PLYMOUTH — Neither Dakota Parker nor Jameson Baker had their best performances at Thursday’s Plymouth Sectional, but it didn’t matter. Both were more than good enough to move on to the next phase of the tournament as the state track and field series opened.
Parker repeated as sectional champ in the 400 meters, and Baker collected the discus championship on his way to regional berths in both throwing events. The senior duo were the only Tippecanoe Valley athletes to advance as Plymouth and Culver Military Academy crowded out the lion’s share of the top three spots on the way to 145 and 119 points, respectively, echoing Tuesday’s girls meet.
While the host Pilgrims completed their boys/ girls championship sweep, Valley wound up in seventh place in the final team standings with 42 points Thursday, and Triton scored a single point en route to 11th place. Whitko showcased its short distance corps to finish third with 86 points, and Manchester finished fifth with a score of 49.
Parker entered sectional as the easy 400 favorite with a 49.98-second seed time ahead of Plymouth’s Jorge Calix and his 51.75-second seed. Calix wound up withdrawing from the race, but teammate Blake Reed wound up giving Parker a pretty good run for his money before the Viking standout held him off with a 50.82 finish to Reed’s runner-up, 51.17 time.
“At the beginning it really kind of threw me off guard because the guy that was seeded second ended up not running because he pulled his hamstring or something. So that kind of threw me off there at the very beginning, but then I just settled in,” explained Parker. “The goal was to catch him by the 200 mark; I think I did a pretty good job of that. Coming out of the curve, I heard him kind of close but held on just enough to get it done.”
Parker also finished eighth in the 100-meter dash with a 12.08-second stop, and he closed out the evening running anchor in the 1600 relay behind teammates Dwight Conley, Ethan Hartman and Matthew Helvey, where the quartet clocked 3:45.12 for sixth place.
The Plymouth meet was hopefully only the first step for Parker in the quarter-mile after he closed his junior season at the IHSAA State Finals in Bloomington last year. It wasn’t his best, but it was more than Parker needed to punch his ticket to next Thursday’s Warsaw Regional.
“It wasn’t a PR, but at this point it really doesn’t have to be. It’s all about place from here on out,” he said. “As long as you can beat the guy behind you, that’s really all that matters. I think I got off on the right foot tonight.”
Baker started off the night on a high note with a 143’01” throw in the discus finals — more than 4 feet better than runner-up Culver Community sophomore Carter Stevens’ best — but his shot put finals got off to a bumpy start.
Baker scratched on his first two attempts before finally recording a distance of 48’10.5”, good enough for second place behind Culver Community senior Marcellus Anderson’s 51’10.5” toss. The finish was disappointing given Baker’s legitimate shot at winning dual titles in Plymouth, but, like Parker’s performance in the 400, it was plenty good enough.
“We were counting on him making it out in both,” said Valley coach Jenny Moriarty of Baker. “Great winning the disc. It wasn’t his best throw, but still I think he threw a 143’ on his first time. Shot was a little nerve-wracking because it was his third throw that got him out; he scratched the first two. He was a little disappointed with that because he didn’t win it. The Culver guy threw well, but Jameson can throw what that guy did. He’s there. We said ‘Get him at regional. You’re out. You’re focused now on regional.’”
Another Valley senior, Will Hassenplug, threw 42’08.5” for sixth place to give the Vikings a strong one-two in the event. Hassenplug also finished 11th in disc with a 115’02” measurement there. Justin Peconga ended on the bubble in the high jump with a 5’08” mark to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place with Whitko’s Zack Freel and Bremen’s Evan Manges, meanwhile. Plymouth senior Nate Patterson easily claimed the championship with a 7-foot clearance on his way to the sweep of both jumping events.
“Justin Peconga got fourth in high jump. Kind of hard when one of them just sweeps it. You really just have two spots left with him. But he did well,” said Moriarty.
While Freel finished just shy of a regional berth, Whitko enjoyed a total of seven regional-qualifying performances Thursday.
Alex Wilson claimed the championship in the 200 meters with a 22.6-second stop following a runner-up, 11.27-second finish in the 100, and his 20’03” distance in the long jump was good enough for third place there. Shad Ebbinghouse was runner-up in both hurdles races, meanwhile, with a time of 15.6 in the 110s and a 41.8 in the 300s as Plymouth’s Sam Tanner swept the two events, and he also combined with Freel, Aiden Bechtold and Gabe Gaff for second place in the 4×100 with a 44.84 stop behind Plymouth’s winning 44.65 time. Ronald Patrick collected the Wildcats another runner-up finish and regional berth in the pole vault with a 12’06” height.
Manchester’s athletes performed solidly in Plymouth, but the Squires finished with just two top three finishes, both by jumper Isaiah Davis.
Davis placed second in the high jump with a 6-foot height and was also second behind Patterson in the long jump with a 20’08” distance. Manchester’s 4×800 squad of Lance Bennett, Ethan Davis, Wilson Nettleton and Monty Pattison were a little over a second short of a berth in their race, meanwhile, with an 8:44.9 stop to Plymouth’s third-place, 8:43.13 finish and could backdoor into Warsaw with a call-back.
Triton’s only point Thursday came in the shot put, where Connor Ousley tossed the weight 40’05” for eight place. The Trojans’ only other top 10 finish came in the 4×400, where Trenton Barhart, Hunter McIntyre, Josiah Page and Jesse Page turned in a 4:05.84-second time for ninth place. Jesse Page was 13th in the 800 meters, Josiah Page was 12th in the 300 hurdles, and Josiah and Brandon Kitch finished 13th and 14th, respectively, in the mile. McIntyre was 12th in the 400, and Kitch was 14th in the two-mile for the young Trojans.