SOUTH BEND – Clayton Cook was not going to be denied Thursday night.
Neither was teammate JJ Gilmer.
The outstanding Wawasee duo are both headed back to the State Finals.
Cook and Gilmer each earned runner-up finishes in their specialties at the South Bend St. Joseph Track Regional.
The pair of Warrior juniors will make a return trip to State, set for June 7 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
The top three finishers in each event Thursday night earn a berth in Bloomington.
Cook, who recently made a verbal commitment to play football at Ball State University, persevered through pain to place second in the 110-meter hurdles. He was also second in the event last year at the Kokomo Regional.
Cook, who injured his right hamstring in the Goshen Sectional last Thursday, finished in a time of 14.98. He entered the event seeded first in a time of 14.55. Fairfield senior Cameron Kitson won the regional title in a time of 14.72.
“I got what I needed out of tonight and that’s a spot at State,” said Cook, who confirmed that it was a hamstring strain. “I knew I only needed a top three finish tonight and that was my goal. I didn’t have to risk the leg for first place. I wanted to be able to run next week.
“It’s a good thing that Cameron won tonight. He’s a good friend of mine and he deserves this regional championship.
“It hurts when I run right now. But, it played out okay tonight and kept together. I’ve been doing a lot of resting the last week and will rest it more. I wanted to be 100 percent tonight, but I feel I’m about 70-75 percent. I should be close to 100 next week for State.”
Gilmer was all good with his second-place finish. The soft-spoken junior won the regional title at Kokomo last year by going 6-6. He went 6-4 3/4 Thursday, losing in a jump off to Elkhart Central junior Treyton Harris. Both missed a 6-6 in the jump off and then Gilmer missed at 6-4 and Harris cleared 6-4.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” said Gilmer. “I’m excited to be going to State again. To make it to State again as a junior is great.
“I’m still happy that I won the regional last year. That put a lot more pressure on me this year with a target on my back. But, it’s pushed me harder. The only way you get better is to go against people who are better than you.
“I still have a lot to work on and a lot to learn that I can use for next year. I just feel a lot better about my attitude this year. I think I’ve only gotten mad like two times this season.”
Junior Zach Cockrill earned a fourth place finish in the 800 for the Warriors. He clocked in at 1:57.35, better than his seed time of 1:57.84.
Junior Jon Walker captured sixth place in the discus for coach Scott Lancaster’s Warriors. His top throw Thursday was 142-11 1/2, bettering his seed mark of 137-02.
The Warriors scored 24 points to place eighth in the final team standings. Warsaw won its second straight regional championship and third in the last four years with 77 points. Penn was runner-up with 76 points.