Thrice as Nice: Bull Dogs medal in all three of their events at state

Mateo Mendez of Columbus North takes the baton from Adler Larson in the 4,800-meter relay during Friday’s Boys Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University.

Chris Williams | For The Republic

BLOOMINGTON — Going into Friday’s Boys Track and Field State Finals, Columbus North runners were seeded to win a medal in only one of the three events in which they had qualified.

The Bull Dogs went 3 for 3.

Thanks to a solid run in the opening 4×800-meter relay and big-time distance performances from Mateo Mendez and Will Russell, North came away feeling about as well as it could with the way it ended the season after earning spots on the medals stand with top-nine finishes.

“We talked about all week that getting a state medal – any state medal – is special,” North coach Rick Sluder said. “The fact that we ended up with three of them is really special. They worked really hard, and I was so proud of our senior class for their work ethic and all that they’ve put into this. Three medals is incredible.”

As the No. 15 seed in the 800, senior Mateo Mendez entered with the top time in the first of two heats – or the “slow heat.” But he ran with Martinsville’s Martin Barco, who had won the 1,600 earlier in the evening, and finished second in his head in a personal-best 1 minute, 53.05 seconds.

When only three runners in the fast heat had a better time, Mendez, who is headed to Louisville, ended with a fifth-place finish.

“I was talking with Martin Barco,” Mendez said. “I knew we were both in the slow heat, and we can both run really fast together. So I said, ‘Let’s see if we can take it out in a 54 or 55 (for the first of two laps),’ which we did, and we closed, which was amazing. I was gassed from the 4×800. I’m happy with fifth after doubling.”

Senior Will Russell also was seeded 15th coming in, but thankfully for him, the 3,200 is contested in one race. He finished eighth in 9:07.73.

“My goal was top five, but if I was going to medal, I can’t be too upset about that,” said Russell, who is headed to Xavier. “Overall, it was a good day. (In the 4×800), we all said we wanted top three or to come out with the ‘W,’ but you can’t be upset.”

Russell, junior Akot Tong and seniors Adler Larson and Mendez finished seventh in the 4×800 relay in 7:54.14. The defending champions in that event were seeded fifth coming in.

“I think our 4×800 ran outstanding,” Sluder said. “We had three new guys on it, and two of them had never ran in the state meet before in track. So I thought we ran pretty well.”

Meanwhile, Columbus East senior Henrique Carvalho bettered his seed and personal-best time by finishing 14th in the 300 hurdles in 39.92.

“I was on an outside lane again, so I didn’t have anybody to pace off of,” Carvalho said. “So I was mainly just trying to attack each hurdle as best I could. It didn’t work out as well as I hoped it would. I had a couple guys pass me, but that’s just the race.

“I’m relatively happy with it,” he added. “I’d say I surprised myself again. To get 14th when I’m seeded 23rd is pretty good. I think it’s a great way to finish my career.”

Brown County senior Chase Austin finished 18th in the 1,600 in 4:22.42. Eagles junior Wyatt Sutter fouled on all three of his attempts in the discus.