Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

April 7, 2013

Relay revelry

Tahlequah’s 3,200-meter relay team finishes first, leads Tigers to fourth place at Reasors Track Classic.

Zech VanFleet anchors Tahlequah’s 3,200-meter relay team for a reason. He can make up ground in a hurry, and he can blow past anybody once he’s side by side with them.

Those were the ingredients VanFleet put together in leading Tahlequah from behind en route to the two-mile relay championship on Friday at the ninth annual Reasors Track Classic.

Running on his home turf at Tahlequah High School, VanFleet chased down runners from both Union and Jenks and out-sprinted them to the finish line to give the Tigers the gold in the first event of the day — before most teams had a chance to set up a solid tented area on the outskirts of the track.

“That last 100, that’s why we put him at anchorman,” said Tahlequah’s Ara Poteete, who runs the third leg of the race. “If (VanFleet) is anywhere near a guy, he’s going to kill himself trying to pass the guy, so that’s why he’s our anchor. He ran 2:01 today, and he’s really stepped up for us.”

Together, VanFleet, Poteete, Aaron Eversole and Will Carlile charted a time of 8:07.42 to beat out Jenks (8:08.26) and Union (8:08.27) for the 3,200-meter crown. The title also set the tone for Tahlequah the rest of the day.

“This is a date we’ve been pointing toward for a long time with those kids,” said Tahlequah coach Bart Frank, whose team logged 51 points to finish fourth overall. “We’re very, very pleased with the results. Coach (Jason) Proctor does an outstanding job with those guys, and we’re excited about that group.”

The quartet of Poteete, VanFleet, Carlile and Eversole even bested the time set by Tahlequah’s 3,200-relay team in 2010, which won the Class 5A state championship at 8:10.80.

“(Friday) was our first time putting it together,” said Poteete, who was a member of the 2010 two-mile relay team with Moe Brown, Ben Grant and Rusty Fowler. “I’m ecstatic, and I’m thrilled about the guys who have come and stepped up.”

Poteete said the Tigers’ first-place finish in the two-mile race set the tone for the rest of the Reasors Track Classic.

“We kind of went off that the rest of the day,” said Poteete, whose team finished behind Broken Arrow (151.75), Jenks (149.75) and Union (140) in the team standings. “We used that in every race that we ran. It was awesome. I think we shocked a lot of people today, definitely.”

Another boastful performance for Tahlequah came by way of Brandon Conrad in the high jump. The junior standout reeled off a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches to beat Bartlesville’s Verdel Smith and Coweta’s Tyler Guymon by two inches each.

“This is the first time I’ve every won a medal here,” Conrad said. “I was real proud of that.”

The first-place finish is Conrad’s second of the season, after totaling 6 feet, 2 inches at the Jenks meet in early March.

“I got 6-6 my first meet last year, so I’m trying to work toward 6-6 right now,” Conrad said of his career-high mark.

Secretly, Conrad was rooting for his opponents on Friday, so that he could keep on jumping.

“I kind of wanted them to stay in it, so we could keep going up,” he said. “But I’m just happy I won.”

Tahlequah picked up only two first-place finishes on the day, but the Tigers were able to pick up points in other events.

Eversole narrowly missed out on the Tigers’ third gold when he finished two hundredths of a second behind Jenks’ Dallas Elmore in the 800-meter run. Eversole beat his winning time (2:01.64) at last week’s Claremore meet and tallied a final result of 1:57.92 this week. Elmore crossed the line at 1:57.90.

In the 1,600-meter run, Poteete led after the third of the four legs of the one-mile race. But Union’s Mark Middleton (4:29) and Elmore (4:33.40) passed Poteete on the final lap, sending him to a third-place finish at 4:33.67 — Poteete’s personal best.

“After three laps, I took the lead and I went out a little too hard on that third lap,” Poteete said. “I just have to sharpen the body up a little bit, because I really wasn’t ready to do that on the third lap. I just went out trying to run myself into shape.”

Adding to Tahlequah’s total were the performances of Sylas Sloan and Eric Garcia in throwing events. Sloan unleashed a discus throw of 136 feet, 5 inches, which was good enough for fourth place. Garcia’s toss of 44 feet, 11 inches was good enough for sixth in the shotput.

“Sylas getting fourth, to tell you the truth, he was disappointed. And I’m glad he’s disappointed, because he knows he can do better,” Frank said of Sloan, who was less than six feet away from second place (142 feet, 4 1/2 inches by Union’s Chris Biddle), while Broken Arrow’s Bo Farrow set a new meet record at 169 feet, 9 1/2 inches. “Our next best discus thrower (Logan Cook), he was out on a academic trip, so he wasn’t here. Our throwers didn’t do as well as they’re capable, but I don’t have to tell them that. They’re competitors and they’ll rebound and be just fine.”

Now Tahlequah will shift its focus to a meet in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday. After that, the Tigers will be aiming for a Metro Lakes Conference crown on April 25 and qualifying as many athletes as possible for the state meet at a regional meet on May 4 at a site yet to be determined.

“We’re going to focus on trying to win the conference and winning the regional,” Frank said. “We’ll try and get as many guys as we can to the state track meet, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

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