If the Solon boys wanted to put down their program’s best sprint relay performance at a state track meet, the Comets were going to have to turn it up a notch for the Division I finals on Saturday in Columbus. They did.
The quartet of senior Brett Shannon, junior Greg Parries, junior Kevin Perry and senior Ricky Roberts circled the quarter mile in 42.06 seconds, their best time by 0.36 second, to finish third in front of some 10,000 fans at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium.
They received their bronze medals and all-Ohio certificates on the highest podium spot by a Comet four-by-100-meter relay at the big dance, or by a four-by-200 or four-by-400 relay, for that matter.
“I’ve been the pop-off for this whole year, so it was kind of comfortable for me to pop off after I ran the curve last year,” Shannon said. “So, it felt normal to run the curve for my team. We were happy to be on the podium last year, because we got the all-Ohio honor, but we thought we could run better.
“So, we came into this year and beat our best time by like half a second. I’m glad we accomplished what we knew we were capable of this year.”
Shannon and Parries were on the 2018 team that finished eighth at states in 42.76 seconds, which was shy of their season-best 42.11 seconds.
Parries, who ran the second leg Saturday, where many teams put their fastest runners under the notion that it’s the longest leg of the relay, said so much rides on the baton passes at the state meet, and that was the difference to move up five spots on the podium with newcomers Perry and Roberts this year.
“They came, and they did what they had to do for us to come out third,” Parries said. “We all had good exchanges, and we all ran good, and we came out better.”
Parries said his nerves calmed down for the four-by-100 relay after claiming his first individual state medal an hour earlier, by clocking 11.09 seconds in the 100 dash to finish eighth out of lane nine with a slight headwind. He took 17th in that event a year ago.
“I feel like during every meet my first event is always when I’m most nervous,” Parries said. “And then my second event I’m always good to go, and I feel like I always run my best on my second.”
Solon’s Shannon, Parries, Perry and Roberts were just 0.02 second shy of their 2013 program mark, which is held by Darrian Hicks, Khoury Crenshaw, Kollyn Crenshaw and Brandon Bolden.
Khoury Crenshaw was the state champion in the open 100 dash in 2012, and Brandon Bolden was the state champion in the 100 dash in 2014, while Hicks went on to be a Rose Bowl champion for Michigan State football, and Kollyn Crenshaw went on to be a national champion for Mount Union football.
But that 2013 quartet was only 12th at the 2013 state meet in 42.76 seconds, proving it to be difficult to be at your best when it matters most.
“Coming out of prelims with the sixth seed yesterday, we all just realized we had to do our best for today,” said Perry, who ran the third leg. “And my two exchanges, they were probably the best of the year.
“I mean, this is really a proud moment to represent Solon, because all of us coming into this season, like, we knew we were good, but we were never focused on being at states or winning at states. We were just focused on trying to get better, and this is where we ended up.”
Since 2012, Solon has put four four-by-100 relays on the state podium.
Only the Comets’ state champion four-by-800 relay in 1992 and state runner-up four-by-800 relay in 1991 have stood higher on the relay podium in program history.
When Perry rounded the final stagger on Saturday, Roberts received the baton in third and held his position against the fastest anchors in Ohio to secure bronze.
“I just did my best,” Roberts said. “I did everything I could and tried my hardest. I wanted to come through for these three that have worked hard with me. They’ve helped me get here, and I just wanted to do my best.
“And I like running with teams. I’m a team guy. And running is just my passion now.”
Later in the meet, Parries went on to finish fourth in the 200 dash in 22.13 seconds against a 1.2-meter-per-second headwind. He entered that race seeded ninth from prelims but moved up five spots to match the elder Crenshaw for the highest state finish in that event by a Comet.
Not the only Comet bringing his “A” game on Saturday, Solon junior Sam Young made his big-dance debut by finishing seventh in the 800 run in a lifetime best 1:54.57, which ranks fourth among Solon’s all-time performances. Young was seeded 16th entering that race.
“I was freaking out, because, obviously, there’s a lot of people,” he said. “And the first lap I came through, and I was last, dead last, and I just remembered how many people came out for me, and I was like, ‘I’m not here to disappoint.’ So, I just took off, and I kept taking off and passing people. Every time I would reel someone in, it felt good.”
Young reeled in his competition the entire second lap, passing 10 people in all, including two guys in the final 10 meters, edging out Rogers eighth-place junior Gabriel Foster by 0.02 at the finish line.
Pushing him through the grueling final straightaway, Young said his parents paid for a bus for 20 of his friends to come down and watch him. His grandparents were there too.
“I wanted to show them what I had, but I was hurting all right,” he said. “My coach kept telling me, with 150 to go, the whole race is going to change. So, I went from last, I tried to put myself in 12th with 150 to go, and then, going into that last stretch, I just caught more and more people to finish seventh.”
Over in the field events, meanwhile, Solon senior Evan Johnson took sixth in the discus throw at 175 feet, 2 inches, a mark that came on his third and final attempt of prelims.
Although Johnson said he was grateful to end his high school career with an all-Ohio finish on the podium, he was disappointed to be just 3 feet, 1 inch, out of third place.
“It means a lot to leave here with a medal around my neck,” said Johnson, an Ohio State signee. “It was a great opportunity to be here and have my first unofficial home meet. But I was definitely disappointed by the results. I had three throws over 180 (feet); two of them were fouls on the left sector, and one of them was straight down the middle and I foot fouled, which was a very stupid reason not to place third at the state meet.”
Those three fouls all came in the finals.
Since finishing 11th at the state meet a year ago, Johnson said he’s made throwing his life, putting on 20 pounds of muscle through his weight training since 2018 and putting in countless hours into his technique to get ready to continue his career at the next level.
“Overall, I’m thankful to be here,” he said. “While I’m not happy with the results, I do count myself blessed to have gotten here.”
And Solon’s sixth state podium performance on Saturday, 6-foot-9 Davin Miller made his big-dance debut by clearing 6 feet, 6 inches, in the high jump to finish eighth.
Miller cleared 6 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 6 inches, on his first attempts to earn his all-Ohio certificate by way of less misses against Hilliard Davidson’s ninth-place senior Christian Gillilan.
“It’s my first time doing high jump this year, so it’s a blessing to me to make it to states in my first year,” Miller said. “I was more focused on basketball in the past, and I just decided to do track this year to see what I could do with my height.”
Miller said coach Al Benz helped him find his technique this spring, as the novice jumper was competing without spikes in the beginning of the season.
A lot of state rookies miss their opening heights at high jump, but Miller didn’t knock the bar down until after he passed at 6 feet, 7 inches and couldn’t quite clear 6 feet, 8 inches on his three attempts.
“I was nervous until I cleared 6-2,” he said. “And I knew I could get 6-6 on my first try, because that’s what I’ve been doing consistently. And my 6-6 was one of my best ones I’ve ever done today.”