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Wesleyan builds lead, holds on

MCDONOUGH -- With the Region 7 A boys track and field championship reduced to one day because of heavy rains on Monday, Wesleyan had little time to enjoy its lead after the field events Tuesday at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.

The Wolves held a similar lead last year only to see Eagle's Landing dominate the running events to take the title. This year, the Wolves used more speed and a wealth of depth to win the team championship by almost 20 points with a 175.5 total to Eagle's Landing's 156.

"We had some impressive wins in a lot of events, especially the field events," Wesleyan coach Chad McDaniel said. "But in the end, it was our depth that did it for us. We have seen improvement all season and we had two boys place in each event today."

Wesleyan's quality depth became even more important with a one-day event held in some of the warmest temperatures of the season. The fatigue factor may have played a role in the only big surprise of the day when Wesleyan's second team finished second and qualified for state in the final event, the 1,600 relay. The first team from Wesleyan finished third.

"No one on the first relay team will miss going to state," McDaniel said. "So this is just a treat for our second relay team and they will gain great experience at the state meet."

Providence Christian also performed well in the afternoon running events to finish third in the meet with 83 points.

Wesleyan got off to a great start in the morning field events by winning four of the six competitions.

Led by senior Anderson Porter with first-place finishes in the long jump at 21 feet, 3 inches and the triple jump at 40-9, the Wolves took a convincing lead in points.

Wesleyan enhanced its advantage with wins by Ryan Buckley in the high jump (5-8) and Wes Ayers in the pole vault (12-0).

In the final event before the break, Eagle's Landing's premier distance runner Luke Baker showed his winning form. But Wesleyan got a second and a third from seniors Brandon Ramsey and Preston Parrish, respectively, to own a 15.5-point lead.

The first afternoon running final was the 400-meter relay and while Eagle's Landing won and finished third, Wesleyan was pleased to get a second place and a fifth place to hold its top position. The sprint team of Zander Yost, Jake Sixour, Porter and Kyle Karempelis qualified for state in 44.18 seconds.

Eagle's Landing swept the top two spots in the 100 meters, but again Wesleyan responded with a third and a fourth from Sixour and Porter. The host team sprint duo of Dylan Elder and Darrien Hudson also swept the top spots in the 200 meters and Wesleyan countered with a fourth and a sixth from Sixour and Karempelis.

As things were getting tight in the team competition, Providence took center stage by asserting its superiority in the hurdles and 400 meters. Senior Andrew Grice swept the 110 and 300 hurdles, while senior teammate Eric Mills blew past the field in the 400 meters with an impressive 49.23.

"We had a good meet today," Providence coach Scott Williams said. "I was disappointed in the high jump with our best jumper (Colby McHugh) having an off day but our No. 2 jumper, Chris Vanderkleed, finished second."

Williams was coaching in his last regional meet since he is leaving to take the cross country coaching job at Covenant College next year.

Wesleyan got an important win from Ramsey in the 800 meters and also used points from a fifth-place finish by Takim Williams to pile up more points. The same was true in the grueling 3,200 meters as Baker of Eagle's Landing won by more than 30 seconds but Wesleyan got its points with a third by Bradley Gossett and a fourth by Parrish.

By this point, it was apparent that Wesleyan would have to suffer a catastrophe to not win the team championship with only the 1,600-meter relay remaining. There was concern due to the potential fatigue of certain runners who had been in numerous events. But at the finish it was Eagle's Landing first and Wesleyan taking second and third -- and claiming the region title.