TRACK & FIELD: Late Charges Pushes Saline Past Pioneer for the Boys' SEC Red Championship
It's the last event of the league championship meet. You need a win to win the meet and the conference and uphold the legacy of a program that's won 10 straight league titles. Your team's fortunes are on your shoulders and you've been tapped to run an event that's pretty far out of your comfort zone.
That was the situation for senior James Harrison - normally accustomed to the 1600 or 3200, but in this instance, asked to run the first 400 meters of the 4x400 relay.
"It's a lot of pressure. But it's a great experience to finish off my high school season strong. I knew that the rest of our relay was really strong and I just had to put them in the best position possible, so I felt confident going into it," Harrison said.
That's exactly what Harrison did. He kept the Hornets close, handing off to Jason Whitton on the first lap. By the time Whitton ran his lap, the Hornets were in first. He passed off to Josh Rush, who grew the lead before handing off to Stewart Berryhill, who held on for victory.
And that's how the Saline Hornets clinched their 11th straight boys' SEC Red Track and Field Championship.
It was just another battle won on a day when the Hornets won just enough battles to pull it off and add their chapter the program's legacy.
Saline finished with 134 points - seven better than Pioneer, who took second. Dexter finished with 109 points and Huron had 101.
Coach Al Leslie said the Hornets pulled off a great team victory.
"We had a couple injuries that put us behind the eight ball a little bit. But we stepped up and got it done when it mattered," Leslie said. "We talk about staying together as a team and not counting on one group to do it. Today, the two milers came through. They put us back in position when were down the whole meet. And then the 4x4 does what Saline 4x4s do. So it was a great team win, all the way around."
The Saline 4x400 victory was the Hornets' only relay victory of the day.
On the track, junior Jason Whitton picked up Saline's only individual victory in the 800 meters. Whitton, returning to the track Friday after recovering from an injury, gained the lead by the first straight away and never looked back.
Sophomore Andrew Harding provided the other individual SEC title. Harding cleared 6-01 to win the high jump.
Another big performance came from junior Dolan Gonzales, who cleared 15-06 in the pole vault. Gonzales's mark bested a personal mark by 11 inches. It was tied for the best at the meet - but Dexter's Cole Sheldon captured the league title based on the number of faults.
The track meet began with the 4x800 team of Whitton, Harrison, Berryhill and Luke Swanger taking second in 8:11.9.
In the field, the Hornets were productive.
Garrett Beazley was fifth in the discus with a throw of 127-09 and fourth in shot put (43-07). Camden Pawlick was the top freshman in the shot put, throwing 41-09.25 to take seventh.
Torin Moore went 20-05 in the long jump to take third. Leonardo Ignacio was eighth with a leap of 18-06. Ignacio was also eighth in high jump.
The track events resumed the 110-meter hurdles. Saline senior Torin Moore Jr. led the Hornets with a fourth place finish in 15.58 seconds. He was followed by Christopher Cappelo (5th) and Ian Gifford (6th).
Ryan Cavanaugh led the Hornets in the 100 meters (11.67). Caden Winston was ninth.
In the 4x200, Saline's team of Ethan Nelson, Moore, Rush and Wynter Burnett took second in 1:30.97.
James Harrison was the fastest Hornet in the 1600, taking fifth in 4:29.3.
The the 4x100, Rush, Larry Robinson II, Caden Winston and Nelson took second in 43.61.
Saline scored big points in the 300 high hurdles despite having one of their best athletes injured early in the race. Sophomore Christopher Cappello was second in 42.57 seconds and Moore was third in 43.16 seconds.
Next up came Whitton's SEC Championship run in the 800 (1:58.22). Berryhill placed 10th.
Pioneer's Owen Johnson won the 3200 in 9:49. But the Hornets got those points back and more with Max Pfeiffer (9:56.81), Samuel Jackson (9:57.91) and Andrew Stern (10:03.22) went 3-4-5. Truman Johnson was eighth in 10:20.
Pioneer held an 11-point lead on Saline before the pole vault and 3200 results were tabulated. Once those events were accounted for, Saline moved into the lead - a one-point lead.
That meant Saline needed to beat Pioneer in the 4x400 to win the SEC Red.
The Hornets now set their sights on defending their regional championship.