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Performance helps Trojans place 3rd as team

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What Center Grove’s boys track and field program managed to accomplish this spring will always be special to Trojans coach Eric Moore.

Battling through one key injury and the annual process of moving athletes to where they can best succeed, Center Grove proved something of a work in progress until the very end.

That conclusion came at Friday’s IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Complex.

By winning one event and placing second in two others, Moore’s squad racked up 34 points to place third overall. Hamilton Southeastern claimed its first title with 65 points, followed by Lafayette Jeff with 49.

“This is probably the second-best effort we’ve had here,” said Moore, referring to the school’s 2011 team championship. “This team exceeded expectations. So many guys got better as the season went on that it was amazing.”

One being Conner Stapleton, whose third trip to the state meet proved to be the charm.

The senior’s title in the 300-meter hurdles was a long time coming after finishing third here last season and eighth as a sophomore. Stapleton won his preferred event in a time of 37.26 seconds, while Center Grove junior Justin Veteto took sixth in a time of 38.19.

“It feels good, but, really, none of this is possible without God. I have to give credit where it’s due. I’m blessed beyond belief,” said a sweat-soaked Stapleton, who worked his way back to form after pulling a

hamstring running the 100-meter dash in the Johnson County Meet. “An incredible amount of hard work and perseverance went into this.”

Center Grove just missed out on sweeping the hurdles events. Veteto came in second in the 110-meter high hurdles, his time of 14.24 seconds just behind winner Marsalis Gibson of Bowman Academy (14.19).

“I could have run faster,” said Veteto, who won regional last week at Connersville in 14.01. “It was just great competition. Maybe the start I would change. I’m usually not a very good starter.”

Veteto returned later in the evening to run third for the Trojans’ second-place 1,600-meter relay. Seniors Quentin Reckert and Mario Swann handled first and second baton duties, respectively, with Stapleton blazing an impressive final 400 meters to nearly chase down the anchor runner from victorious Hamilton Southeastern.

Greenwood senior Luke Bertolet, who had been borderline invincible in the 800 all season, finished runner-up to Lawrence Central’s Matt Dorsey to give Johnson County another second-place medal. Bertolet ran a 1:53.68 compared with Dorsey’s 1:52.74.

“I wanted to stay comfortable at the start and wasn’t,” Bertolet said. “It may be because it was the state meet that I wasn’t out front.”

Center Grove’s 400-meter relay came in sixth overall, the grouping of Swann, Reckert, Max Norris and Veteto winning its heat handily in 42.42 seconds.

“That was good,” Moore said. “To be on the victory stand at all, it’s a real honor.”

Reid Abney of Franklin Community High School launched the discus a personal-best distance of 161 feet, 9 inches to take seventh. Abney’s previous best of 154-7 came two weeks ago at the Columbus North Sectional.

“Warming up, I was very nervous. Once I started warming up with all the people around watching me, that’s when it really kicked in,” said Abney, who as a junior gets another shot at it next season.

Abney, however, collected himself in time to uncork his throw in his second attempt of Heat 1.

Whiteland senior Dejan Davis had hoped to leave the facility with a state high-jump championship but cleared only 6-4 to finish tied for 11th.

“It was just needing more focus, or it just wasn’t my day,” said Davis, who placed 10th here as a junior. “I felt good coming in, but I missed my first jump (at 6-2). Something was just off today.”

Concerns about the weather forced meet officials to push back the start of all field events two hours to 5 p.m. Running trials began at 5 p.m. as originally planned.

Johnson County’s first participation of the day came in the 3,200-meter relay. The quartet of Reed Sauter, Mark Daiuto, Jacob Cushing and Grant Stapleton finished fourth in the first heat and 16th overall out of 27 teams with a time of 8:07.10.

Cushing was in sixth place upon taking hold of the baton in the first heat. He brought the Trojans all the way up to second-place through three runners.

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