North’s Tong, 4×800 relay team; Lancers’ Hartwell qualify for state

Columbus North’s Jace Works takes the baton from Akot Tong to start the final leg of the 4x800-meter relay at Thursday’s Greenfield-Central Regional.

Rob Baker | For The Republic

GREENFIELD — Thursday night’s Greenfield-Central Regional began with a bang and ended in a heartbreak for Columbus North.

The Bull Dogs won the opening 4×800-meter relay to punch their ticket to the June 1 Boys Track and Field State Finals. They almost made it in the final event, the 4×400 relay, but came up 6-hundreths of a second out of the third-and-final state-qualifying spot in that event.

Senior Akot Tong, who ran the third leg on both of those relay teams, also is headed to state after using a strong finishing kick to secure a third-place finish in the 800 in 1 minute, 55.05 seconds.

“Realistically, I think I did pretty good, considering how I felt after the 4×800,” Tong said. “I felt really tired because I gave it all. But I really do want to work on opening up faster in that open 800.”

Senior Frankie Polyak, sophomore Logan Vanzant, Tong and sophomore Jace Works ran 7:49.06 to win the 4×800 relay. Their time is just a couple tenths of a second off the fastest regional time in the state put up by Zionsville on Thursday.

“I think we did a really good job in the 4×800 today,” Tong said. “We didn’t get as fast a time as we wanted to, but just better diet, better sleeping and we’re good to go.”

Junior Ben Stevens, Works, Tong and senior Derek Arau-Ortiz ran 3:23.55 in the 4×400.

“The 4×400 really ran outstanding,” North coach Rick Sluder said. “It’s been a long week for us in terms of getting out of school, and you have graduation coming up. All those kind of things are on kids’ minds, and we still handled it fairly well and had a good race in that 4×800. Anytime you run 7:50, you’re running really special, and they did that again.”

Tong ran a 1:53 split, and Works closed with a 1:54 split in the 4×800. Works, who was seeded second in the open 800 after winning last week’s North Sectional, finished 11th in that event in 2:01.83.

“Akot in the 800 ran really strong,” Sluder said. “It’s a quick turnaround time-wise in the regional, so I’m really excited that he ran well. Jace just hit a little wall there, but he came back and ran well in the 4×400.”

Sophomore Drew Schiefer finished fifth in both the discus (147 feet, 1 inch) and shot put (50-7), junior Draven Martinez took fifth in the 1,600 (4:29.78) and junior Owen Russell was fifth in the 300 hurdles (40.25). Junior Jonny Klaus (9:46.17) and senior Adam Reckers (10:01.06) finished eighth and 10th in the 3,200, the Bull Dogs took ninth in the 4×100 relay and senior Liam Milne (15.40) and Russell (15.80) were 10th and 12th in the prelims of the 110 hurdles..

“Drew Schiefer threw really well in both of those,” Sluder said. “Owen Russell ran outstanding in the 300 hurdles. If he hadn’t have landed kind of funky here (on the final stretch), he might have been in contention for third or fourth, but he overseeded. Draven Martinez overseeded. Our 4×00 ran really fast again, so I was excited with that. The 3,200, Jonny Klaus stuck his nose in there and he really closed in for awhile on that pack that had third, fourth and fifth in it. He might have ran out of a little bit of steam, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. He really gave it a run to go after that, and our 4×400, hat’s off to them. They just missed the school record and a chance to go to state. It’s fun to bring a big busload here, and they all performed fairly well.”

Columbus East had made it to regional in one event. The Olympians finished 11th in the 4×100 relay (43.94).

Meanwhile, Jackson Hartwell became Edinburgh’s first boys track state qualifier in 63 years by winning the long jump. He follows Paul Williams, who made it in the mile in 1961.

Hartwell, who broke a school record that had stood since 1958 when he won the North Sectional as a freshman in 2022, did not run track last year.

“I just wanted a break during track because it gave me shin splints really bad my freshman year, and I just wanted to focus on football and my other sports,” Hartwell said. “Now, I’m back, and I plan to do my senior year and try go to college off it.”

Hartwell, who broke his own record with a 21-6 jump at this year’s sectional, went 22-3 on his first jump at regional. He then leaped 22-6 1/4 in the finals to move into first place.

“I honestly impressed myself,” Hartwell said. “I improved a whole foot since my last meet at sectional. I knew I was going to have to go farther, coming to a bigger meet with these bigger athletes. I just try my best every single time.”

Another one of the smaller area schools nearly had a state qualifier. South Decatur senior McKinley Shook finished fourth in the 110 hurdles in 15.00, missing the third-and-final qualifying spot by 14-hundreths of a second.

Shook came back to finish 10th in the 300 hurdles (41.22). Cougar senior Owen Arreola took ninth in the long jump (20-10 1/2).