BLOOMINGTON – It wasn't until well after South Side won the 1,600-meter relay in the final event of the Boys Track & Field State Finals that the emotion of claiming a state title really seemed to hit the Archers.
Deamond Talton, who had already run in the open 400, had pulled South Side into the lead on the third leg as he handed the baton off to Preshawn Boyd. After some jostling back and forth, Boyd took the lead for good on the backstretch and then sailed down the final straightaway to win in 3:17.19, beating second place Indianapolis Pike by a second.
“It was a different ballgame,” Kaiden Long said as several of his teammates wept tears of joy. “There's no tomorrow. We have two seniors (Talton and Omar Jackson) who aren't coming back, so we had to win.”
Jackson said he felt confident in the team's chances when he finished his leg in good position, knowing that Talton and Boyd, who placed eighth in the 400, were still waiting to run.
“We always know that if I come in first, or in the top two or top three, that's when we call it a game right there, because we know these two are going to make it up,” Jackson said.
It was the second event in a row won by Fort Wayne athletes, as Snider's Jesse Hamlin claimed victory in the 3,200 in 9:04.69. Reece Gibson of Concordia was third in 9:07.88 and Homestead's Ryan Ruppert was fourth in 9:09.40.
“I've been thinking about it all season, and this is so crazy,” Hamlin said of becoming a state champion.
Caleb Futter of Christian Academy took the lead and led the pack for more than half a race as Hamlin, Gibson and Ruppert (who had the top three seed times) fell in line behind him. Hamlin said he was happy to hold back a bit for the first half of the race before the three Fort Wayne runners passed Futter, but he had no idea that Futter found a final kick and pulled himself back into second place.
“As soon as he was leading past 2,000 meters, I was just like, OK, he gave it away by leading for that long,” Hamlin said. “So much respect for him for doing that. That was super bold. I didn't even know that he came back until they sat us down on the bench (for the medal ceremony), and he was sitting next to me.”
Based in part on Ruppert's fourth-place finish, Homestead was the top local school in the team standings, coming in 14th with 17 points. North Central's third-place finish in the 1,600 relay was enough to clinch the team title with 42 points, one more than second-place Pike. South Side finished 22nd with 12 points, Snider finished 26th courtesy of Hamlin's win and Churubusco picked up eight points from Sam Wood's second place finish in the pole vault with a clearance of 15 feet, 9 inches.
“I was actually hoping to get 16, but I'm not complaining about 15-9,” Wood said. “I knew if I got past 15-6 or up there, I was going to be close.”
Wood reached the finals of the long jump and finished 10th.
“I honestly think it helps me to stay warm,” Wood said of running back and forth between the two events. “It's not that much to handle.”
Homestead's Tyler Sierks took fifth, and East Noble's Joe Painter was sixth, both with clearances of 15 feet.
Homestead took fourth in the 3,200-meter relay with a time of 7:53.69, moving up a position after Carroll's Cole Powers, who was battling with Fishers and North Central for first place, tripped and fell just feet from the finish line. The Chargers were disqualified because the baton popped out of Powers' hand.
“We went out a lot slower than any other races I've ever led off,” said Homestead's Jarred Neff. “Everyone was close together, I got two times in the first lap. It was a lot more physical than anything I've ever run before.”
Wawasee's Luke Griner finished fourth in the 800 in 1:52.89, running so hard that he appeared to be exhausted and in pain on the awards podium several minutes after the race.
Liam Hesting of Columbia City was fifth in the discus with a throw of 167 feet, 5 inches. Wayne's Ronald Elliot finished sixth in the 110 hurdles in 14.71 seconds. Chris Flick of Carroll took sixth in the 300 hurdles in 39.07.