Johnson, Sommers, Holz Earn Trip To State Track Meet

Posted on May 25, 2018 in Boy's Track, Spring Sports

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com
Grant County high schools had a trio of regional champions crowned Tuesday evening at the Indiana Wesleyan University track and field stadium and at least three schools are sending competitors into to the June 2 state championship meet in Bloomington.

Oak Hill junior Sammy Sommers and sophomore Tahj Johnson will be making a return trip to state in the long jump and 400 meters, respectively, while Marion senior Justin Johnson returns just in a different event.

Johnson ran the third leg for the Giants’ regional champion 4×100 meter relay team and will compete for a state championship with freshman Khalid Stamps and Zaimar Burnett along with sophomore Billy Rodgers in the sprint race showcase.

Along with anchoring the 4×1, Burnett blazed his way to a third place finish in the 100 meters and was the lone individual to advance for the Giants.

Marion carried the baton around the track in 42.32 seconds to edge Carroll (42.39) to win take the regional crown.

“(This week), they worked really hard on handoffs and obviously it paid off,” said Marion coach Nate Larson. “We still have some tweaking to do, but they’ve really pushed each other and really supported each other and I think it really shows on the track.”

Burnett’s final leg of the the 4×100 may have been faster than the 10.93 he ran in the 100. He was .35 of a second behind Justin Becker of Carroll.

He’s got a ton of upside. He doesn’t look at it like he qualified for state he looks at it like I got third, and he looks at like I got beat,” Larson said of his fast freshman, Burnett. “That’s a great attitude that we love because he’s such a competitor and he’s going to give every ounce that he’s got.”

Speaking of fast, Oak Hill’s Tahj Johnson from Oak Hill ran his career-best and a school record 48.98 in the 400. Johnson, who was putting a new pair of track spikes to use in their first competition, exploded through the final 100 meters of the race to easily beat Fort Wayne Snider’s Preshawn Boyd. Johnson’s time could make him a favorite to win a medal in the state finals.

“I got a bad start out of the blocks, stood straight up and then tried to go,” Tahj Johnson said. “I started catching them around the (third turn) then the last 100 I just turned it on and kept them off.”

Tahj Johnson finished 10th in the state his freshman year and hopes the experience will help finish even better a week from Saturday.

“I fully expect to home a medal with me,” he confidently said. “I just want to give all my glory to God for giving me the opportunity to go down there and I hope I make the most of it.”

Sommers has shown flashes of being a state title contender though the season and his winning leap of 22-3.25 will afford him another opportunity to compete. Sommers winning jump came in the midst of running his heat in the 300 hurdles.

“They called third call for hurdles and (official scorer) Pat (McClure), being the generous guy that he is said just go,” Sommers said. “I went and pulled out (a jump) just a quarter of inch from the state standard. We moved on. We won. Now we’ll see what we’ve got to do.”

Oak Hill will take a third athlete to state in somewhat of a surprise. Sophomore Gavin Holz improved his pole vault career best by eight inches and the vault of 13-4, with fewest misses, earn him a third place finish and state qualification.

Eastbrook senior distance standout Connor White will also be making the trip, his first, to the state track finals. White qualified for the cross country state championship as a junior and will finish his high school career with a trip to state in the 1,600. White covered the four laps in 4:16.09 to finish comfortably in third behind Jesse Hamlin of Fort Wayne Snider (4:12.13) and Carroll’s Connor Goetz (4:12.32) and in front of Richmond Stoltsfus of Westview (4:23.29).

“I’m super excited. I’ve been working really hard since November and coach has been really hammering us with workouts,” White said. “It’s been a good season and I’m glad to finish it off really well.”

Another Grant County distance standout, Brennan Butche, ran a spectacular race in the 3,200 setting an Ole Miss record and a personal best with a time of 9:29.29. But Butche was relegated to a fourth place finish. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, Butche will get a call back to compete at state.

“Its always good to get a PR and I got the school record but what’s most important to me is getting that call back and making it to state, because I haven’t made it yet” Butche said.

Butche finished fifth at the cross country state championship last fall.

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