East long-jumper caps career with 3rd-place finish

BLOOMINGTON — Four consecutive times, T.C. O’Neal landed around the 23-foot mark, only to turn around and see a raised red flag, signifying a foul.

Finally, on his sixth and final jump, everything clicked.

The Columbus East senior soared a personal-best 22 feet, 11½ inches to move into third place in the long jump in Friday’s Boys Track and Field State Finals. O’Neal, who had gone 22-6¾ on his first attempt of the afternoon, held on to finish third.

“I knew I could get around 23 feet if I could just get on the board,” O’Neal said. “I had already placed, so I just went for everything,” O’Neal said. “I felt like I had a good foot placement on the board.”

O’Neal also tied for 17th in the high jump at 6-2. He made his first jump at the opening height of 6-0 and his second attempt at 6-2 before missing his allotted three tries at 6-4.

O’Neal was making his first appearance at the state meet. He hadn’t even been there to watch.

“It’s awesome to see the whole stands filled up just for a track meet,” O’Neal said. “There’s teams from all across the state of Indiana here, and it’s just awesome.”

Columbus North senior Mitchell Burton entered the state meet seeded third in the long jump, based on his regional performance. He finished eighth at 22-5½.

Burton took off from behind the board on two of his first three attempts and just snuck into the finals with his 22-½ preliminary effort.

“My legs felt a little heavy on my first three runway approaches,” Burton said. “Then, I started getting loosened up, and by that time, I was just a little off with my steps. It was just awesome to be on the podium for my last track meet. I wish I could have done a little better, but I’m still pretty satisfied with how the season went”

Burton also finished 23rd in the preliminaries of the 100 meters in 11.11 seconds and anchored the Bull Dogs’ 4×100 relay team to a 14th-place finish in 42.91. Juniors Damon Hunter Jr., Cortez Bandy and Jaylen Flemmons were the first three runners.

North senior Coleman Tennyson made it to the finals of the shot put, but just missed a medal, finishing 10th at 52-3. The top nine earn spots on the medal stand.

“I had a little shaky start,” Tennyson said. “I had one good throw out there, though. I’m pretty happy with what I did.”

North junior Brigham Kleinhenz also came close to earning a medal. He finished 12th in the pole vault, tying his personal best of 14-0.

Kleinhenz made his first attempt at the opening height of 13-0. He then made 13-6 on his third try and 14-0 on his second attempt before missing the three tries at 14-6.

“I thought I could have done better, but going into the offseason, there’s things I can work on, and I’m going to try to fix those things,” Kleinhenz said. “I definitely hope to be back here and hope to do better.”

Another Bull Dog junior, Charlie Allen, set another personal best at the state meet. He finished 18th in the 3,200 in 9:36.24.

Allen said he knew he didn’t have a chance at a high finish, so he didn’t want to start out too fast, but still went out faster than ever in a 3,200. He was making his first state appearance after not even running in the sectional the past two years.

“It’s kind of crazy thinking last year where I was, and I figured maybe I’d be on the sectional roster this year, so making it all the way to state is kind of special,” Allen said. “I credit (cross-country and track distance) coach (Rick) Weinheimer a lot for all the training he’s given me because there’s no way I could do this without him. I’m glad that I could make it to state this year because it’s his last year, and I wanted to make sure he had someone at state.”

Brown County junior Wyatt Wyman, senior Job Lawson, sophomore Jackson McPheeters and junior Isaiah Keefauveer finished 12th in the 4×800 relay in 7:54.93, breaking their own school record that they set in the regional. Wyman took 14th in the 800 in 1:58.46.

Jennings County junior Dalton Craig finished 25th in the 1,600 in 4:39.77.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.