DES MOINES, IOWA – Jake Poyner capped his high school career competing among the nation’s elite runners Saturday.
The former Warsaw star captured ninth place in the 1,500 at the USA Junior Outdoor Tack and Field Championships.
Poyner, who will attend Wake Forest in the fall, clocked in at 3:56.39 in the finals of the event held at Drake University.
Poyner had qualified for the finals by placing fourth in his heat Friday in a time of 3:51.75.
Justin Brinkley of Stanford University won the 1,500 final with a time of 3:46.64. Brinkley had run a 3:49.90 on Friday to win the heat Poyner raced in.
Craig Engels of North Carolina State University placed second Saturday in a time of 3:46.77. Samuel Prakel of Versailles (Ohio) High School was third in a time of 3:46.93. Six of the eight runners who placed ahead of Poyner were college runners.
“It was really fun and just a good experience for me to be a part of,” said Poyner in a phone interview late Sunday night. “I had a blast. It was such a fun atmosphere there to be around all the pro athletes who were there competing.
“The first day was awesome. I felt really good and I was really happy with my time and place. My goal was to qualify for the finals so I could stay another day. The race Friday went great for me. I just felt really blessed and grateful how it went.
“The second race went fine, it just didn’t turn out quite like I hoped. I put myself in good position and then I lost contact with the lead guys and got out kicked by several other guys at the end.”
The Championships, which concluded today, featured many of the elite 19-under runners in the country.
Poyner had competed in the 1,500 just once prior to Friday. He ran a 3:55 in the race last year.
Poyner says he will use his two-day experience as he goes forward to college.
“There is definitely stuff I learned that I can work on and it was a great eye-opener to me to what the 1,500 is like and what college will be like,” Poyner said. “My coach from Wake was out there and we talked about some things.
“I just tried to enjoy it and take away what I could from it. The opportunity to get that kind of experience is probably the best part of it. It gets me excited for next year and confident that I can go in and contribute right away.”
Poyner turned in a stellar senior season for the Tigers. He helped lead coach Jim Mills’ cross country team to a fourth place finish at the State Finals last October. Poyner then finished third in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200 at the Track State Finals held in Bloomington May 31 to help coach Matt Thacker’s team place fifth. Both State Finals finishes were the highest in program history for WCHS.
Poyner also had an impressive effort June 15 in the Midwest Meet of Champions in Fort Wayne. He led the Indiana All-Stars to a 1-2-3 finish in the 3,200 with a personal best time of 9:09.80 to win the race.
Poyner said he now plans to take a couple of weeks off before resuming training. He is slated to head to Wake Forest in late August.