Nathan Whitney

Nathan Whitney, left, and Ben Johns await the start of the boys 4x800-meter relay race on Friday night at the Highland Invite. Whitney's relay team took home first place for East Knox, finishing with a time of 8:58.52.

MARENGO – As Dillon Moreland rounded the final turn on Friday evening, Cody Cockrell pumped his fist like Tiger Woods on the back nine. A giddy grin stretched across his face. After seven-and-a-half breakneck laps, victory seemed inevitable.

Cockrell and Moreland are teammates on the East Knox 4x800-meter relay team. Cockrell paced anxiously across the infield as Moreland brought it home for the Bulldogs, maintaining a comfortable distance from the pack and securing a first-place finish.

Cockrell, Moreland and the team’s other two members, Dawson Moreland and Nathan Whitney, embraced near the finish line at Highland High School as their time was recorded – 8:52.58, nearly 11 seconds faster than second-place Northridge.

Not bad for a team that almost didn’t happen, right?

“We spent the whole winter convincing him (to run)” Dawson Moreland said of Cockrell, who also happens to be one of the school’s better basketball players. After months of prodding, Cockrell agreed to join the 4x800 squad.

Now he can’t get enough of the event. Cockrell, who runs the third leg in the relay, was all smiles on Friday. He rightly credited the team’s first two runners, Whitney and Dawson Moreland, for the win – they established a substantial lead that he and Dillon Moreland simply had to maintain.

“These two guys – our first two legs, Nathan and Dawson – are just quick,” Cockrell said. “They really carried us. I mean we all do good, but these guys get a big lead and we just really try to keep it. That’s all we really try (to do).”

Whitney completed the first two laps in 2:05, which distance coach Ran Jones said opened up the race for the rest of the team. Although it’s still early, he envisions the boys 4x800 team being one of the program’s strengths this spring.

“We just have good leadership on the distance side,” Jones said. “So this race, I know they take a lot of pride in. There’s a lot of upperclassmen and a lot of younger guys kind of fighting for those spots, too.”

The Bulldog boys finished fourth out of eight teams at the Highland Invite on Friday. Buckeye Valley took first, while Highland and Northridge placed second and third, respectively. East Knox finished just half a point behind Northridge.

The Bulldogs beat out Centerburg (fifth), Utica (sixth), Danville, (seventh), and Delaware Christian (eighth) on the boys side.

The girls side went as follows, from first to last: Buckeye Valley, Highland, Northridge, Centerburg, East Knox, Danville, Delaware Christian, Utica. The top three teams all finished within 41 points of each other, while 49 points separated Northridge and Centerburg. East Knox and Danville trailed closely behind.

Friday served as a solid night for the East Knox boys 4x800 relay team, although Jones said the goal is not to break personal records at this point in the season.

“It’s a long-term thing,” he said. “So we have our eyes on what’s ahead and we want to be competitive in the league, so we’re kind of training with that in mind.”

That being said, the four boys involved couldn’t help but smile after Friday’s win. As they stood together at midfield, panting and high-fiving, they dreamed about what the future could hold.

“I think we’ve got a bright future,” Dawson Moreland predicted. “We practice hard and I think if we work hard, it’s all going to come together.”

Cockrell went on to win the 800-meter dash on Friday with a time of 2:17.50, just two seconds faster than Buckeye Valley’s Kyle Gray. Dawson Moreland won the mile in a blazing 4:57.00, less than two ticks ahead of Northridge’s Nick Houck. Anthony Gilmore captured first place in the high jump for East Knox with a height of 5-foot-10.

        

Danville’s Brown inches closer to school discus throw record

Danville’s lone first-place finish on Friday came in the girls discus throw, where senior Makayla Brown set a personal record with a distance of 103 feet. According to head coach Hillary Hess, Brown is nearing the school record, which was set in 1994.

“She’s close,” Hess said. “But that’s her best of the year, best ever. So she’s going to get there.”

Brown beat Highland’s Erin Connor by eight feet and five inches to win Friday’s event. Brown said she and Connor have developed a friendship over years of competition, and now they’re pushing each other to beat their respective school records.

