Whiteland Community High School sprinter Brandon Benson’s track career might not have been fast out of the blocks, but it’s found its groove in the home stretch.
A junior, Benson turned heads at Thursday’s Columbus North Sectional with victories in the 100- and 200-meter dashes while also taking part in the Warriors’ first-place 400-meter relay.
“Going into today I was thinking of scratching him in the 100, but a time of 10.91 (seconds) is a medal in the state finals,” Whiteland coach Brandon Bangel said.
“Brandon is a kid who as a freshman ran over 12 seconds. He just keeps getting better and better. Brandon is such a hard worker, and it’s paying dividends.”
Johnson County athletes accounted for wins in 10 of the 16 events.
Benson’s three blue ribbons were equaled by Center Grove senior Justin Veteto, who blazed a new sectional record of 14.06 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles. The old mark had been held by former Center Grove hurdler Luke Swift, who ran a 14.33 in 2009.
Veteto also coasted to first place in the 300 lows in 37.81 seconds, narrowly missing since-graduated teammate Conner Stapleton’s meet standard of 37.55 set in 2013, and anchored the winning 1,600 relay.
Columbus North celebrated the team championship with 116 points followed by Center Grove’s 114. Next were Columbus East and Whiteland with 99.5 and 85 points, respectively.
While disappointed at the final outcome, Trojans coach Eric Moore liked what he saw from his athletes with the Connersville Regional taking place next Thursday.
“We were seeded third or fourth coming in, but we had a lot of guys who stepped up. Veteto got hurt during the 110 (trials), but there was no way he wasn’t going to run the (1,600) relay,” Moore said. “You’ve got to remember our (2011) state championship team didn’t win sectional, either.”
Center Grove’s other individual triumph came through the efforts of junior Grant Stapleton, whose spirited burst over the final 60 meters enabled him to win the 800 in 1:56.46.
One of the night’s best races saw David Dalton of Greenwood passing Columbus North’s Kaden Eaton not once but twice in winning the 1,600-meter run in 4:16.15 to Eaton’s 4:16.90.
Eaton held the lead through the first two laps, with Dalton surging ahead between Turns 2 and 3 on the third lap. Eaton rallied on the fourth and final lap on the back stretch, but Dalton’s push with 100 meters remaining proved too much.
Dalton came back later to take second in the 3,200.
Benson flirted with history in the 100 with his time of 10.91 seconds. The sectional standard remains the 10.7 clocked in 1986, while Whiteland’s school record remains Brad Higginbotham’s 10.72.
Whiteland’s 400 relay of Jesse Street, Matt Fernandez, Brandon Patterson and Benson impressed with a winning time of 43.25 seconds, with Center Grove’s third-place effort also good for a regional berth.
Franklin junior Hunter Chadwell won high jump with a best of 6 foot, while Whiteland senior Cole Wuest, a third-place finisher in the sectional last year in the pole vault, won it this time around with a top height of 13-6.
The evening’s first event saw three county teams advance to regional in the 3,200 relay.
Center Grove’s quartet of Nathan Fill, Bradley Bennett, Reed Sauter and Grant Stapleton ran runner-up in a time of 8:18.67, followed by Franklin (8:22.31) and Whiteland (8:36.0).