Among the most versatile track and field athletes in area history, Yariel Soto of Centerville High School has an ultimate goal of representing Puerto Rico as a decathlete in the Olympic Games. And he has the developing ability to do so.
Soto unloaded a career-best long jump of 24 feet, 2.75 inches to win that Division I event in last weekend’s season-ending state track meets at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. The long jump field also included Butler senior Daiton Sharp (fourth) and Springfield senior Quincy Scott (fifth).
»PHOTO GALLERY: Day 1 state track and field
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In the midst of that, Soto took jumps in the nearby pole vault area. He won that, too, clearing 15-6 with three close misses at 16 feet.
Soto finished his career day with an opening split of 48-plus seconds to get Centerville the lead of the meet-ending 4x400-meter relay. The Elks finished second (3:19.59).
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.”
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Soto’s top-end efforts vaulted Centerville to second among the D-I boys teams behind Pickerington Central, 58-36.5. Springfield, powered by Scott in an equally impressive effort, was third (32).
Soto already is an established national-caliber youth decathlete. Two summers ago he won bronze in the USTF-sponsored Junior Olympics. He said he’s in the running to participate in next month’s IAAF U20 World Championships at Finland.
Beyond that, there’s the 2020 XXXII Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo. He still would be in his prime for the 2024 Games at Paris, too. That’s heady stuff and if that happens he likely would represent Puerto Rico. Born in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, he can choose to represent Puerto Rico or the United States, should he make either of those Olympic teams.
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Buried in an economic recession, an estimated half of the Caribbean island residents live in poverty. The island also was devastated by Hurricane Maria last fall. The disaster was attributed to 64 deaths in Puerto Rico, although the real figure is estimated to be much greater.
“That’s for me and my whole island,” Soto said. “For what they’re going through right now, I’m just trying to put them on the map. That’s everything.”
He remains uncommitted.
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• Of all the great 400 runners the area has produced over the years, Carroll’s Sam Janson is the least imposing. “I know,” he said. “Everybody says that.”
Carroll bumped up to D-I this season via competitive balance. That didn’t affect Janson, who blew out a career-best 47.32 to win the event.
“It’s finally a payoff to all the hard work,” said Janson, who signed with the University of Akron and likely will bump up to the 800 for the Zips. “I’ve pinched myself the last few weeks after I kept (advancing).”
Janson was among several area track standouts who committed to run in the Midwest Meet of Champions at Michigan State on Saturday.
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• Add Thurgood Marshall’s J.J. Zachery among the Dayton City League’s all-time top quarter-milers. His 47.50 topped the D-II boys field.
“I really did it for my team, letting them know they can do it, too,” he said. “Just giving them strength, power and a good mindset. I’m just here to represent for Dayton, Ohio, and my school.”
That encouragement didn’t go unheeded. With Zachery running anchor, Thurgood also won the D-II 4x400 relay (3:20.85). Other relay members were Jashawn Hopkins-Russell, V’Sean Palmer and Tranel Philpot.
Zachery graduated this spring and hopes to play college football.
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• No one was more surprised at the extended success of Miamisburg senior high jumper Jason Hubbard than himself.
“It’s amazing,” he said after leaping a career-best 6-8 to win the D-I boys event. “I had no intention of going this far and I never even thought about it. I’m so fortunate to be here. To get the win is unbelievable. It’s pretty crazy.”
Miamisburg historian Mark Becker emailed that Hubbard surpassed the previous school record of 6-7 set by Barry Ward in 1975 and matched by Tim King in 1979.
Hubbard, 6-6, has signed to play basketball at Taylor.
• Alter senior Perri Bockrath wrapped up an impressive Knights running career by placing runner-up in the D-II girls 3,200 (10:40.66). That was a school record by 13 seconds and also was better than the previous stadium record.
Bockrath ran at state all four years with the Knights and placed in five events, including the winning D-II 4x800 relay as a freshman. Like Carroll’s Janson, she also was scheduled to run for Team Ohio in the Midwest Meet of Champions at MSU and the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet at Greensboro, N.C., June 15-17 (1600 meters).
Joining a large Knights following at state was Loyola Marymount coach Scott Guerrero. Bockrath will run cross country and track at Marymount.
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• Dayton men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant had a special interest in the D-II meets. His son Preston and daughter Jayda were among the Chaminade Julienne participants.
A senior, Preston was on the Eagles’ fifth-place 4x200 relay (1:29.66) and also qualified for the 200. Jayda, a junior, helped CJ place seventh in the girls 4x200 relay (1:45.10) and also ran on the state-qualifying 4x100 relay.
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