WARSAW – Jake Poyner admits the last year has been a “blast” as he put the wraps on an outstanding high school running career.
The Warsaw star would love to go out with one final bang on a huge stage this weekend.
Poyner qualifed and will compete with many of the nation’s top runners in the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The meet began on Wednesday and runs through Sunday at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Poyner, a 2013 WCHS graduate and Wake Forest recruit, is slated to compete in the 1,500 Friday. His qualifying race is set for 2:30 p.m. (EST). He was set to leave this morning to travel to the event with a couple of his high school coaches, including cross country coach Jim Mills.
“I’m looking forward to this,” said Poyner in a phone interview Wednesday. “It means a lot to me to get this chance to go out there and compete. This race is important to me. It will be dominated by college freshmen.
“I feel great right now. This is another opportunity to gain experience and exposure. It’s just another step in the process of me getting better as a runner and trying to become the best I can be.”
Poyner has had a pretty good last three weeks to say the least. He placed third in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200 at the State Finals in Bloomington May 31 to help Warsaw finish fifth as a team, the highest-ever finish for the program. Poyner then led a 1-2-3 finish in the 3,200 for the Indiana All-Stars in the Midwest Meet of Champions last Saturday in Fort Wayne with a personal record time of 9:09.80.
“That was just a blast and awesome last weekend,” said Poyner of the MMC. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had that much fun running the two mile before. The three of us talked before the race about going out and killing it and I wanted to PR and it all worked out perfectly for us.”
Poyner, who has run the 1,500 once before, will face a loaded field in the competition for elite 19-under runners. There are 32 runners in the 1,500, many of them college freshmen. The top qualifying time is 3:45.51 by Craig Engels of North Carolina State University. Poyner’s qualifying time is 4:09.92.
“I would love to get out of my heat Friday and be able to stay another day,” said Poyner. “I don’t want to restrict my goals to that though. I ran a 3:55 in the 1,500 last year and I want to go under that. I’d like to run around 3:51.”
“I just want to make sure I enjoy this and be okay with the results,” added the always thoughtful and humble standout. “This is a huge blessing and opportunity for me. I’m so grateful for it.”
Poyner, who helped lead the Warsaw cross country team to a fourth place finish at the State Finals last fall, plans for this to be his last competitive race for a while.
“I’ve continued to train since State, but I definitely plan to take a couple of weeks off after this weekend,” Poyner remarked. “I’ll take my break and then start my training for college.”
Poyner, who will head to Wake Forest in mid-August to start his collegiate career, admits there is a twinge of sadness as he looks back on a whirlwind senior year full of accomplishments.
“It was just a huge blast,” Poyner said. “It just disappeared. I just want to make sure I fully engage myself because it’s gone before you know it.
“There’s a little bit of sadness for me looking back as I realize I’m done as teammates with all the guys.”