Cougars’ fast start propels team to 3rd-place finish

For the Daily Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — On a cool Thursday evening at the Warren Central boys track and field sectional, Greenfield-Central got off to a hot start and kept on rolling all the way to 92 points and a third-place finish.

Pushing the pace early and staying in the hunt through the thick of the meet helped the Cougars best last year’s score by 20 points.

Greenfield-Central’s Hancock County rival New Palestine finished the meet strong to grab sixth place with a total of 33.33 points.

Warren Central’s 12-year reign in the meet extended another year, as they won with 182 points. Franklin Central followed with 107.33 points. After the Cougars came Roncalli (48 points), Shelbyville (38), the Dragons, Howe (27), Beech Grove (21.33), Indianapolis Marshall (20), Lutheran (17) and Scecina (13).

Cougars’ quick start

The Cougars set the tone early by winning the meet-opening 4×800-meter relay. They fell to third after the first leg but remained within striking distance throughout. Senior Syrus Fletcher turned on the jets at the halfway point of the final leg to grab the win the event with a time of 8:21.43, which was a full second faster than second-place finisher Warren Central.

Seeded third in the event, the Cougars only needed to match their seed to advance, but that was not going to cut it for Fletcher.

“I was in position where I felt good after the first lap,” said Fletcher. “I thought, ‘I could go one more lap like this, relax and finish third, or I can make a move and see what happens.’”

That move resulted in a huge kick-start for the Cougars, who finished fifth in the event last year. The result pleased head coach Scott Burton, who is used to seeing the host team win the race.

“Winning the 4×800 was nice to see,” he said. “That’s usually one that Warren Central or Franklin Central dominate in this sectional, and it got us off to a good start for the night.”

Fletcher and company would not be the only athletes from Greenfield-Central to advance to regional.

Junior Jacob Keener and sophomore Bryce Ratliff tied for third in the pole vault to advance to next week’s Connersville Regional. Both cleared 10 feet, 10 inches to earn 5.5 points each for the Cougars.

Zach Phillips set a new personal record on his way to claiming the sectional title in the discus. He crushed his seed mark with a distance of 154 feet, 2 inches. His throw was nearly six feet farther than the second-place competitor.

“It was really nice (to set the PR),” Phillips said. “I’ve been struggling all week just to get throws to go where they needed to be, and I just came here, it clicked, and it just felt good.”

Phillips also took home second in the shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 4 inches.

Also bringing home top-honors for the Cougars was Zach Bishop, who flew past the competition in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10 minutes flat.

Bishop came into the event with the only seed time under 10 minutes, but even though he was the favorite, he never lost sight of competing and having fun.

“One of the things that my parents like to remind me of is to go out there and have fun,” he said. “I was smiling on the inside (during the race).”

The Cougars will advance six individual athletes and one relay team with the chance of sending along some more.

Those competitors who did not finish in the top three still have an opportunity to qualify for regional. If their performance was among the best non-top-three finishers in the sectionals feeding into the Connersville Regional, they have a chance at being included in the regional field.

Dragons finish strong

The New Palestine boys’ track team took a little bit longer to get going than their county rivals, but once the Dragons hit their stride, they were in business.

Senior Chris Poturalski finished second in the 400-meter run to advance to regionals with a time of 50.14. The 2014 state qualifier fought tooth and nail with Marshall’s Stoney Prowell, who edged out Poturalski by less than a second.

He was the lone Dragon to make it on to the next round as an automatic qualifier until the final event of the night, the 4×400, in which the Dragons placed third.

Even though head coach Daniel Weimer was pleased with his qualifiers, he was happiest about what his other athletes accomplished.

“I was most impressed with what Kyle Zehner got out,” he said. “He used a lot of energy he had from his other races to really get us to where we needed to be.”

Zehner will join Poturalski as a member of that 4×400 relay team but will have to wait and see if he makes it into any other events.

The Connersville Regional is at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Team Results

1. Warren Central (182 points), 2. Franklin Central (107.33), 3. Greenfield Central (92), 4. Roncalli (48), 5. Shelbyville (38), 6. New Palestine 33.33, 7. Howe (27), 8. Beech Grove (21.33), 9. Marshall (20), 10. Lutheran (17), 11. Scecina (13).