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Oak Hill builds momentum with indoor medal haul

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PANTHER POWER: Eastbrook’s Audrey Altum (right) pushes her way to a fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles Saturday at the Hoosier State Relays in Bloomington.
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EAGLES: Oak Hill’s Gavin Holz prepares for one of his pole vaults in Saturday’s Hoosier State Relays in Bloomington. Holz finished third in the event.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

BLOOMINGTON — There are few high school track and field teams across Indiana that will carry as much momentum from the indoor season into the quickly approaching outdoor season as will the boys’ team at Oak Hill.

The Golden Eagles needed more cargo space to return to Grant County from the small school Hoosier State Relays state championship in Bloomington Saturday night considering Oak Hill earned 21 medals total, 17 just from the boys team.

The collective performances led to a program-best third-place finish in the team competition with 50 points, and left a little feeling of what-might-have-been after being edged by Westview (56) and Fort Wayne Concordia (52) for the team championship.

All of that came after one of Oak Hill’s top sprinters, senior Jon Holz, pulled up with a hamstring injury at the end of his 60-meter dash preliminary heat.

“A couple events here or there, you wish we would have a had a better opportunity to get somebody in seventh, eighth or ninth, but we’ll take the medals and we’ll take the start,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner. “We haven’t had a lot of time to work on some of these things with the late winter sports start that we had and we haven’t had a lot of chance to do a lot of indoor the last couple of years.”

Senior Sammy Sommers started the day off with a bang for the Eagles, winning the state championship in the 60-meter hurdles with a blistering 8.18 second blast down the Gladstein Fieldhouse track. It was the first of four medals Sommers earned on the day, and also the first time he’d ever taken the top step during an awards ceremony while running for Oak Hill. The first four runners were separated by .12 seconds, Sommers and runner up Luigi Rivas of Concordia by a mere .03.

Sommers’ time was the third fastest in small school meet history.

“It was great,” Sommers said about seeing his name flash on the scoreboard at the top at the end of the 60 meters. “All glory to God. He gave me this talent so I’m going to further that talent. I’m super-glad it ended out with my best PR that I’ve ever had. I’m just really blessed to see that time on the board.”

Sommers also finished fourth in long jump (22-03) and ran the lead-off leg of the Golden Eagles’ fourth place 4x200 and fifth-place 4x400 relay teams, both of which Holz would have been a part of. The 2x200 team of Sommers, Mason McKinney, Gavin Holz and Tahj Johnson was one of four teams to run sub 1:34 and missed winning the event by only 0.5 seconds.

Sommers, Johnson, McKinney and Jacob Winger comprised the 4x400 relay team for Oak Hill.

Before medaling in both relays, Johnson, the state’s top returning 400 runner in outdoor season, showed a short-distance speed burst with a sixth-place finish in the 60-meter dash.

Winger, Sol O’Blenis, Colin Harts and Dillon Mitchell earned another set of relay medals for Oak Hill in the 4x800 race with a seventh place finish.

The Golden Eagles also put two pole vaulters on the medal stand with Gavin Holz, a junior who qualified for outdoor state last season, earning a third-place finish and Caiden Lake, the reigning 1-meter boys diving state champion, vaulting to fifth.

Spring break potentially took away more medal opportunities for Oak Hill’s girls, but the distance medley relay team made sure the Golden Eagles didn’t leave Bloomington empty handed. Selah Jackson, Kinzie Robey, Ireland Dodson and Mollie Gamble dropped more than 20 seconds off their qualifying time to finish seventh.

Gamble also dropped time in the 3,200 meter run and finished 14th.

“We had a bunch of girls that qualified that couldn’t be here and that kind of watered down our relays. But we had some girls to step up and made the trip down to help,” Brunner said. “The biggest thing for us was getting that DMR medal, they ran really, really well.

“I know Mollie is probably disappointed in her two mile but she ran her best time of the season so that’s something we can build off there too,” he added. 

Eastbrook also had a much larger contingent of athletes to qualify for the HSR meet but couldn’t compete because of spring break.

“We had a bunch of kids go with a church group for the week, so it is what it is,” said Eastbrook coach Stu Goble. “Its hard hard to argue when (they’re) going down to do some good for some people.”

The two that did make the trip, junior Zeke Binkerd and senior Audrey Altum, performed very well.

Binkerd shaved time off of his qualifier to run a 7.33 in the 60 meter dash and finish 13th, while Altum scored a medal by running 9.51 to cross fifth in the 60-meter hurdles. 

Altum’s journey to the medal stand started after last season’s HSR. Goble said she’s been a tireless worker in the weight room as well as on the track. 

For Altum, who will compete at Taylor University next year, it was a satisfactory ending to her high school indoor career.

“It feels really good, especially compared to where I’ve been and where I was last year,” Altum said. “It feels really good to come and put my name out there and kind of prove myself a little bit. 

“Coming into this year I have a lot more confidence. I’ve had a lot more physical workouts but a lot of it was in my head,” she added. “I was stopping myself from getting any better and I just came in with a better mental attitude this year and proved the work.”

“She works hard, she loves to compete and she works hard in all of her sports,” Goble said of Altum. “But she’s a weight room goddess too. (She) Works real hard in the weight room and that’s part of the power that goes into it. ... She’s a good kid and works hard.”