NLC BOYS TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS: CHANGING OF THE GUARDS
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Wednesday, May 9, 2018
GOSHEN – The planets and stars didn’t shift overnight, but the names atop the Northern Lakes Conference boys track hierarchy did. Concord and Goshen both ended long championship droughts with its performances Tuesday night at the NLC Championships, knocking Warsaw from its perch in splitting the title.
Concord, by virtue of its 7-0 round robin season and second-place finish at 121 points, claimed half the crown while Goshen scored a commanding 168 points and used its 6-1 round robin to attain the other half of the crown. Concord earned its first title since 2011 and Goshen ended 41 long years of suffering, adding a 2018 title to its lone 1977 banner. Warsaw, which had held the NLC crown for the last seven years, came in third with 114 points.
It wasn’t the usual slam dunk the Tigers have made look so easy in year’s past, and the rest of the NLC took advantage. Warsaw claimed just two championships on the day, both at the feet of Justin Fleming. The senior ran a sensational mile run, hanging in the second wave after 800 meters only to find himself all alone at the front of the pack heading into the third lap’s second straightaway. From there, it was Fleming’s race to win and he did it, closing at 4:30.12, a full five seconds ahead of the pack. Fleming also ran a leg of the closing 4×400 relay that dropped over six seconds off its seed time to win at 3:29.73, Fleming working with Ridley Lemon, Eli Owen and Tanner Stiver.
“Tonight, honestly, this was our best meet,” said Warsaw head coach Matt Thacker. “You want to be running your best meets at the end of the season. A lot of our spots we are young, and it showed. We didn’t get the field event points that we have in the past, and it showed in the scores. The group that we brought tonight, we’ll be fine going forward. They came out and competed, and that’s what I’m worried about.”
Warsaw had a pair of runner-ups in Luke Howett in the two-mile and John Svinarich in the shot put, but a young Tiger squad that finished tied for third in the round robin at 4-3 found the going tough against a very balanced conference compliment.
Seven of the eight teams in the NLC had at least one champion, and for as much as Goshen scored, it only had two champions. Felix Perez-Diener outraced Howett in the two-mile and Lucas DeMoya won pole vault, otherwise the RedHawks used a whole lotta depth to get the job done. Concord had the same luck, scoring just two champions in Jakale Conerly in the 100 dash and Harold Moon in the 400.
Wawasee’s strong showing in the field helped it to 58 points and sixth place. The Tipping brothers provided quite the show in throws. Elisha, a senior, got out quick in discus and nailed a 157-4, which held up to win honors by nearly 10 feet. Shifting to the sand, Elisha went 46-6 to place sixth in shot put, but his “baby” brother Isaiah, a junior who stands a little taller, bested them all and sent his first throw of the finals 51-5. It held up as Svinarich could only get 50-1.5, giving the brothers quite a moment.
“I actually didn’t feel good all day, and my legs were shaky when I came out here, so I didn’t know how I would do,” said Elisha of his discus. “My first throw out here, they mark one and it was a PR. I didn’t really coast from there, but I had the lead and felt pretty good about it.”
Said Elisha of his brother winning shot put, which saw the two go one-two at the Goshen Relays last month, “He’s worked really hard in his first year of throwing. He beat me at the (Goshen) Relays. If I’m going to get beat by anyone, I would rather it be him. Now he’s the farthest thrower in the Tipping family. At least for a week.”
Added Isaiah, “I’ve always looked up to Elisha, he’s taught me everything I know about shot put. It feels weird beating him at a conference meet. He’s my big brother and he’s the one who has been throwing. But I can get used to it.”
Wawasee’s other title came on the track, where Luke Griner continued to post some of the best 800 times in the state. Tuesday, Griner and Northridge’s Tanner Sallee got out front of the pack and waged a great race down the final stretch. Griner found the inside lane on the final 100 and kept Sallee off his heels with a huge sprint kick. He needed it as Sallee kept up, but Griner got the win at 1:57.55 to Sallee’s 1:57.93.
NorthWood was part of a record-breaking performance, using a blistering effort from Landon Parker, Terrell Pratcher, Bronson Yoder and Brayton Yoder to clock a 42.31 in the 4×100 relay. Pratcher was outstanding in the 200, kicking it into hyper gear to blast past Concord’s Conerly for a 22.28 win, and Bronson Yoder was elite in long jump, going 21-8 for the win. The Panthers would score 73 points for fifth in the team race.
“We had a great night tonight, but we also know that it’s about the same thing next week and it will only get tougher,” said NorthWood head coach Mark BeMiller. “We are looking for great performances from our sprints, long jump and will see our distance kids to get another week to prepare. I’m excited about what’s coming up.”
The other boys record at the NLC was the same ol’ story that never gets old. Plymouth’s Nate Patterson literally raised the bar in high jump once again, and leaves his name with fresh ink in the record books. Patterson, who will jump at the University of Southern California next year, cleared the bar at 7-1, which broke his old record of 7-0. Patterson raised the bar to 7-3.5, which would go after the national best, and almost had it, but clipped the bar on all three of his attempts while a big crowd recorded it all.
Patterson’s teammate, Sam Tanner, would double as champion in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, and Elkhart Memorial edged Warsaw at the line to win the 4×800 relay.