“We’ve been working at getting the records together, and I hope I can keep it up,” Brown said. “It’s my senior year, so hopefully I can accomplish it before I graduate.”

According to Brown, she needs just 10 more feet to break the Danville school record. She credited her PR on Friday to the weather – she had “really good footing” because the launch circle had dried – and a little extra motivation. Her grandparents came from out-of-state to watch her compete, which she said fueled her performance.

“Everybody was just here and it just happened,” she said with a smile.

Hess was impressed with Brown’s technique on Friday. “Her form was good,” said Hess, who added that Brown has worked hard before and after practices to hone her craft. This is Brown’s fourth and final year of discus throw, and she’s working diligently to make sure it’s her best.

“I have put a lot of time, extra hours, even without coaches. I’ve had four different coaches all four years, so each of them have picked up different strategies as far as footing and being able to go from a standing throw to my spin. It’s just been a lot of work from a lot of different opinions, really,” Brown said.

“It means a lot to be able to come back from last year and just start PR-ing right off. I think it really helps having the support of the family and the other schools, along with four years of different coaches pushing me towards the senior year goal of beating the record.”

       

Highland sprinters all business in dominant home performance

It’s no secret that Highland’s Brock Veley and Jack Weaver are fast. They showed it on the football field last fall, when they traded hand-offs in the Scots’ league-leading backfield.

On Friday, they reaffirmed the theory with a dominant performance on the track. Often times, the sprinting tandem would finish one-two, cracking a grin as they crossed the finish line together.

Veley and Weaver

Highland's Brock Veley (third from left) and Jack Weaver (fifth from left) race in the boys 100-meter dash on Friday night at the Highland Invite. Veley finished one-tenth of a second ahead of Weaver for first place in the race.

“I try to stay as focused as possible on the race, but (with) one of your best friends running right next to you, it’s kind of hard to stay focused,” Weaver said afterwards, smiling while holding hands over his head. “But we just have fun with it, I guess...

“Yeah, we just run our race,” Veley added, giving his partner time to catch his breath. “A little bit before the meet we kind of joke with each other, but it’s just all fun because we’re friends.”

Veley finished first, Weaver second in the 100-meter dash. Then, minutes later, the two traded places in the 200-meter. The two rounded out the night with a victory in the 4x100-meter relay, alongside teammates Ryan Weissenfluh and Landyn Albanese.

“We’re always competing, so Jack will get me in the 200 some days and I’ll beat him in the 100,” Veley said. “So that makes him better at the 100 and me at the 200, just running faster times.”

“It’s just unbelievable to have someone of that caliber pushing you every day,” Weaver added. “It definitely helps the both of us.”

Veley and Weaver led Highland to a second-place finish on the boys side of Friday’s meet. Landon Remmert also captured first place for the Scots in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles. The 4x100-meter IronMan and 4x200-meter relay teams also won gold. Zachary DeBord posted solid field performances, finishing first in shot put and second in discus throw.

Highland finished second overall on the girls side as well. The Scots’ 4x100-meter IronWoman and 4x200-meter relay teams both took first on Friday night.

Veley seemed pleased with how things unfolded on Friday, especially in the 100-meter dash, where he and Weaver left the competition in the dust. It’s only April, so the two are hesitant to speculate on how far this event can take them. But the time is now – Veley is a senior, while Weaver is a junior – and they know it’s fading fast. For now, they’re just hoping to make the most of every step.

“We just take it day by day and just have fun, enjoy the moments,” Veley said. “I mean, we obviously want to go as far as we can. But every time we get to hang out and run with each other, we can’t complain.”

Other notables:

  • Emily Opfer, of East Knox, finished first in the girls 300-meter hurdles with a time of 50.50.
  • Halle Moreland, of Centerburg, finished first in the girls shot put with a distance of 34 feet and 10 inches.
  • Austin Moreland, of Centerburg, finished first in the boys discus throw with a distance of 123 feet and six inches.

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.