By Josh Sigler
In its 89-year history, the Kokomo Relays has proven one thing to be a universal truth: The event is larger than any one person, and rain or shine, the show must go on.
And so it did Saturday afternoon at Walter Cross Field, just as the oldest continuous high school track meet in the United States has every spring since 1925.
Visibly absent from the festivities this year was former Kokomo Middle School athletic director and track meet coordinator Dick Christie. After more than two decades with the school corporation, he was honored for his service with a plaque ceremony at last year’s relays, an event he coordinated for 22 seasons before retiring from education following the 2011-12 school season.
The revered Christie died in November, and even though he had relinquished his coordinator role, he expected to do volunteer work at future track meets. Not having him there altogether made Kokomo AD Jason Snyder truly see exactly how many burdens Christie shouldered in his time coordinating the Kokomo Relays and the IHSAA boys sectional and regional meets.
“Last year we talked about how selfless he was and how many things he did without letting anyone else know,” Snyder said. “We found that out this week and the last couple weeks in setting this meet up. We had a lot of great help, but the things he did, it took four or five people to split up those tasks and do them. We had a great event [Saturday] with great weather and some great athletes. It was a very successful day, but we miss him every day. It was clear that we miss him as a person and as the coordinator of this event.”
Crown Point won six events to repeat as the boys champion with 134 points. Kokomo finished second with 103, followed by Western (80.5), Ben Davis (68.5), Marion (48), Northwestern (39), Richmond (37) and Peru (31).
The Bulldogs won three of the five relays, and placed two competitors in the top eight of seven different events.
“We had some adversity [Saturday],” Crown Point coach Keith Iddings said. “Unfortunately one of our kids got injured and another kid got cut in the long jump. Despite things that could’ve gotten the guys down, they stayed up and competed hard. They were able to come through with the win.”
Crown Point was led by junior Zack Seamon, who led three relay teams to victories, and just missed out on a victory in the 1,000-yard run. Western’s Matt Grider tumbled over the finish line down the home stretch in the 1,000 in what turned out to be a photo finish between he and Seamon. An IHSAA official reviewed the tape and determined Grider beat Seamon by one one-hundredth of a second, 2:24.94.
Seamon was named the Walter Cross Award recipient for his role in leading CP to the team title. The award is given to the meet’s outstanding male and female competitors
“I work pretty hard out there, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Seamon said. “They definitely push my to do my best, and without them I wouldn’t have won this award. We’re out there busting out butts every day, pushing each other. And, if one goes down, we’re there to pick him up. We’re a good team like that.”
Kokomo’s Waylon Coulter was a double winner, narrowly taking second place in Walter Cross Award voting behind Seamon. He cleared 15-0 in the pole vault to win by six inches, then cleared 6-7 in the high jump to blow away the field, again by six inches.
Darrion McAlister won the discus for the Wildkats with a heave of 161-5, topping his next competitor by nearly 30 feet. He also took second in the shot put at 50-1. 2.5 inches behind the champion, Crown Point’s Mitchell Kessler, who put 50-3.5.
“We had a great day. I was very proud of the kids,” Kokomo coach Tom Byrnes said. “We had a rough day at practice [Friday] and I was concerned with how we were going to come out. But they came out and competed well. I’m very proud of Waylon. Although he didn’t win [the Walter Cross Award], you take a look at [Seamon] and he was on relay teams and Waylon’s two first-places were in individual events. That was 20 points right there. Hopefully we can give it a good go next week and have a shot at winning the North Central Conference meet.”
Peru’s Shane Swinford rounded out the areas winners, clearing 21-0.75 to win the high jump for the Bengal Tigers.
Warsaw’s girls won seven of 14 events to repeat as the girls champion with 149 points.
Noblesville finished second with 124 and Kokomo was third with 92.5. Northwestern (52), Marion (43), Western (30.5), Peru (24) and Richmond (14) rounded out the field.
Warsaw scored eight or more points in every event but one, and nearly swept the relay events, winning 4 of 5.
“This one is special because we’ve had our difficulties this year as everyone has with the weather” Warsaw coach Scott Erba said. “You feel like this is the beginning of the season and yet here it is getting towards the end. It’s great to have some good weather finally. We spread the wealth and gave some of the new girls a taste of what it’s like to come to the Kokomo Relays and step away as champions.”
Four meet records fell on the girls side.
Noblesville junior Rachel Mather set two new marks. She cleared 11 feet, one inch in the pole vault to break the old record of 11-0 set by Western’s Nikki McCracken in 2009.
Mather then cleared 5-6 in the high jump to break the previous record of 5-5 set by Northwestern’s Kylie Ballard in 2011.
Mather was named the Walter Cross Award winner.
“It means a lot to me just because of how long this meet has been going on,” Mather said, noting that former teammate Hellen Willman won the award in 2011. “We had prom [Friday] night so I wasn’t running on that much sleep. This is a big confidence boost for me, showing me I can perform well in big meets.”
Kokomo finished third, led by double winner Summer Blackamore. Blackamore set a new meet record in the shot put with a heave of 40-6.75, breaking the previous record of Kokomo’s Ashley DeWitt, who put 39-2 in 2009.
Blackamore also won the discus with a throw of 121-3, topping Warsaw’s Samantha Jansen by an inch.
“My assistant coach Bobby Pettigrew is doing a great job with Summer,” Kokomo coach K.O. Jackson said. “Blackamore went out and got two PRs [Saturday]. That’s how you get better. I’m very proud of her.”
Brianna Lancaster added a second place finish in the high hurdles, as did Anh Pham in the pole vault.
“I’m disappointed,” Jackson added. “Third place — we got third place last year. Our target points were 110 and we came up with 92.5. I just need for the girls to get serious. We have to go to a new regional this year in Fort Wayne. We say ‘Catch me if you can’ and we better start catching people. We didn’t catch them at our place. That’s hard to take but we’ll keep working at it.”
Northwestern junior Amber Miller added a first-place finish in the long jump, clearing 17-2.
Noblesville’s Kendra Foley set the final new meet record of the day in the 1,000-yard run in 2:44.56, topping Willman’s mark of 2:45.83 set in 2011.
Western was led by a pair of third-place finishes. Erin Knepley took third in the 1,000-yard run in 2:55.74, while Nicole Hampshire took third in the 3,200-meter run in 12:33.01.
“We had a group of about 10 freshmen and sophomores and a senior going against Noblesville and Warsaw, who have some of the best programs in the state,” Western coach Joni McCracken said. “Our girls came right in behind those teams and really embraced the competition and stepped up to their level. I’m proud of the girls and how they seized that opportunity to compete against teams on that level. This gives us a lot to look forward to. We have girls with a ton of bright futures and we’re excited about what they’ll do in the next couple of years.”