Lima Senior is taking five athletes to the boys state track meet, just one more than last year. But after winning the school’s first track regional championship in 29 years and its first district championship in 17 years, the expectations are a little bigger this year.
The Spartans’ Jaden Walker, Bryan Mays, Diamonte Fisher and Rico Stafford will compete in the 4x400 relay, which they won at the regional, and in the 4x200 relay, in which they finished second at the regional.
Individually, Stafford will be in the 400-meter dash, Ruben Flowers will be in the high jump and Jaden Walker will run in the 200-meter dash. Stafford and Flowers won their events at the regional and Walker was second in his.
“Last year it was just to see what it was like. This year we’ve got something to prove. We want to go down there and try to win it,” Stafford said. “We’ll go down there and do the best we can and, hopefully, win it all.”
Mays said, “This year is a lot different from last year. This year we have high expectations and last year we were just happy to be there. This year we’re looking to make some moves and do something.”
Walker, Mays, Fisher and Stafford all ran at last year’s state track meet, with Stafford’s fifth place in the 400 meters in 48.87 being the best finish. The 1,600-relay team was eighth and Mays was eliminated in the preliminaries of the 100-meter dash.
Walker said, “This year we have a little bit more experience, we’re a little more ready to run.”
They also have Flowers in the high jump in his first year at the state meet.
All five of the Spartans going to state are underclassmen. Walker and Fisher are sophomores and Mays, Stafford and Flowers are juniors.
All five were on Lima Senior’s football team, which reached the playoffs, and Flowers and Stafford were part of the Spartans basketball team, which got to the regional championship.
That success has made them even hungrier for success on the track, Lima Senior coach Stephen Carter said.
“Winning becomes an attitude. It makes you much more competitive. It makes you strive and be hungrier to want to win even more. They went into the regional thinking we were going to win and we only had five guys,” he said.
“This group will rise to the level of their competition. As the competition got thicker in the district and regional, these guys managed to rise to the occasion and their times dropped. They don’t tolerate losing.”
Football and basketball played a role in the decisions of Flowers and Stafford to begin participating in track last year after not doing it as freshmen.
“Rico and I joined track together. We weren’t really sure we were going to come out. We just wanted to get faster,” Flowers said.
Carter, who is also an assistant football coach, said, “There was a lot of encouragement that it would make you better in other sports because it’s primarily running, jumping and throwing. If you go to combines, that’s what they test you on. As time went by, they started to get better and better and they started to like it. Now they love it.”
“There’s a lot to be proud of. These (five) guys have made history,” Carter said.
The competition gets even tougher on Friday and Saturday at the state track meet if Lima Senior wants to make more history.
For example, the Spartans’ 4x400 relay team set a school record of 3:18.93 in winning that event to clinch a tie with Berea Midpark for the Amherst Division I regional title. But three teams at the Dayton regional and the winner at the Pickerington regional had faster times last week.
“We won regionals with five guys. We just have to keep pushing, working to get better,” Fisher said.