Trojans Capture a Couple of Firsts at Honor Roll Meet, Turn Attention to State Finals

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 9:05 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing senior long jumper AJ Kirkland (right) receives congratulations from runner-up Charles Allen of Holt on the podium Tuesday at the Greater Lansing Honor Roll Meet at MSU's Ralph Young Field.

AJ Kirkland likes the view from the top of the podium, like the one he had Tuesday evening at the 45th annual Greater Lansing Honor Roll Meet.

Kirkland had just won the long jump competition with a mark of 21 feet, 8½ inches, but he feels it’s just the beginning of a week that could ultimately define his place in East Lansing High School track and field history. Kirkland, a senior, will graduate Friday night alongside his fellow classmates, then quickly shed his cap and gown for a blue and white ELHS uniform Saturday morning at the Division 1 state finals at East Kentwood.

To cap things off, he has an open house planned for Saturday evening … with a state title in hand?

“That’s my goal,” Kirkland said after receiving his first-place medal. “It’s going to be a pretty interesting week, with everything that’s going on. I’m going to focus on the state meet, the long jump and the four-by-one (4x100) relay, and try to block out the rest.”

Kirkland misfired on his first jump Tuesday when part of his foot crossed the front edge of the foul line. He recovered quickly on his second attempt and was able to outdistance runnerup Charles Allen of Holt, who jumped a personal best of 21 feet, 7¾ inches.

“I felt like I was reaching on my first couple of jumps, and I was fortunate on my second (jump) to get to twenty-one eight,” Kirkland said. “I’ve been having some knee issues, nothing major. I just have to stay focused on improving my runway speed and getting some good pops off the line. Get some good lift off the line and get my legs out.”

The Trojan relay teams flashed some strong legs with their first-place finish in the 4x200 (800 meters) and runner-up placings in the 4x100 (400) and 4x400 (1,600/mile).

Strong effort from relay teams and distance runners

In the 4x200, the Trojan foursome of sophomores Conner Long and Allan Brown, freshman Judd Pfeiffer and senior Kobe Hayward ran a final time of 1:30.74 to defeat runner-up Fowlerville (1:31.23).

In the 4x100, Kirkland teamed with sophomore Alex Hosey, Hayward and Pfeiffer to clock a final time of :43.28 and finish runner-up to Holt (43.11).

In the 4x400, the team of Long, sophomores Mayan Mayan and Allan Brown, and senior Fareed Kareem got outlegged by Ionia in the final strides, losing by .23. The Trojans’ final time was 3:27.53.

“Overall, I was thrilled with the way our guys performed,” East Lansing coach Pat Murray said, “especially the ones who outran their seed times. The four-by-four relay ran super, as did Alex Hosey (in the 100) and Nathan Faust in eight hundred (half-mile).

“Winning the eight-hundred (4x200) relay was special, and second in the four-by-one. Solid efforts leading into the state meet.”

East Lansing sophomore Abbie Draheim (left) runs second to Lansing Catholic's Lauren Cleary at the finish of the 1,600 meter race.

Hosey finished runner-up to Holt speedster Max Darling in the 100 and two places in front of his older brother James, who was fourth. Alex ran 11.35 to Darling’s 11.2; James finished in 11.6.

“Obviously a bit tough for big brother to lose (to little brother) but both have had outstanding seasons,” said Trojan assistant coach Kerry Keyton.

Sophomores Teo Tiburcio (300 hurdles) and Abbie Draheim (1,600) both finished second to a couple of the meet’s top seniors: Waverly’s Keshaun Harris and Lansing Catholic’s Lauren Cleary.

Faust, also a sophomore, ran a personal best of 2:01.38 in the half-mile (800) to finish eighth and earn a medal. He was seeded 19th entering the event.

“I couldn’t be more happy for Nathan,” Murray said, “he had a super run.”

East Lansing Junior Andrew Lane narrowly missed winning the mile after running stride for stride with Pewamo-Westphalia’s Ashton Walker through the final 200 meters. Lane’s final time of 4:28.25 – also a personal best – was .01 slower than Walker’s final clocking.

“Very tough loss,” Murray said, “but an excellent effort (by Lane). He didn’t miss by much.”

Trojan freshman Matthew Zeleke finished seventh in the two-mile (3,200 meters) race, and ran a personal best time of 10:01.97.

East Lansing's Andrew Lane (third from right) lost by the narrowest of margins — .01 — to Pewamo-Westphalia's Ashton Walker (gold uniform) in the boys mile race.

Earlier this season, Kirkland jumped a personal best of 22 feet at the Charkes Janke Invitational at Jackson High School’s Withington Stadium. He’ll attempt to go beyond that distance Saturday against the best in his division as the sixth seed among the state finalists.

“I definitely feel like I’ve improved this season,” Kirkland said, “and I wish I could have jumped some longer distances … but I have Saturday to do that.”


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