Cougars advance four to state, place sixth at regional

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Greenfield-Central’s Kirk Knecht competes in the boys long jump event at the 2021 IHSAA Boys Track & Field State Meet at Ben Davis High School on Friday, June 4, 2021.

Rob Baker | For The Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — The combination of favorites, hopefuls and one big-time surprise got Greenfield-Central four qualifiers to next week’s IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals to be held Saturday, June 4 at Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Even the favorite had his own obstacles to overcome at Thursday’s Greenfield-Central Regional.

Sophomore Kirk Knecht, the Cougars only returning state qualifier, is now two for two in his high school long jumping career, and he will be joining teammates Aaron Lee, Michael Runions and Hudson McGuire in the 4×100 relay.

Knecht, who pulled up in the 200 prelims, with an apparent right leg injury, was still able to join his three teammates later in the evening for the 400 relay. The Cougars, who won last week’s sectional race, placed second with a season-best time of 43.70 seconds.

“It like popped and my hamstring was really tight with about 50 meters to go,” Knecht said.

“He was really tight in his hamstring and I think it was just a cramp or it was tight and he thought something was going to happen,” Greenfield-Central head coach Aaron Smith said. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to run the (relay). We had another guy warming up. I didn’t want him to get hurt, but he and the trainer both said he was good to go.”

Prior to the 200, Knecht had already qualified for the long jump finals. He was third, the final automatic qualifying position, with a distance of 21-feet, 3-inches. No one positioned below him was able to beat his distance, so he scratched all of his attempts in the final.

Knecht said he would have jumped if he had to, but was glad he didn’t have to.

“I am honored to go to state. Last year I didn’t do as well as I thought I could,” Knecht said. “Hopefully I can redeem myself and jump a lot better.”

Last year, Knecht placed 18th at the state meet with a distance of 20-feet, 11 1/4 inches.

Knecht, who also plays on the baseball team, said he plans on playing Saturday in the team’s sectional opener.

Junior Griffen Wheeler, the Hancock County champion and Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional runner-up in the 800, got in with the state standard time. He had a personal best, running his two laps in 1:55.39. The state standard was 1:55.62.

“I wore different shorts today and that helped a ton,” joked Wheeler on advancing to state.

He said he didn’t know he made it until he heard his dad on the sidelines shout out the official time.

“It means the world to me … I didn’t want to let anyone and all my coaches down, my father and my teammates, all that have been there with me from the start,” Wheeler added on getting to the state meet. “I want to pave the path to keep (my teammates) following in the right direction.”

There wasn’t a bigger or more pleasant surprise for the Cougars than sophomore high jumper Elliot Ryba.

Ryba didn’t qualify at last week’s sectional, but got a call-back to fill the field in the high jump.

He took advantage of his opportunity and went three inches over his career best to tie for second place with a height of 6-feet, 6-inches.

“It was a lucky call-back. I didn’t expect to make it here,” Ryba said. “I was feeling OK, but when I got in a groove, I felt good and kept going.

“I thought I was done (after last week) and was just preparing for next season. I got told Friday night I was getting called back. I had nothing to lose, just go out and do what I can.”

He’s only been a high jumper for less than a year. A former distance runner, Ryba started high jumping toward the end of last season. Now, he’s a state qualifier.

“That was not expected at all,” Smith said. “Last year he was a distance runner. We had no high jumpers and we were messing around on a Saturday and all the distance guys were practicing (for the high jump). He was (clearing) 5-6 or 5-8 last year. He was tied for fifth at the sectional and then he had a three-inch PR today. Three inches is unheard of.”

G-C tied for sixth in the team scoring with 27 points. Center Grove was the team champion with 137 points.

New Palestine placed 13th with 11 points, but were unable to get a state qualifier, by placement.

Coach Eric Branch said there was a possibility Jack Rossell could get a call-back in the pole vault. Rossell cleared a career-best height of 13-feet, 9-inches to place fifth.

The Dragons picked up five of their 11 points in the pole vault. Sage Halter placed eighth, clearing 13-feet.

“Both vaulters did their job tonight,” Branch said of his junior pair. “There’s been nights when Sage is in the spotlight, then Jack picks up the next week. It’s been a really healthy back and forth. They’ve been pushing each other this year.”

The 3200 relay team of Colin Darley, Connor Lapenta, Daniel Davis and Cody Crawmer earned sixth place with a time of 8:22.25. Grayson Thomas was seventh in the 200. Josh Lambdin was eighth in the discus.

Greenfield-Central’s other team point came on an eighth-place finish from Christopher Ross in the 3200 (10:03.95).

2022 Greenfield-Central Boys Track and Field Regional Results

Team scores (champions): Center Grove 137 (4), Columbus North 84 (4), Warren Central 82 (2), Franklin Central 57 (1), Whiteland 37 (2), Greenfield-Central 27, Roncalli 27 (1), Franklin County 20 (1), East Central 16, Batesville 14, Lutheran 12, Greenwood 12, New Palestine 11, Milan (1) 10, Lawrenceburg 10, Connersville 10, Richmond 9, Rising Sun 8, Columbus East 8, Triton Central 5, Franklin 5, Beech Grove 4, Rushville 4, Greenwood Christian Academy 3, Greensburg 3, South Dearborn 3, Northeastern 2, Hagerstown 2, Hauser 1, South Ripley 1.

Local state qualifiers: Greenfield-Central – 400 relay (Aaron Lee, Michael Runions, Kirk Knecht, Hudson McGuire, 2nd, 43.70 seconds), Elliot Ryba (2nd, HJ, 6-6), Knecht (3rd, LJ, 21-3), Griffen Wheeler (4th, 800, 1:55.39).

Event: Winner, School;Results

100: Brandon Wheat, Center Grove;10.86 seconds

200: Matthew Wray, Whiteland;22.02 seconds

400: Benjamin Riehle, Milan;49.88 seconds

800: Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff, Columbus North;1:53.71

1600: Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff, Columbus North;4:09.82

3200: Parker Mimbela, Center Grove;9:22.29

110 hurdles: Alexander Hooten, Roncalli;14.65 seconds

300 hurdles: Parker Doyle, Center Grove;40.04 seconds

400 relay: Matthew Wray, Peyton Dotson, Scott Parrish, Jamal Nyonteh (Whiteland);43.65 seconds

1600 relay: Xavier Wills, Brion Stephens, Michael Durham, Amarion Sanders (Warren Central);3:21.10

3200 relay: Clayton Guthrie, Kellen Hottell, Matthew Newell, Mateo Mendez (Columbus North);7:52.30

Shot put: Tucker Smith, Columbus North;67-feet, 11-inches

Discus: Alex Evans, Franklin Central;172-feet, 6-inches

High jump: Brion Stephens, Warren Central;6-feet, 11-inches

Long jump: Jacob Schatzle, Franklin County;21-feet, 10-inches

Pole vault: Connor Burries;Center Grovel;15-feet, 6-inches