WARSAW — After a tough Northern Lakes Conference-opener with Elkhart Memorial with Elkhart Memorial last week, first-year Warsaw boys track and field coach John Wesley Maierle challenged the Tigers to do one thing in their return to their home field Thursday: Just compete.
Warsaw’s boys did that and then some, beating visiting Northidge 76-56 and topping Wawasee by a remote, 109-23 margin. The Warriors finished at the bottom of the NLC pile with a 96-35 loss in Warsaw, meanwhile.
The celebration after last Tuesday’s disappointing loss to Memorial was a lively one.
“Our biggest thing that I said to them this week was ‘Compete. Compete at the highest level you can because that’s the reality of what we’re doing in track and field. You can’t guard the other guy. What you do on the track, you do on the track.’ That was the big thing,” explained Maierle. “You heard a lot of cheers in (the locker room) because I preached compete all day, and they competed today. They really did.”
Warsaw’s boys collected one-two finishes in a total of six events — in the pole vault, the 110-meter hurdles, the 1600, 3200, the 400 and the high jump, where they actually swept the top three spots Thursday. The Tigers also earned wins in both the 200-meter dash and the 4×100 relay en route to their two conference wins.
“Great depth across the board. Those events that we are able to do that in, as you saw, it’s hard to come back for the opposing team when you go one-two. So I really like where we’re going,” Maierle said.
In rainy conditions in the vault, Hunter Metzger (20’08.5”) and Nick Bazzoni (12’00”) finished one-two, Isaac Mitchell (53.63) and Keagan Larsh (54.86) went one-two in the 400, and Alijah Wade won the 200 (23.25) and was a member of Warsaw’s winning 400 relay squad (45.21) alongside Eli Owen, Mason Matz and Jayton Brock.
The Tigers put up a ton of points in the high jump, where Tyler Metzger (5’10”), Connor Lennox (5’10”) and Cameron Harness (5’6”) finished in order in the first through third spots.
“The high jump guys, they showed up today. I’ve actually been talking to those three quite a bit that, hey, this is a spot we can do big things in,” Maierle said. “Tyler Metzinger, a senior doing some great stuff on senior night. I was super happy for him. Connor Lennox, a junior coming out and doing some really good things there, and then Cameron Harness, just a young guy, the sophomore of the group, but he’s just kind of hanging out with those two guys.”
Warsaw also got a strong one-two punch from its distance crew as Sam Lechlitner won both the mile and the two-mile in respective times of 4:47.68 and 10:15.65, and Jacob Kissling placed second in both in respective times of 4:53.37 and 10:20.11.
“Sam Lechlitner, he’s a sophomore, and big things are coming for that kid. He’s an underclassman, but he’s a leader,” said Maierle. “I talk about that a lot. He’s going to be a leader by default because of his talent that he has on the track. We’re working with him really hard.”
Undersized Wawasee won just two events at Thursday’s triangular, meanwhile.
Isaiah Tipping finished first in the shot put with a throw of 52’01.0”, while West Point signee Luke Griner finished first int he 800 meters with a time of 1:59.05. With Northridge’s Tanner Sallee pushing him, Griner had hoped to shoot for his school’s half-mile record Thursday, but the wet, chilly conditions made that unlikely.
“He’ll be fine,” said Wawasee head coach Frank Pizana. “Last week he had a tough week workout-wise. He’s just kind of basically recovering from last week, so we hope that Saturday he’s going to put on another good show. The weather doesn’t look great, but he should have a good race against the Westview kid in the mile.”
Michael Hammer and Ben Haines finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 800, and they teamed up with Spencer Hare and Thomas Conley for second place in the 4×800 (8:37.41). Hare finished third in the 3200 behind Lechlitner and Kissling as the three shuffled places throughout the race before Lechlitner and Kissling pulled away on the final lap. Hare wound up third in 10:26.81.
The Warriors’ 4×400 squad of Griner, Hammer, Conley and Jayden Boyer would’ve had another second-place finish in their event but were disqualified on the final lap.
Wawasee may have finished at the bottom of Thursday’s three-way, but it wasn’t particularly surprising for Pizana, who knows exactly where his team is thin.
“It’s pretty simple. When you don’t have any hurdlers, any pole vaulters, right there we lose like 27 points. Coming in, I told the guys that it was going to be not impossible to win, but it was going to be rough. When you don’t have a deep team, there’s no way,” explained Pizana.
“The overall philosophy of our team is, those of you who are doing well, let’s keep progressing, let’s keep improving, and by conference (tournament) time, we show up.”
Thursday’s persistently rainy weather limited some athletes’ performances, but with two meets coming up next week and a big meet at the Southport Relays Saturday, it was the best of the options available, said Maierle.
“I talked with the athletic department today. We’ve been looking at it since about Tuesday. There were some talks about, hey, can we move it up to tomorrow?” said Maierle. “I know a couple of our conference teams did that. We were just like ‘You know what? We’ll go for it.’ With the meet coming up next week, postponing it to tomorrow because we’re headed down to Southport on Saturday for a big showdown there with big Indianapolis schools competing against some of the top runners in the state, then moving it to Monday would’ve been three meets next week, which would’ve been a really tough triple with our Max Truex on Friday night. So it was in our best interest to say ‘Hey, let’s get this thing in here tonight.’ And I thought the weather wasn’t that bad.”