In hindsight, perhaps Yariel Soto’s hamstring strain was a blessing. After missing most the season Soto has returned refreshed. That could mean trouble for his Division I competition.
The Centerville Elks senior was unleashed at the Greater Western Ohio Conference division championships on Wednesday. He responded with National Division victories in the pole vault and long jump, second place in the 400-meter dash and fourth in the discus.
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“The field events are the easiest ones. It becomes muscle memory, especially in the pole vault,” said Soto, who tied his personal best in that event at 15-09. “The 400 is probably the hardest one because physically it’s the most demanding event I’ll do. It’s just getting back in the swing of it. … That 400 was my last event of the day so I was pretty tired. It’s just about qualifying for Friday. No big times today.”
The top qualifier from the National Division and American Division advanced to Friday’s GWOC championship meet in Troy. The final six spots were set by the best remaining times regardless of division. Soto advanced in all four of his events.
Soto needed one long jump to win in a GWOC-best 23-01. He made a second attempt (22-05) before stopping to save energy. He won the pole vault with a personal-best 15-09. He was second to Wayne’s Zarik Brown in the 400 in 50.59 and finished fourth in the discus with 133-10.
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“It’s my second meet back from my hamstring injury so today was honestly just about getting to Friday, getting my marks in and winning for our division,” Soto said. “I struggled a bit in the discus. We got a fourth and my teammate got first so I’m happy with that. He had a big PR.”
Senior teammate Kebba Archmalo won the National Division discus with a throw of 142-0.
A world-class decathlete – Soto said he’s the No. 1-ranked high schooler in North and South America based off last season’s times – Soto is getting healthy at the right time. He heads into next week’s Division I district meet as the defending state champion in the long jump and pole vault.
Soto plans to compete in the long jump, pole vault and 800-meter relay and 1,600-meter relay in the postseason. He also has the New Balance Nationals on June 15-16 and the Pan American Games in Peru starting July 26. The University of Tennessee recruit will compete for Costa Rica.
“For me (the injury has) been the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with through track,” Soto said. “I’ve never had an injury that’s held me back for the time it did. It was tough seeing people progress and not be able to do anything. But if anything it could be the best thing that’s happened. I feel fresher and more ready to go than I’ve ever felt.”
Among other highlights from Wednesday:
• Greenville junior Riley Hunt established a new state record in the pole vault, clearing 13-06.5 on her third and final attempt. That broke the previous best of 13-6.25 set by Lewis Center Olentangy Orange’s Anna Watson in 2017.
• Beavercreek junior Taylor Ewert set a meet record in the 1,600 with her 4:51.25. That lowered the previous mark of 4:53.92 by Beavercreek’s Sydney Leiher in 2013.
• Troy’s Lenea Browder set a meet record in the girls discus with a throw of 141-11. That surpassed the 140-05 set by Centerville’s Isis Trotman in 2016. Browder also had the best overall throw in the shot put at 43-00.5.
• Brown, a senior, posted the fastest overall times in the 100 (10.84), 200 (21.87) and the 400 (50.26).
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