MARION CENTER — Regarded by longtime coach Pat Snyder as the best team he has fielded in some time, the Indiana boys left little to chance at Saturday’s 89th annual Indiana County Track and Field Meet.
The Indians won the first two events of the day and never slowed down en route to their third straight team title at the long-running meet. Led by a pair of distance runners and hurdler Austin Rhodes, Indiana won 11 of the 18 contested events to run away with the title.
Apollo-Ridge took second for a 1-2 WPIAL finish, and Homer-Center placed third.
Running into a strong headwind that battered Dr. John R. Mallino Stadium all afternoon, Rhodes swept the hurdling events, winning the 110- and 300-meter hurdles by more than a second.
Adam Lenze won the 400- and 800-meter runs, and Ryan Louther won the 1,600 and 3,200, the second straight year he swept the distance events.
“It’s a real honor, a real privilege, and I worked really hard knowing that was a possibility,” Lenze said after he took the Most Valuable Track Athlete award.
Darrious Carter won the triple jump and broke the meet record by 7 inches with a leap of 45 feet, 6 inches. Indiana’s Dan Sandrowicz held the previous record of 44-11, set in 2008.
Brian Waryck cleared 13-0 to win the pole vault, and Corey Denlinger opened the day by winning the javelin with a throw of 176-8.
“We know this is a good boys’ team coming out here,” Snyder said. “We knew it was going to be a good day. The kids were excited about coming out here.”
With good reason.
The favorites to win the meet on a yearly basis, the Indians lived up to the billing and relished every moment of it.
“Yeah, it does mean something to us,” Louther said. “I’m happy with every win.”
“It absolutely does mean something,” Lenze said. “We’re always trying to improve, and we’re always up against what I honestly consider to be stiff competition from the other guys. I always step up to the line knowing they’re going to give us a run for our money.”
Indiana’s foursome of Carter, Adam Lenze, Sam Lenze and Louther won the 3,200 relay in the first track event of the day, and the Indians capped the day with a win in the 1,600 relay. The 1,600 relay team featured Carter, Denlinger, Adam Lenze and Waryck.
Apollo-Ridge’s Jesse Zelonka and Tre Tipton also won a pair of events each, with Zelonka sweeping the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and Tipton winning the long jump and high jump.
Tipton was named the Most Valuable Field Athlete of the meet.
Zelonka and Tipton, along with Johan Casella and Dillon Tones, teamed to win the 400 relay for the Vikings.
Homer-Center throwers Cody Miller (discus) and Mike Newhouse (shot put) rounded out Saturday’s winners and were the only Heritage Conference athletes to claim first-place finishes.
The times in track events and even distances in throwing events were affected by the windy conditions, partially explaining why Carter’s record-setting triple jump was the lone meet record of the day, on either the girls’ or boys’ side.
“Today was more about winning than about times and distances,” Snyder said.
“On the mile, I was actually trying to go under 4:30, but with the wind, I don’t think I could have done that today,” he said. “I wasn’t really worried about time. I was just going out there to win.”
Another team that has enjoyed a dominant season, Apollo-Ridge added a second-place trophy to its growling list of accolades.
The Vikings completed a 9-0 regular season Thursday, and they went 7-0 in WPIAL Section 7-AA meets to win the section title. Like Indiana, they’re headed to the WPIAL team playoffs this week.
“We just came off a big win Thursday,” Zelonka said. “Coming into this, we weren’t expecting as many medals as we got. We weren’t expecting second place behind Indiana, but it’s a great experience to see all the runners and throwers and jumpers from Indiana County.”
Two of the most anticipated events on the boys’ side never materialized because Saltsburg sprinter Deion Robinson didn’t compete.
Robinson was expected to challenge for the titles in the 100 and 200, and his absence left Zelonka with mixed feelings.
“When I saw that he wasn’t here, of course I was excited, but then again, I was pretty upset,” Zelonka said, “because I think my time definitely came down when I faced him, so it would have been a good race.”
For Indiana, the ride is slowly winding down. The Indians completed their regular season last week and enter the WPIAL Class AAA team playoffs for the second straight season later this week.
“It’s going to be sad. We’re losing a lot of these kids, a lot of them are seniors,” Snyder said. “Darrious, Lenze, Louther, (Edu) Campos, Rhodes, Denlinger, what a core of track kids we have there. And they’re all running three, four events. It’ll be a long time until we have a team like we have this year with boys.”