It’s been two weeks since Conner Stapleton lowered the curtain on his high school track career by anchoring Center Grove’s second-place 1,600-meter relay at the IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals.
The curtain is about to rise once more, albeit briefly.
Competing in the annual Midwest Meet of Champions on Saturday allows Stapleton, Indiana’s newly anointed 300 hurdles champion, an opportunity to match his skills against outstanding talent from Ohio and Michigan.
“It’s an honor to just represent the state and be amongst these great athletes,” said Stapleton, who is joined on the Indiana roster by, among others, fellow Johnson County representatives Luke Bertolet of Greenwood and Whiteland’s Dejan Davis. “The competition is going to be incredible.”
Stapleton is scheduled to take part in the 300, while Davis is entered in the high jump. Bertolet, who came in second at state in the 800-meter run, represents Indiana in the 3,200 relay along with Carmel’s Danny Williams, Jordan Huntoon of Bloomington South and Michael Passmore of Mooresville.
Bertolet has been informed he’ll be the relay’s lead-off runner, but he says that could change between now and Saturday afternoon. Stapleton originally thought he might be part of Indiana’s 1,600 relay effort but recently discovered he isn’t.
Ohio won the boys team title in 2012 with 178.5 points compared to Indiana’s 148.5 and Michigan’s 138. In 2011, Indiana, coached by Eric Moore of state champion Center Grove, took home the trophy after racking up 184 points.
An allegiance to his home state aside, Stapleton is motivated by the chance to improve upon his career-best 300 hurdles time of 37.26 seconds clocked at state. He’ll attempt to do so at a facility he’s never set foot in (Fort Wayne Northrop’s Spuller Stadium) against his fastest competition to date.
The meet itinerary calls for athletes and coaches to arrive in Fort Wayne between noon and 3 p.m. today and stay the night at IPFW student housing. All athletes have an opportunity to practice at Spuller Stadium today in order to become better acquainted with the venue for Saturday’s event.
Team photographs are taken at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the annual Parade of Athletes scheduled for noon.
To demonstrate the quality of athlete the Midwest Meet of Champions attracts, consider the time of 37.26 Stapleton is attempting to lower. It would rank seventh all-time in Midwest Meet of Champions history.
“I definitely would like to break 37 seconds. At the same time I would like to win,” Stapleton said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
This marks Stapleton’s prep swan song, as it does for Bertolet and Davis. Stapleton leaves for the University of Notre Dame on Aug. 23, where he will run track for the Fighting Irish and major in finance.
“The thing I’m looking forward to most about this meet is just meeting athletes from all over the state because it’s the best of the best,” he said. “I’m just excited, to be honest with you.”