By Josh Sigler
GREENTOWN — As the team results were announced at last week’s Howard County track and field meet, Eastern’s boys squad was clearly dejected as it was delivered the news Western had dethroned the Comets and prevented them from claiming a 4-peat.
The bus ride home was eerily quiet. Even though they knew they had bigger meets on the horizon to focus their attention on, losing the county meet stung.
Coach Austin Roark wanted his team to use the loss as preparation fuel the rest of the season. The Comets appeared to have heard their coach’s message loud and clear.
Led by the return of senior Grant Cole, Eastern’s boys team secured its fourth straight Mid-Indiana Conference crown, this time in front of the home fans at Cogdell Field.
“It worked out because my team came with fire [Tuesday] night,” Roark said. “There was an attitude change. Our guys were a little overconfident going into the county meet. That loss knocked them down a notch. It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened, because we came with a vengeance [Tuesday] night, and it was nice.”
Cole was unable to compete at the county meet due to a leg injury, but returned to action late last week and seemed to be in postseason form Tuesday night. He won the 300-meter hurdles in 41.37 seconds, the 110 hurdles in :15.22 and the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 6.5 inches and finished third in the high jump, clearing 5-10 to finish as the high-point scorer in the meet.
“It was a great day overall. It meant a lot to help out my teammates since I couldn’t help them out last week in the county meet. I let them down a little bit,” Cole said. “We weren’t going to let Western win, that’s for sure. We had to do whatever it took to get the W.”
Eastern added a victory in the 4x800 relay in a new meet record time, as the foursome of Joshua Sommers, Adam Schaaf, K.J. Myers and Lewis Duke sped to victory in 8:09.28.
Eastern boasted just four first-place finishes, but placed two or more in eight events to secure the title with strong depth and balance.
Western finished second with 116.5 points, behind the help of five first-place finishes.
“I thought our kids came out and compete, and there were a lot of great performances by all the athletes,” Western coach Marvin Boswell said. “I was really proud of the way our kids repeated. We had some kids who competed at a high level, but we also had some kids who didn’t step up to the plate for us. We’ll have to address that and find out some of the reasons why we didn’t perform as well as we should have.”
Matt Grider was a triple winner for the Panthers. He won the 1,600 in 4:32.10, the 800 in 2:01.09 and the 3,200 in 9:43.00.
“Matt Grider ran three beautiful races,” Boswell said. “That triple, to run the 1,600, 800 and 3,200 is next to impossible as far as any other races, because when you come back and run the 800 you only have a short amount of time — just the 800 — before you have to go out and run two miles. He was fantastic in all three of those races. It’s tough to even ask a kid to go and do that, and he stepped up and didn’t bat an eye. He just went to work and acted like a true champion.
Brett Boswell won the discus for the Panthers at 138-11. Also, the 4x100 relay team of Robert Harless, Christian Glenn, James Davis and Nick Braden motored to victory in a meet record time of :44.32.
Northwestern wad third (91), followed by Maconaquah (73), Hamilton Heights (67.5), Cass (65), Peru (34) and Taylor (22).
Cameron Oden won the 100 dash for the Purple Tigers at :11.40, while Darren Curry added a victory in the pole vault, clearing 12-0.
Taylor’s Kalob Bitner added a victory for the Titans, topping the field in the shot put 48-4.5.
In their senior class’ final career home meet, Eastern’s girls went out in style, blowing away the competition to finish off a fourth consecutive MIC crown with 153 points, followed by Cass (94), Western (83.5), Northwestern (80.5), Peru (70.5), Maconaquah (61.5), Hamilton Heights (61) and Taylor (13).
“This was a special night,” Eastern coach Michael Goodspeed said. “We have a special group of seniors that I’ve not seen in my 18 years in coaching. And, so they’re just tremendous athletes and they really showed it [Tuesday] night. They were pretty good – set a lot of records and ran well.”
Six MIC meet records fell at the hands of Eastern’s athletes.
The team of Brittany Neeley, Jessie Sprinkles, Avery Ewing the Sarah Wagner were tops in the 4x800 relay in a record time of 9:51.14. Bethany Neeley won the 300 hurdles in a meet record time of :44.74. She then won the 1,600 in another record time of 4:57.43 and took home high-scoring honors on the girls side.
“We really wanted to take advantage of this being our last time on the track,” Bethany said. “With the conditions, we did. It was nice to go out and race hard on the track you train on every day. This is home to us. It felt good.”
Brittany Neeley set a meet record in the 200 dash in :26.38, while Wagner won the 3,200 run in 11:20.95 to set another record.
Ewing, Brittany Neeley, Jessie Sprinkles and Karly Jones teamed to win the 4x400 relay and the records continued to fall as they foursome finished in 4:07.88.
Sprinkles added a win in the 800 (2:27.09), while Brittany won the 400 dash in 1:01.39 and Wagner was tops in the high jump at 5-2.
Northwestern boasted three winners. Kaitlyn Daanen was tops in the 100 dash in :12.76. Amber Miller cleared 9-6 to win the pole vault, and the team of Tearsten Munson, Miller, Daanen and Elise Cobb won the 4x100 relay in :51.52.