ELKHART — Penn defended its Northern Indiana Conference boys track championship with four victories and a bunch of strong performances Tuesday at Central High School’s Rice Field.
The Kingsmen earned another NIC Coach of the Year award for Brad Robertson with Kyle Johnston (meet-record 15 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault), Timothy Deal (school-record 38.95 clocking in the 300 hurdles), Conner Sowders (50.11 in the 400) and Thomas Grant (22.5 in the 200) leading the way as individuals. The 1600 relay foursome of Mark Richards, Timothy Deal, Christian Hill and Conner Sowders was also a winner in 3:22.23.
Penn amassed 140 points — 29 more than runner-up Mishawaka. Central, led by high jump champion Dylan Kruis (6-2) came in fifth with 77.5 points.
Mishawaka (136) rolled to the girls team title. Penn (121) wound up second while Central (51) finished sixth.
“I’m very happy with our total team performance,” said Robertson, who cited a number of outstanding feats as the Kingsmen head into next Thursday’s Penn Sectional.
Robertson was pleased with how Sowders and Grant both came back from disappointment. Sowders was disqualified in the 400 at last year’s NIC meet and not only came back with a win this year, but put in a clocking of 48.6 in the anchor leg of the 1600 relay.
Robertson noted that besides the event victories and the record-setters, he saw two runners (Zachery Johnson and Thomas Gales) break 2:00 in the 800 in the same meet for the first time all season. He also saw four discus/shot put athletes (Samuel Daggy, Seth Rassi, Bobby Nicks and Isaiah Cook) score what he called “meaningful points.”
“We’re really beginning to peak at the right time,” said Robertson.
NIC coaches voted St. Joseph’s runner Joey Zielinski the boys athlete of the meet.
Penn’s Kristina Galat won the 3200 (11:28.3) and 1600 (personal-best 5:13.15) teammates Whitney Grace (season best-tying 11-0 in the pole vault) and Lindsey Grochowalski (15-10 in the long jump) were also winners.
Galat credited distance coach Chris Clements for the hard training she did through regular season.
In the 1600, she took the early lead and won by more than six seconds.
“I wanted to get a huge lead because I knew that (Mishawaka’s) Jessica Balko could out-kick me,” said Galat. “She’s a really good sprinter.”
Central coach Crystal Davis noted that track newcomer Azariah Stahl came in third in the high jump (4-10) and that Marcy Simpson unexpectedly finished fifth in the 300 hurdles (50.18). The Blue Blazers also did well in the discus (Tia Garnett was third at 106-1 and Jenai White fourth at 104-2).
“We made a big breakthrough in the 400 relay,” said Davis of a quartet featuring Jametria Culbreath, Tatiyana Gates, Beatrice Thomas and Olivia Jenks. “We were pretty respectable. We hope to get through (next Tuesday’s Warsaw Sectional) and on to regional in that event.”
Adams sprinter extraordinaire Aaliyah McKinney was voted NIC girls athlete of the meet.