Best in the long run
PORTAGE — “Man, that last 400 was tough.”
New Prairie distance stud Jacob Corbett made the remark to his girlfriend minutes after a last-lap surge to win the 3,200-meter run that suggested he wasn’t feeling the burn at Thursday’s Portage Sectional.
“Honestly, I have no clue, I just felt it and I took off,” Corbett said. “New Prairie was all over there (on the backstretch), they were cheering me on. I was tired going into it. I was definitely hurting, but with the time in between (races), there’s enough time to relax, to get going again. I was ready to go.”
Corbett took off with about 250 meters left, pulling away from Wheeler’s Hudson Hall, his nearest challenger to that point, to win in 9 minutes, 39.75 seconds. Teammate Tim O’Laughlin rallied to take second in 9:45.99, followed by La Porte’s Mitchell Gits (9:47.61) as the trio all qualified for the Valpo Regional. Earlier in the meet, Corbett ran a crafty 1,600, drafting off the Slicers’ Cole Raymond, then separating on the fourth lap, checking in at 4:22.02. Raymond clocked 4:25.72 with Corbett’s brother Brandon also advancing in third (4:36.61).
“It feels great,” Corbett said of his sectional titles. “I had shin splints during indoor season, but the rest of the season has been perfect. I’m feeling great.”
The Cougars’ 84 points, good for fourth place, topped La Porte County schools, with Michigan City fifth (61) and La Porte sixth (53). NP also went one-two in the pole vault, where Dalton Thomas cleared 13 feet, four inches. Freshman Dan O’Laughlin, whose dad Tom coaches the event, was runner-up with a personal-best 12 feet.
“It could be better with a little tailwind, but I can’t complain,” Thomas said. “I didn’t think it would be this nice. It was easier to keep my muscles warm. I’ll have to go a lot higher than that (in regionals). I can get it, I hope.”
City’s throwing duo of Ryan Stefanko and Justin Wozniak repeated as champions, Stefanko nearly cracking the 60-feet barrier with a PR toss of 59-9 3/4. Stefanko also knocked out as career best in the discus at 146-5 to claim third.
“Mentally, I was focused in, I knew had to get it done, it’s the postseason,” Stefanko said. “I knew I had to be more explosive on the finish. I needed to relax, get my mind in the game, do it all when it matters.”
Wozniak measured 160-1 to take the discus and added a fourth in the shot at 49-6.
“Today wasn’t that good a day again, but I’m still happy with it,” Wozniak said. “I’ve been working on staying straight and keeping my body like a T when I’m spinning because I tend to dip my left shoulder. That usually causes the disc to go flying up and then tombstone into the ground. The one good throw I did get was when I did my technique right. The rest of the throws were bad. It’s still not my best, but state’s what matters. That’s what I’m getting ready for. Ryan got third in the disc, so I was trying to get third in the shot.”
The Wolves’ Joe Rice was long jump runner-up at 20-10 3/4, four inches and change behind Portage’s Zach Warchus.
“It wasn’t my best, but I’m advancing to regionals, so I’m proud of that,” Rice said. “It was just so close. The better man won today. I still have a smile on my face. That’s a big lesson to learn, once again, about being humble. I came out here positive, ready to go. I just have to stay more calm, stay more focused. I was nervous. The board wasn’t as good as last (week) when I did 22-9. Hopefully, regionals I can get a PR, try to aim for the school record. The Valpo board has a lot more pop in it. I can get more hang time. That’s what I really need. I do have some more fire for next week, much more motivation to win.”
Kejuan Rufus, who took fourth in the long jump, joined Rice, Eaton Laurent and Laymon Fly, Jr., on the third-place 400 relay. Fly moved on with a third in the 100 (11.1). La Porte’s 3,200 relay and high jumper Evan Nelson (6-2) were also third.