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Golden performance is silver lining for Comets
Golden performance is silver lining for Comets
By TONY LANGE
Solon senior AJ Hicks went into the Division I Ohio High School state track and field championship last weekend seeded second in the shot put and fourth in the discus. His high hopes in the shot put were shattered with fouls on his first two throws. But his less lofty hopes in the discus turned to gold with the throws of his lifetime.
Not only did Hicks return home with the state discus championship, but he broke the stadium record in the process.
On paper, the Solon boys' track and field team was penciled in to score 32 points in the championship meet at Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, which would have been good enough for third place.
The Comets, however, finished 21st with 10.5 points, while Cincinnati LaSalle won the meet with 36 points.
Heading into the meet, the Comets knew they could have been in the top three, but they would have had to perform well, head coach Dad Iwan said. "If you put it all together, you can't deny the math. We'd be right in there," he said. "But you don't run track meets on paper. We just didn't perform to the stand of the state meet."
At the state meet, there are 16 competitors in each of the 17 events, and the top eight finishers move on to finals and score points. The Comets were seeded to qualify for finals in six of their seven events but only advanced in two.
It was a little disappointing to be out of team race real quick, Iwan said. "But that's what happens," he said. "You can't win a track meet in the prelims, but you could sure lose it, and that's kind of what happened to us."
Hicks' experience in the shot put was part of what happened. He was ranked second with his regional throw of 64 feet, 4.75 inches. But during his three throws in the state preliminaries, he fouled his first two. With a cautious third throw, Hicks threw 54 feet, 0.25 inches, which put him at 11th place and out of the finals.
Hicks said he was not angry. "It was disappointment mixed with a little bit of embarrassment," he said. "I knew that it happens. I knew I had another shot at disc later, and there was no changing the past. No matter how hard I thought about it, nothing was going to change. I still wasn't going to make it to the finals, so I just looked forward."
In the discus, Hicks threw 180 feet, 7 inches for the best first throw of the meet. His second throw marked 187 feet, 6 inches, which clinched first place, as no other thrower passed that mark through the sixth round of throws.
Knowing he had won the event, Hicks was real relaxed for his sixth and final throw, he said. "That took a lot of pressure off," he said. "When it came to my last throw, I had already won it. So I'm real relaxed, I throw it, it felt sort of effortless, which is how all the really good throws feel, according to all coaches. So I throw it, I knew it was 195-plus, and then when I heard the official say, 'We have to straighten out the tape,' that's when I got real excited."
At 200 feet, 7 inches, Hicks set the Jesse Owens stadium record by 3.5 feet and became the first state champ for Solon since 1992.
Being able to accomplish that feat just shows what kind of kid Hicks is, Iwan said.
"That last throw was just so unbelievable. It kept going and going and going," Iwan said. "Most kids I know would have let a letdown like AJ had in the shot put affect them in their next event. That just made me really proud of him the way he came back in the discus."
Solon's other finalist was junior Karl Pierce's performance in the pole vault. He cleared 14 feet for eighth place.
"You've got to give him credit," Iwan said. "Karl has been consistent for us and was able to score, so that was really good."
In the four-by-800-meter relay, Solon's only event in which it wasn't seeded to advance to the finals, the team of sophomore Zack Zimmers, junior Max Haiss, sophomore Eric Hansen and senior Paul Arters finished 13th with a season best time of 7:58.67.
"They were in the race all the way through the end," Iwan said. "A 7:55 placed, so it's not like they were blown out of the water."
Iwan is real encouraged to have three of that relay's members returning for next season, he said. Typically, teams at state have one really good guy who can run a sub 1:55 split, and Solon didn't have that this year, he said.
"Paul with be hard to replace," he said of Arters, "but we're really encouraged with what the relay did this season and are looking forward to them for next season."
Also competing at the state meet for the Comets were junior Rod Jackson in the 110 hurdles, sophomore Khoury Crenshaw in the 100-meter dash and senior Matt Thompson in the 200-meter dash.
"It was a good experience for Rod and Khoury. They'll be back next year," Iwan said.
Jackson finished 13th with a 14.87 after crushing his first hurdle, which affected his rhythm and tempo throughout the race as he played catchup, Iwan said.
Khoury, who also finished 13th with an 11.21, just didn't have a good start, and the same thing applies, Iwan said.
"When you spot kids who can really, really run and give them a head start, they're not coming back to you," he said. "I know they're not thrilled with the way things went, but I think it's a little easier for them, because they both realize what it takes to go on to the next level for next year."
Thompson was in a good position to qualify coming of the turn during his 200 but wasn't able to hold onto whatever lead he had on the third, fourth and fifth runners, and they went by him, Iwan said. He finished 14th with a 22.25.
"Thompson didn't run poorly; he just didn't run as well as he needed to," Iwan said.
"But I'm really proud of all those guys," he said. "They've battled all year long. It's easy to look at the state meet and say you went down there and didn't do anything and that's not a success, but that's very shortsighted. These guys had very great years. You wish things would have worked out for them differently, but it didn't. But, hey, that's track and field for you."
As a coach, Iwan just has to remind his athletes how rare it is to get down to the state meet in the first place and put a little perspective for his guys, he said.
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