By Mike Deak
PLYMOUTH – When the track season began in March, Tippecanoe Valley head coach Jenny Moriarty felt like the field events in her program had a real chance to make some noise.
Some noise they did make.
Tippecanoe Valley won three field event titles Thursday at the Plymouth Boys Track Sectional, and sped its way to another school record elsewhere.
Alek Mikel had a big night for the Vikings, winning long jump with a flight of 20-05.25, and also placed third in the 400 at 54.01. Braden Shepherd was third in the long jump (19-0), and had a hand in Valley lowering their 4×100 relay school record. While the team was third at Plymouth, Shepherd, Wade Jones, Rex Kirchenstien and Jamasyn Virgil sped to a 44.10 to lower its record mark from earlier this year.
Wade Melanson topped the shot put class, sending his best toss 46-8.25, and Dawson Perkins was a in class by himself in high jump. After hitting 5-10 to set the standard no one else could match, Perkins nonchalantly cleared 6-0, then 6-2 and 6-4 in succession without a miss, and doing so about a minute apart as the bar was reset by the Plymouth staffers. Asked where he wanted to be next, he said 6-6.75, to try to break the school record of Charlie Secrist, set way back in 1978.
Perkins went after it, barely grazing the bar off on try one, then solidly hitting the bar on try two. His third wasn’t close, settling for 6-4 and a sectional championship.
“I was just really going after it, just added a half of a step back to make up for the height in trajectory,” said Perkins after his championship. On whether or not he woke up feeling like Thursday was a championship day, Perkins went the other direction. “No. I woke up this morning and went, nooo, school today.”
Added Moriarty of her team’s field success, “We didn’t have a great opportunity this year to run in a big meet to see how we would look in a meet like this, so this is really exciting to see them perform this well. I think the boys have a good chance to do well next week. We also left a little out there. Wade can throw farther than he did, Dawson is now going for 6-6, Alek can possibly go farther.”
Valley’s remainder, however, were left to wonder. A trio of fourth-place times from two of the program’s stars may have them on the outside looking in. Kirchenstien, who holds the school record in the 100 dash, fell back to fourth Thursday at 11.89, Manchester’s Ethan Cummins getting the lean at 11.84 for the automatic qualifier. In the 200, same deal, as Kirchenstien would get wedged out at the line by a Manchester racer, this time Seth Gaerte crossing at 23.47 to Kirchenstien’s 23.61.
Matthew Howes also felt the disappointment of a narrow miss. The senior ran just the mile, and after falling back into the pack the first two laps, emerged with a shot in the final lap. But as the leaders began to pull away, Howes couldn’t make the final sprint to catch Rochester’s Peyton Hiatt, a 4:50.90 by the Zebra the final place to advance to Kokomo next week, Howes still with a personal best 4:59.99 but left in a heap of emotions knowing his high school career was likely over.
“I think for some of the kids, the emotions of this week may have got to them a little,” Moriarty said, referring to the absorbing of emotions surrounding Brendyn Stump’s passing. Plymouth did honor his memory with a moment of silence prior to the meet. “You could see it as the meet went on with guys like Rex, he had a lot of sprinting on his plate tonight and had a lot of pressure on himself.
“And you look at our 4-by-1, they looked a little off and still broke the school record. I told them, we finish with a school record and still have a lot of room to improve. We fully expect to be running in the 43s next week.”
The night belonged to Culver Academy. The Eagles won nine events and qualified several others in its conquest, scoring 164 points to win the team title in the process. Rochester didn’t win a title, but scored 90 points and Manchester was third, owner of two titles, with 90 points. Valley was fourth at 86.5 points.
Triton also took part in the evening’s festivities. It’s top showing was a fourth place throw in the shot put by Josh Lemler. Coming from the first heat of the event, Lemler’s throw of 42-4.25 stood up through the second heat of bigger guns to earn the fourth-place spot but still a good foot-and-a-half short of qualification.
Parker Alford tied for sixth in high jump (5-6), Trace Schuh was seventh in the discus (122-1) and Hunter McIntyre was ninth in long jump (17-2.5).
Whitko’s best output came in discus, where they swept the top two spots, led by Cameron Sapp’s 149-7 and Gage Howard’s 141-7. Howard would secure a second regional spot with a third-place throw of 43-9.5 in shot put.