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Caine Watlington of Clarkston seeks another trip to the state finals in his specialty, the long jump. (Oakland Press file photo)

Track And Field

Clarkston refocuses as regionals approach

Wolves, other teams seek to qualify athletes to state finals

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A point here and a place there, and Clarkston’s boys could have toppled Lake Orion in last week’s OAA Red championships at Rochester Adams.

Alas, the Dragons prevailed by 1 1/2 points with their deep combination of speed and endurance.

“I was very impressed with how our kids competed,” Clarkston coach John Bennick said. “Some were in four events, Grant Henley doubled, Merrick Canada battled with Caine (Watlington) in the long jump, there were just some good performances all around. Stan’s (Ford) teams are always very well prepared (and) for us to be a point and a half shy was disappointing, but I wasn’t down.”

Now regionals are on the agenda where the strategy will shift. “We’re going to let the kids look in the mirror and let the kids take their pick (of events),” said Bennick, who’ll be weakened with the loss of all-state sprinter Ian Eriksen, a football standout whose strained hamstring has basically shut him down for the season. “He’s done some awesome stuff for us in the past,” said Bennick, who didn’t want to risk Eriksen, whose future lies on the football squad at Eastern Michigan University.

Most coaches are looking to qualify for state in as many events as possible. A regional title, in grasp for a handful of teams, would be icing on the cake. Here’s a look at regional meets.

Division 1, Saturday at North Farmington: This is one of the fastest regionals in the state on both boys and girls sides, and Oak Park is the main culprit. For the girls, the Knights could qualify from the 100 to 800, all four relays, both hurdles events and the long jump as coach Brandon Jiles unleashes a fast contingent of sprinters, led by Anna Jefferson and Johnyce Powell. Seaholm, led by Audrey Belf and Rachel DaDamio, will rule the distance races. And count on the Maples to load up the 3,200 relay. For the boys, Maurice Allen and Eli Minor will give Oak Park a threat in the sprint relays and open sprints, while Royal Oak’s Ben Hill and Calum Ahmed will key the longer races.

Division 1, Friday at Milford: Northville’s girls, with Rachel Coleman, one of the state’s top miler, and Erin Zimmer in the distances, and Chloe Abott, Lindsay Walters and Morgan Robertson (hurdles) in the sprints, should rule this regional with qualifiers galore. Milford counters with Rachel Barrett, the only runner who could keep up with Coleman in the 1,600, and Whitney Mergens, who could get to state in the jumps. Lakeland has enough speed to match Northville in the short sprints, and Novi’s Kerri McMahan, the defending state high jump champ, looks to get back to defend her title while teammate Taylor Pavlika (throws) will break away from soccer to seek a state qualifying berth. For the boys, the Walled Lake schools will be at it again with Central’s throwers — Exhildi Prekaj, Cody Patterson and Austin Shamoun — going against Western’s speed (Shane Moffo, John Witkowski and Jon Simmons) and Northern’s speed (Chris Cliff, John Dade and Ben Washington).

Division 1, Friday at Bloomfield Hills — For the boys, Waterford Mott’s distance group toughens this regional, giving a challenge to Lake Orion’s young distance crew. The Corsairs are likely to score from the 800 on up while the Dragons will be factors in all four relays, distances and sprints, particularly if Corey Ester is healthy. The 1,600 relay should be competitive with Rochester Adams, Mott and Lake Orion all within a few seconds of each other. For the girls, Mott could shine in the long sprints and middle distances while Rochester, coming off the OAA Red league title, will have speed (Davonne Bolden) and endurance (Jessica Goethals) to carry the Falcons.

Division 2, Saturday at South Lyon East — Avondale’s front-line athletes — Joshuwa Holloman (sprints), Zach Purcilly (throws) and Myles Wright (jumps) — are all capable of winning regional titles and give the Yellow Jackets scoring power. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Tyler Cochran is one of the area’s top quarter-milers, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Nathan Mylenek could double in the 1,600 and 3,200, and teammate Max Schwegman will be a factor in the short sprints. For the girls, Detroit Country Day’s Jordan Moore-Willis is a state meet veteran in the jumps, while Notre Dame Prep’s Taylor Timko, a star soccer player, could help the Irish get to state in the 1,600 relay.

Last Updated: 5/15/2014 2:08:16 AM EST

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