In a regional track meet pitting Wayne's sprinters and hurdlers against Carroll's middle-distance runners, it came down to field events. There, the Generals found an unlikely hero in Jari Dada.
“Jari was seeded fifth in the shot put and he got second,” said Wayne coach Tom Hogan. “We needed a few guys to out-perform (their seedings) and Jari did that. We had a lot of guys step up today.”
Dada was the difference, not just in scoring his points (8 in the shot put) but also when the points were scored. With 15 of 16 events scored, Carroll led 75-72. When Dada's shot of 51-feet-9 was marked and his place recorded as second, the Generals leaped the Chargers and won the Wayne boy's track and field regional, 80-75. It was Wayne's first boy's regional title since 1997.
The top three finishers in each event along with those who meet the IHSAA state meet standard advance to the state championships to be held May 31 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Dada admitted he was unaware of all the drama.
“We knew it was going to be close, so everyone was just trying to do their best,” Dada said. “Honestly, it feels great to do something I wasn't supposed to do.”
Wayne had plenty of heroes but few champions. The Generals won the final track event, the 1,600-meter relay and saw Carrington Robinson claim the long jump, but that was it. The Generals won the meet based on second and third-place performances. This made Hogan a mastermind.
“We put one word on the chalkboard: Advance,” Hogan said of his pre-meet talk in the locker room. “We wanted to get as many kids in the top three and advance to the state meet. If it totaled a regional championship, that was a bonus.”
It did and instead of celebrating their “advancing”, the Generals honored Hogan.
“We did this all for Coach Hogan,” said Robinson, who was also runner-up in the high jump and on the winning 1600 relay.
Said Devon Stone, runner-up in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles: “It feels great doing something that hasn't been done (at Wayne) in a long time, but even better that we did it for Coach Hogan.”
Stone also ran anchor on the 1600 relay.
Carroll's points came as expected and with no unforeseen disappointments such as was the case in last year's half-point loss to Snider.
“It was an awesome night; I can't think of a spot where we dropped (places) from where we were supposed to,” said Carroll coach Nathan Fitzgerald. “We wanted to win, but we are not going to hang our heads. We qualified everybody we hoped to.”
Carroll was led by a victorious 3,200-meter relay team of seniors Eric Claxton, Kyle Gater, Alex Hess and Jon Harper. Hess and Gater would finish first and fourth in the 1,600 and Harper and Claxton would finish 1-2 in the 800. The quartet would combine for 45 points.
South Side (52 points) was third on the strength of sprinter Shaton Harris (first in the 100 and 200) and hurdler Austin Mable (first in the 110 and third in the 300).
Homestead (49 points) was fourth thanks to Trevor Stanley's victory in the 300 hurdles.
Also winning events were North Side's Tyvon Kelley (400) and Russell Collins (discus), Concordia's Jacob Reinking (3,200), Bishop Luers (400 relay), Bishop Dwenger's Jared Schipper (pole vault) and Churubusco's Austin McClure (shot put).