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Record-breaking Laird leads Coatesville to 15th straight crown

COATESVILLE – With a lengthy streak of consecutive league championships as proof, the Coatesville boys always seem to rise to the occasion on the track this time of year. And nothing changed on Wednesday at the 39th Annual Ches-Mont Track and Field Championships.

[FOR A PHOTO SLIDESHOW FROM THE MEET, CLICK HERE]

Just one year after squeaking out a two-point victory, the Red Raiders secured nine dozen gold medals in 18 events and ran away with the program’s 15thstraight crown. With sprinters Terrance Laird and Eric Kirk leading the way, Coatesville rolled up 151 points, which was 72 points ahead of second-place Downingtown East.

“We’ve won it so many times, it’s just something we are supposed to do,” Laird said.

“This is an event we always look forward to and it really means a lot to Coatesville to be the Ches-Mont champions,” added head coach Damien Henry. “Our guys really get up for this meet. It was a great team effort.”

The Red Raiders will play host to the District 1 Championships on May 19-20.

“We are shooting beyond Ches-Monts,” admitted Jared Elters, who won the 110 hurdle crown. “We haven’t won a district title in 40 years, so that’s our main goal.

“We already had the expectation to do well because this is our turf and we’ve won it for so many years. We always head into this meeting believing we have a great chance to win.”

Competing for the first time this season at Red Raider Field, Laird ended his Ches-Mont gold medal drought in style with a victory in the 200-meter dash, and he also anchored wins in a couple relays. A senior who is headed to Penn State, Laird left a lasting impression by pulling out a dramatic win in the final event of the day: the 4×400 relay (3:24.67).

“This was our first home meet this season so I wanted the put on a show for the people,” Laird said. “Basketball and football players want to have big performances in big games, so in track you just want to run faster.”

In third place when he got the baton in the 4×400, Laird made up the gap against runners from West Chester East and West Chester Henderson in the first 200-meters, and proceeded to cruise to the win with a lightning-quick split of 47.6.

“A lot of times with sprinters, the 400 is hard for them to accept,” Henry said. “But Terrance showed his ability. I am proud he gave it all for his teammates.”

Earlier, Laird electrified the home crowd with a blazing performance in the 200, blowing away the rest of the field by over a full second and smashing the Ches-Mont record set 17 years ago. His time of 21.11 broke the old mark, established in 2000 by West Chester Henderson’s Jason Moore.

“Last year was kind of a disaster for (Laird),” Henry said. “He false-started and we dropped a baton in a relay. But he is a senior now and he was very focused. He wanted to go out with a bang.”

In addition to Laird, the Red Raiders got individual wins from Kirk, Elters, Colin Mihalek, Naheem Moore and Ricky Ortega. The Red Raiders also captured the 4×100 relay (42.07), with Kirk running the second leg.

Just a sophomore, Kirk raked in 38 points for Coatesville with two relay wins, a second in the 100 and a victory in the long jump (22-41/2).

“My legs felt good, and (Wednesday) was a good day to jump,” said Kirk, who was also a member of the Raiders’ winning 4×100 relay.

“He’s 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, and he continues to get better,” Henry added. “The future is very bright for him.”

It turned out to be a very good day for athletes who captured Ches-Mont titles a year ago. There were five who successfully defended their titles on Wednesday: Elters, Jeremy Jennings from Downingtown East, Connor Cummings from West Chester Rustin and the Kennett duo of Alec Sheehan and Xavier Feliciano.

In the 100-meter dash, Jennings won his second straight title (10.89), but it wasn’t easy. Laird declined to run in the event, but Kirk gave him all he could handle before having to settle for second by just four-hundredths of a second.

“I had my best start of the season and I almost had (Jennings),” Kirk said of his personal best 10.9.

“My coach told me to pick between the 100 and 200,” Laird explained.

Cummings repeated as the champ in the shot put (54-73/4), Feliciano continued his dominance in the pole vault (15-3), and his senior teammate, Sheenan, won the discus in 175-7.

“It’s very different this year because you have guys you beat before and new people who are trying to knock you off,” said Cummings, a senior.

“It’s very special for me to win it two years in a row,” Sheehan added. “Last year there wasn’t much expected from me, but this year there certainly was.”

A junior, Elters successfully defended his league crown in the 110-meter hurdles (15.14). He later admitted that prevailing in 2017 was a bit different than a year ago because of his current status as the favorite.

“This was exhilarating, to see that my hard work in practice is paying off during these big meets,” Elters said.

The Raiders also got winning performances from Moore in the triple jump (44-31/2), Ortega in the javelin (183-3) and Milhalek in the 1,600 (4:26.47). Just a freshman, Ortega topped all comers by 12 feet. And Milahek, a senior, qualified for the districts in what was his final opportunity.

“Colin just kept working and it all came together,” Henry said.

The rest of the winners included West Chester Rustin’s 4×800 relay; Keegan Hughes and Jonah Hoey from Bishop Shanahan in the 300 hurdles (38.42) and 800 (1:58.04), respectively; Unionville’s Brett Wagner in the 400 (49.99); Kennett’s Austin Maxwell in the 3,200 (9:45.1); and Oxford’s Troy Brown in the high jump (6-4). Brown and Coatesville’s Valient McKee were tied after completing all of their jumps, but Brown won a jump-off on the fourth attempt.

“I really surprised myself,” said Brown, a senior, who set his personal best in the process. “I expected to get third at best.”

39th annual Ches-Mont Track and Field Championships

  1. Coatesville 151; 2. Downingtown East 79; 3. West Chester Rustin 68; 4. West Chester East 58; 5. Kennett 57; 6. Downingtown West 54; 7. Bishop Shanahan 50; 8. Unionville 37; 9. Oxford 36; 9. Avon Grove 36; 9. West Chester Henderson 36; 12. Great Valley 23; 13. Octorara 16.

4×800 relay – 1. West Chester Rustin (Hontz, Covert, Harpstead, Demis) 8:09.87; High jump – 1. Brown (Ox) 6-4; 110 hurdles – 1. Elters (C) 15.14;100 – 1. Jennings (DE) 10.86; Long jump – 1. Kirk (C) 22-41/2; 1,600 – Mihalek (C) 4:26.47; Discus – 1. Sheehan (K) 175-7); 400 – 1. Wagner (U) 49.99; 4×100 relay – 1. Coatesville (Washington, Kirk, A. Young, Laird) 42.07; Shot put – 1. Cummings (WCR) 54-73/4; Pole Vault – 1. Feliciano (K) 15-3; 300 hurdles – 1. Hughes (BS) 38.42; Triple Jump – 1. Moore (C) 44-31/2; 4×400 relay – 1. Coatesville (Miles, Kirk, Brown, Laird) 3:24.67.

 

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