Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 23, 2018
Cleaning up with five individual champions and a pair of relays, and doing so without its most-valuable athlete, the Solon boys track and field team captured its third straight Division I district crown on Friday in Austintown.
Seniors David Howell and Chantz Visse and juniors Justin Finney, Logan Esper and Evan Johnson all came away as victors to propel the Comets to 172 points, running away from host runner-up Fitch, 91 points, third-place Kenston 58.14 points, and the rest of the 15-team field.
The Solon boys were able to accomplish that feat without the likes of senior Isaiah Dillard, who was favored to win titles in the 110-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles, high jump and long jump but tore his hamstring during an MVP outing at the Greater Cleveland Conference meet the previous week.
Nonetheless, Solon advanced 16 Comets and all four relays to this week’s regional competition, also at Fitch High School, while Kenston qualified nine Bombers.
A double-event champion for Solon, senior Howell cleared 13 feet, 6 inches to win the pole vault – tying 2016 graduate Romeo McNair for the ninth-best vault in program history – while Comet junior Zach Barto cleared 12 feet to finish third and Kenston senior Andy Dicker cleared 11 feet, 8 inches to take fourth.
It took 13 feet, 8 inches to advance out of the Austintown Region last year, but all four spots were occupied by 2017 graduates.
Howell also claimed a district title in the 300-intermediate hurdles in 41.07 seconds, besting Aurora runner-up senior Jimmy Kish, 41.46 seconds, while Solon’s Finney took fourth in 42.18 seconds, after clocking 41.60 seconds in prelims.
Not to mention, Howell took runner-up in the long jump at 20 feet, 9 inches, while Fitch junior Deondre McKeever won the event with a mark of 21 feet, 1 1/2 inches.
While Finney survived and advanced in the 300 intermediates, he dominated the 110-high hurdles in 14.61 seconds, while freshman teammate Daylon Gulley finished runner-up in 15.16 seconds. While Finney had a 2.1-meter-per-second tailwind last week, it took 14.60 seconds to advance to states from the Austintown Region with no wind last season.
In the discus throw, junior Johnson had the farthest mark of the meet at 165 feet, 3 inches, while Warren G Harding senior David Stewart finished runner-up at 154 feet, 2 inches and Solon senior Forrest Campbell took third at 145 feet even. It took 166 feet, 11 inches for a state berth in that event last season.
In the 1,600 run, senior Visse claimed gold in 4:30.77, while Boardman sophomore Mitchel Dunham took runner-up in 4:31.79 and Kenston junior Jakob McConnell finished third in 4:32.21. Later in the meet, McConnell took third in the 3,200 run in 9:52.98, while Visse took fourth in 9:54.25.
And in the 800 run, Solon junior Esper posted a winning time of 1:58.13, while senior teammate Mark Shannon finished runner-up in 1:58.44. Last year, Esper and Shannon finished fifth and sixth in 1:56.54 and 1:56.73 during regional competition – it took a blistering 1:55.81 to advance to states.
In the four-by-800 relay, Solon’s Shannon, Visse, senior Eli Phipps and Esper clocked a triumphant 8:03.38, while Kenston’s team of McConnell, sophomore Casey Pleune, senior Sam Markel and junior Kyle Silk finished runner-up in 8:07.31.
In the four-by-400 relay, Solon junior Brett Shannon, junior Gurvan Smith, Phipps and the elder Shannon stopped the watch with a winning time of 3:26.86. They’re seeded seventh entering regionals.
Also advancing individually for the Comets, senior Thomas Wilks finished runner-up in the 200 dash in 22.09 seconds, getting edged by 0.03 second against Kent Roosevelt senior Ryan Grant. Wilks’ time ranks fifth among Solon’s all-time performances, just ahead of 2010 graduate Robert McNair.
In the high jump, Solon junior Max Shenk cleared 6 feet, 3 inches to finish third, just 1 inch shy of what it took to get our of regionals last year.
And in the 100 dash, Solon sophomore Greg Parries took fourth in 11.09 seconds.
In the four-by-200 relay, Solon’s quartet of Wilks, junior Trevon Raphael, the younger Shannon and Parries clocked a 1:29.04 to finish runner-up to Fitch, 1:28.78, while Kenston’s foursome of junior Dorion Talley, senior Kee-shaun Merrill, junior Matt Iklodi and junior Bransen Stanley took fourth in 1:31.73, dropping 1.90 seconds from prelims to punch their ticket to regionals.
Wilks is the lone Comet returning on that relay from a year ago, when Solon clocked a 1:29.74 for the last spot out of regionals.
And in the four-by-100 relay, Solon’s district team of Parries, Wilks, the younger Shannon and Finney circled the track in 43.78 seconds to finish third.
Meanwhile, during the Division I Nordonia District, University School sophomore Justin Iler clocked a 9:40.98 to finish third in the 3,200 run, while senior Jackson Papageorge marked 21 feet, 9 1/2 inches to finish runner-up in the long jump.
Both Preppers also are competing in the Austintown Region this Wednesday and Friday.