Wayne looking to contend for D-I boys state track title

Wayne track and field coach Mike Fernandez celebrates at the regional with the Warriors. JEFF GILBERT / CONTRIBUTED

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Wayne track and field coach Mike Fernandez celebrates at the regional with the Warriors. JEFF GILBERT / CONTRIBUTED

When it’s time for the final event Saturday for the Division I state track and field meet, the Wayne boys 4x400-meter relay will know if it has a chance to bring home a team state championship.

“I think we’re set up pretty good,” said Wayne coach Mike Fernandez.

Wayne is in contention for its first state title since 2000 and third overall. The Warriors won the state indoor title earlier this year without winning an event. The first title was in 1995. A Wayne grad, Fernandez has been coaching there since 1991 and has been head coach since ‘97.

The Warriors are in seven events, led by juniors Justin Harris and Zarik Brown. Harris won the 110 high hurdles (14.13) and 300 hurdles (37.61) at last week’s regional. “My goal is to win every event,” he said.

Brown won the regional 200 (21.31) and placed second to Springfield’s Quincy Scott in the 100 (10.86). Brown ran a 10.73 in his preliminary heat.

“We knew this year there’s something different about him,” Fernandez said of Harris. “He’s more driven – same thing with Zarik. I told this class as freshmen if we stick together we could do something and by their junior year they’re showing something.”

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Brown anchors the 4x100 and 4x400 relays that won the regional. Harris runs third in the 400 and leads off the 1,600. Freshman Jaden Roberts and senior Diante Lesperance run the first two legs of the 400. Senior Davontae McKee and junior Lucas Houk run the middle legs of the 1,600.

Brown’s closing speed was evident in the 1,600 relay and proved why Fernandez said the 400 is probably Brown’s best event. Brown took the baton in fourth place and won.

“Zarik can kick it at any time, any moment,” Harris said. “The kid’s special.”

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The Warriors could also earn points in the shot put from senior Joel Crain, whose winning regional throw traveled 56 feet and a quarter inch. He placed seventh at state last year at 56-11.5.

“I’m going for first,” he said.

Crain just missed making state in the discus with a fifth-place throw.

“It’s all muscle,” he said. “Other events it’s more technique, you’ve got to keep your balance. There ain’t nothing like just throwing it and seeing it fly in the air.”

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• Beavercreek sophomore Eileen Yang is in the pole vault for the second straight year. She won the regional again (12-4).

Yang has a gymnastics background and gave pole vault a try in the eighth grade. Then last year her training took off and she cleared 11-6 at state and placed ninth.

Also competing in the girls pole vault are sophomore Riley Hunt of Greenville, senior Christine Moser of Troy and senior Taylor Robertson of Wayne. Robertson will also compete in the long jump for the second straight year after placing second at the regional (18-3).

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• Troy sophomore Lenea Browder will compete in the discus for the second time and the shot put for the first time. Last year she threw the discus 125-10 and placed ninth behind seven seniors and a freshman.

“It was a good experience last year,” she said. “Now I’m ready and I can go back and I’m not scared anymore.”

Browder’s best throw this year is 156 feet. She threw 149-2 at regionals. Browder was second at the regional in the shot put and senior teammate Alaura Holycross was fourth.

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• Centerville senior Andrew Craig expects to contend in the 800 after placing fourth last year (1:53.80).

“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Craig said. “I feel like I’m going good and coming in with more experience. I would like to win it.”

• Five other area regional champions will compete at state among many others who were top four at the regional.

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Jason Hubbard of Miamisburg won the high jump at 6-7. The senior will compete at state for the first time.

Beavercreek’s 4x800 relay of sophomore Jodie Pierce, freshman Ashtyn Gluck, senior Stephanie Pierce and sophomore Taylor Ewert won the regional (9:11.75). The Pierces were on last year’s team that placed ninth at state in 9:16.25.

Centerville’s boys 4x800 relay also heads to state as regional champion. Craig is joined on that team by fellow seniors Matt Nerlinger and Jack Welsh and junior Ben Burkett.

Centerville will also be represented by senior pole vaulter Colin Jasin. He vaulted 15-2 to win the region. Last year’s winning vault at state was 15-8.

Vandalia Butler senior Daiton Sharp leads a trio of area long jumpers who had a close regional battle. Sharp jumped 23-11, Centerville’s Yariel Soto 23-5.25 and Springfield’s Scott at 23-5.25.

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