If the athletes, as well as the fans in attendance, who were taking in the boys track and field sectional Friday night at Terre Haute North were experiencing déjà vu, it wouldn’t be too surprising.
For the second straight year, North and Terre Haute South took the lead back and forth from the other throughout the night, causing just about everyone to bury their heads in their phones to check on the leaderboard.
And also for the second straight year, Terre Haute North entered the 4x400 relay with a ½ point lead, meaning if the Patriots finished ahead of the Braves they won and vice versa.
North coach Alex Bettag, knowing the runners he had on his final relay team, felt confident in their abilities to not only fend off their cross-town rivals, but finish ahead of everyone in the race.
“We knew it was going to tight,” he said. “We just knew we needed to do our thing. Our seed was where it needed to be. If we ran our race, we would be fine.”
Jonnathan Wyrick, the North anchor leg, felt the same and was more than aware what the stakes were as he watched Stephen Burchyett zoom around the track with a lead.
The Patriot junior, waiting for the baton, knew what he needed to do.
“I just wanted to be back-to-back sectional champions,” Wyrick said. “I knew it was going to come down to the 4x400 again.”
And he did it. Wyrick raced around the track before coming down the final straightaway that saw the North faithful up on their feet in the stands, as well as his teammates hollering him to ‘move,’ on the inside of the track.
Jedidiah Shaw, who got North out to its lead on the first leg of the relay, whirled his shirt over his head and cheered on Wyrick, who crossed the finish line well ahead of the rest of the pack, securing North its second straight sectional championship.
“I knew it was going to be a close race again,” said Wyrick. “I’m glad Jed, Stephen and Josh [Readiinger] were able to set me up for a good anchor leg and I was able to go out there and do all I could for them as well.”
The three relay teams weren’t the only Patriots to be crowned sectional champions Friday.
Joshua Readinger, the second leg of the 4x400 team, came from behind to win the 800, as well.
“I felt good the whole race. I knew I had to pick it up to get into the lead,” he said. “I saw [the two ahead of him] were slowing down and I had a little left in the tank and just gave it my all.”
Terre Haute South came up a smidge short for the second consecutive season, but delivered several individual sectional titles of its own.
Among them were thrower Jason Swarens, who swept the discus and shot put and will be headed back to next week’s Bloomington North regionals once again.
“Can’t say enough about the kid,” Terre Haute South coach Jon Lee said of Swarens. “He’s an animal. He just dominates both [events].”
Freshman Matt Gambill took home his first career first-place finish in the sectional meet with what was one of the closest races of the evening.
Gambill trailed behind teammate Cael Light and North’s Ian Gadberry for the first three laps of the 1,600 and remained in third as he headed for the final straightaway.
But as soon as he made the final turn, the jets were turned on, setting up a down-to-the-wire finish between him and Light. Gambill edged out the sophomore, who delivered a congratulatory hug a few seconds after the two crossed the finish line together.
“Very tactical race,” Lee said of Gambill’ and Light’s strategy. “They did what they needed to do and Matt gave the stud Cael Light a run for his money, put those extra wheels on and beat him by a hair.”
Both Gambill and Light earned points with their finishes in the 3200, but weren’t able to overcome Northview’s Braden Nevins.
Nevins, who finished second in the same race last year, bolted out of the gates and took an early lead. He said he had tried the tactic in prior races and was burned by it, as he ran out of gas down the stretch.
Not this time. Nevins cruised to his first sectional championship with a time of 10:13.47.
“I’ve taken races like that before and lost. It was a gamble,” Nevins said of setting the pace. “I just kept pushing.”
Clay City’s Bryce Patterson was one of two double-champions – Swarens – Friday, winning both the 100 and 200.
The junior sprinter said he came into the day battling a cold and had a difficult time breathing normally without coughing, but was good to go once the starter fired off his gun.
And it showed, as he won with times of 10.96 and 23.02, respectively.
“I’ve been working on the little things all season and it looks like it’s paying off,” Patterson said.
Following Terre Haute North (142) in the team standings were Terre Haute South (137.5), Clay City (55), Cloverdale (53) and South Vermillion (45).
Other Wabash Valley champions include Terre Haute South’s Brayden Bender (110 hurdles) and Damon Shaw (high jump).
The top three individuals in each event qualify for next week’s regional.
Terre Haute Boys Sectional
Team scores — Terre Haute North 142, Terre Haute South 137.5, Clay City 55, Cloverdale 53, South Vermillion 45, Northview 44, West Vigo 38, North Putnam 36, South Putnam 29, Sullivan 28, Greencastle 10, Parke Heritage 6.5.
100 — Bryce Patterson (CC) 10.96, 2. Wyrick (THN) 11.33, 3. Shaw (THN) 11.44.
200 — Patterson (CC) 23.02, 2. Salako (THS) 23.18, 3. Benford (THN) 23.32.
400 — Colton Clifford (NP) 50.94, 2. Spence (SV) 51.82, 3. Thomas (Nv) 51.84.
800 — Joshua Readinger (THN) 1:59.36, 2. Dunagan (THN) 1:59.67, 3. Light (THS) 2:03.10.
1,600 — Matt Gambill (THS) 4:38.16, 2. Light (THS) 4:38.48, 3. Gadberry (THN) 4:40.94.
3,200 — Braden Nevins (Nv) 10:13.47, 2. Mullenix (Nv) 10:24.63, 3. Gadberry (THN) 10:26.29.
100H — Brayden Bender (THS), 2. Wilkes (Cd) 15.70, 3. Cooley (THS) 16.18, 16.51.
300H — Jacob Wilkes (Cd) 42.12, 2. Bender (THS) 42.90, 3. Eben (THS) 43.23.
4x100 — Terre Haute North 43.85, 2. North Putnam 43.91, 3. Terre Haute South 44.34.
4x400 — Terre Haute North 3:27.32, 2. South Putnam 3:33.33, 3. Terre Haute South 3:33.59.
4x800 — Terre Haute North 8:23.69, 2. Terre Haute South 8:36.23, 3. South Putnam 8:41.55.
HJ — Kain Gregory (SP) 6-04.00, 2. Shaw (THS) 5-10.00, 3. Owens (CC) 5-10.00.
PV — Jacob Smith (Cd) 12-00, 2. Mitchell (GC) 11-06, 3. Bell (Sullivan) 11-06.
LJ — Damon Shaw (THS) 20-03.50, 2. Benford (THN) 20-03, 3. Butts (CC) 20-03.
SP — Jason Swarens (THS) 61-00, 2. Sherman (THN) 50-10, 3. Buell (CC) 49-00.
D — Swarens (THS) 154-08, 2. Westfall (SV) 141-02, 3. Sherman (THN) 138-04.