600 with a time of 4:18.56. LaPorte junior Anthony Didion is the top seed at 4:17.50. Poyner is also seeded 11th in the 3,200 with a time of 9:26.40. Barr-Reeve senior Connor Sorrells is the No. 1 seed in the 3,200 with a time of 9:08.34.
“My main goals Friday are to PR in both races,” said Poyner, who won both the 1,600 and the 3,200 at the Kokomo Regional last week. “I want to go under 4:10 in the 1,600 and under 9:19 in the 3,200. I know I can win the 1,600. There are multiple guys in that race who could, including Robert (teammate Robert Murphy). It’s important for me to do as well as I can to get the points for our team.”
Worrying about his team in what amounts to an individual sport defines the selfless Poyner.
“You can’t have a better role model for the younger guys in our program than Jake Poyner,” said Warsaw coach Matt Thacker. “It’s all the little things he brings to the table.
“Everything Jake does is for our team and that’s in an individual sport. I’m just blessed to have kids, like Jake, who truly care. A God fearing, self-servant. That’s Jake to a tee.
“You can’t replace a kid like Jake Poyner. He’s great in the classroom. He’s great is his community. He’s great to coach.
“I would love to see Jake go out on top Friday night on the big stage. He deserves it.”
Poyner led the WCHS cross country team to a fourth-place finish at the State Finals last October. He placed 10th in the 1,600 at the State Finals in 2012.
Poyner’s lasting legacy will be about much more than all the points he’s scored and the races he’s won in his prolific prep career.
“I just want to be known more for who I was as a teammate and a friend than as a good runner,” Poyner said. “That’s what’s important to me. I’ve realized how important the smaller things are.
“It’s been a huge blessing to me. I’ve had great coaches who have listened and been fun to work with.
“I trace things to how I was raised. My parents have been great with all of their support. And my church has been like a family to me. So many people have helped me along the way. I’ve really been blessed.”
The Tigers will take a strong contingent to Indiana University for the State Finals, which begin at 3 p.m. Friday. No. 7 Warsaw edged Penn 76-73 to capture its second regional team title in the last three years last Thursday under brutally cold conditions at Kokomo.
Senior Robert Murphy will look to cap a stellar season. Murphy is seeded fourth in the 800 with a time of 1:55.46 after dominating the race at the regional. Lawrence Central senior Matt Dorsey is the top see with a time of 1:53.44. Murphy is also seeded sixth in the 1,600 with a time of 4:22.29.
Junior Seth Fouts, who won a regional title last week, could score big points in the shot put for the Tigers. Fouts, who missed most of the season due to an injury, is seeded No. 7 with a throw of 55-03.75. Decatur Central junior Lakayur McNeil is the top seed with a throw of 57-10.25.
The Tigers also have senior Taylor Cone in the 110 hurdles and its 4 X 400 relay team of Wyatt Jones, Gabe Furnivall, Nate Kolbe and Ryan Goon. Cone is seeded No. 26 with a time of 15.16, while the 4 X 400 squad is seeded No. 12 with its time of 3:25.37.
Wawasee will be well represented in Bloomington Friday by sophomore standouts JJ Gilmer and Clayton Cook.
Gilmer claimed the high jump regional title at Kokomo last week. He is seeded sixth in his specialty with a height of 6-6. Evansville Harrison senior Eric Blackman is the top seed with a jump of 6-09.50.
Cook earned his first state finals berth with a second-place finish in the 110 hurdles at Kokomo. He is seeded No. 25 in the hurdles at state with a time of 15.05.
Action begins Friday at IU at 3 p.m. with the pole vault, long jump and discus events. The high jump and shot put start at 3:30 with the 3,200 relay finals at 4:15. Track trials are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. with track finals starting at 6:15.