There was something powerfully symbolic about the final 100 meters of Thursday’s Connersville boys track and field regional.
Dueling to the finish, Center Grove senior Justin Veteto attempted to hold off Isaiah Thomas, Warren Central’s marvelous junior sprinter, in the thrilling final stages of the anchor lap of the 1,600-meter relay.
Thomas rallied to cross the finish line first, giving the ninth-ranked Warriors 89 total points and a comfortable cushion over No. 6 Center Grove, the runner-up with 66.
Another winner was Johnson County in general. Local athletes won six of the 16 events, the wiry 6-foot-5 Veteto accounting for two with victories in the 110-meter high hurdles as well as the 300 lows.
It might have been three, but Warren Central eked out a 3:19.77 to 3:20.38 advantage against the Trojans, whose other runners were Jackson Hohlt, Evan Tandy and Zak Smith, in the aforementioned 1,600 relay.
Next up for these athletes and others is the IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University on June 7.
Whether the Trojans can duplicate their third-place performance in last year’s team standings at state remains to be seen.
“I’m pleased. Everyone got through who was close. We didn’t lack anything. It’s just that time of year injuries are kind of creeping up on people, and you just have to survive,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said.
“The events we got first in tonight, we’ve got a chance for kids to come back and medal next week.”
Center Grove’s other first-place effort came in the discus where sophomore Cameron Tidd threw 166 feet, 3 inches, to hold off the competition.
“Cameron Tidd is unbelievable. He’s a pure athlete that week by week has gotten better and better,” Moore said.
Other area athletes were impressive in the field events as Franklin senior Reid Abney won the shot put (56-6½) and Whiteland senior Cole Wuest captured the pole vault here for the second consecutive season with a best of 14-6.
With Whiteland’s school pole-vault record of 14-9 established by Hunter Swails at the 2010 state meet, Wuest asked for the bar to be raised to 14-10.
He missed all three attempts.
“On the video I was way over (bar) on 14-6. It feels good to win, I guess, but I’m still a little upset. I wanted the record and I don’t know why I didn’t get it,” Wuest said.
A powerful kick over the final 70 meters allowed Greenwood senior David Dalton to overtake Columbus North senior Kaden Eaton and win the 1600 in 4:15.68.
Dalton also qualified for the state finals in the 3,200, placing second in a time of 9:26.33.
Dalton and Columbus North distance specialists Andy Carr and Seth Williams were clustered at the front from the second lap on of the eight-lap race. Carr kicked at the end to win in 9:25.39 with Williams third in 9:27.79.
Also advancing were Whiteland junior Brandon Benson in the 100-meter dash, Center Grove junior Grant Stapleton in the 800, Tandy of Center Grove and Indian Creek’s Logan Cobb in the 110 hurdles and the Trojans’ 3,200 relay.
Johnson County as a whole fared well in the relay, though only third-place Center Grove pushed through to next week.
Sophomores Nathan Fill and Reed Sauter got the Trojans off to a strong start, while juniors Bradley Bennett and anchor Stapleton finished up for a time of 8:10.53.
Franklin took fifth in a time of 8:19.89, while Whiteland won the first heat to take eighth overall in 8:29.86.
Two regional records fell, although neither was by a local athlete.
Franklin Central’s 3,200 relay performance of 7:52.86 got the evening’s events off to a rousing start; Shelbyville senior Daniel Kuhn lowered the standard in the 800 in a time of 1:51.81.