The Father Ryan High School boys track and field team claimed state championships in five events at the Division II-AA state meet, beating and tying several school records along the way.
Charlie Becker won both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, and was part of the championship 4 x 400-meter relay team for the Irish.
Ryan Jones also was a member of the 4 x 400-meter relay team and ran away from the field to win the 400 meter race.
Senior Drake Carlson followed up last year’s state championships in the shot put and discus with a second title in the shot put and a second place finish in the discus.
In the finals of the 110-meter high hurdles, Becker finally bested Sam Fisher of Lipscomb Academy, “who had beaten him all year,” Father Ryan boys track coach Doug Jones said. In the race, Becker finished in :14.51, tying the school record he had set earlier in the season.
Becker followed that performance by winning the 300-meter intermediate hurdles in :38.89, breaking his own school record.
“He’s worked really hard this year,” Jones said of Becker, who will be a senior in the fall. The team’s hurdles coach, Amber Mock, “made some major improvements for him and really pushed him over the top,” Jones said.
Becker, who also stars on the football field as a wide receiver for the Irish, peaked at the state meet, Jones said. The St. Matthew School graduate didn’t start competing in track and field until he was a freshman at Father Ryan, his coach noted.
Ryan Jones, who will be a junior in the fall, finished sixth in the 110-meter high hurdles, but it was at the distance of 400 meters that he really shined.
Jones won the state championship in the 400 meters in :48.25. He already ran in two races before the 400-meter finals, Doug Jones, his coach and father, said. “He could have run faster otherwise.”
“He was by himself after 250 meters or so,” Doug Jones said. “He may be the fastest sophomore in Tennessee history in the 400.”
Ryan Jones, a graduate of Christ the King School, made a dramatic improvement during the season, trimming more than 2 seconds off his time. He went straight from running in the :50-range to :48, Doug Jones noted.
“We were expecting some good times from him this year, but we didn’t expect he would run what he ran,” Doug Jones said.
“I’m happy for Ryan,” Jones said. “He had a really good season, worked really hard.”
And he expects his son to keep improving before he’s done at Father Ryan. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs :46 something,” Jones said, noting the state record is :46.6. “When he faces tough competition, he rises to the occasion.”
Ryan Jones ran the anchor leg for the state championship 4 x 400-meter relay team, which also included Becker, Ryan MacClary, and Carson Spalding.
“The 4 x 400 also broke the school record with that race” in a time of 3:21.14, Jones said. “The key was we had two of the top 400-meter runners in DII-AA and the 300-meter hurdle champion – that is like running a 400 – and one of the better 800-meter runners we have had in the last decade.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a sub-48 second 400-meter guy as your anchor,” Jones added. “Not that we needed that effort. We were leading by a sizable margin heading into the anchor leg.”
In the field events, Carlson showed once again that he is one of the top performers in school history in the shot put and discus.
“Incredible competitor. There’s never a day when he doesn’t come to compete,” Jones said of Carlson, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Father Ryan football team who has signed to play football in the Big 10 Conference for Purdue University. “He is always 100 percent.”
Carlson won his second consecutive state title in the shot put with a put of 61 feet 1 inch. His three other attempts traveled 59 feet 5.5 inches, 61 feet, and 59 feet 11.5 inches.
“He really had a magnificent last four throws in the shot put,” Father Ryan girls track coach Robert Kent said of Carlson, who owns the school record in both the shot put and the discus.
Father Ryan senior Abraham Cromartie finished sixth in the shot put with a distance of 47 feet 4.5 inches.
In the discus, it took a throw of a lifetime from state champion Ashton Hearn of Christian Brothers High School to beat Carlson, whose throw of 179 feet 7 inches was 2 feet better than his qualifying throw.
On Hearn’s last throw, he reached 185 feet 4 inches, beating his previous best throw in the finals by nearly 14 feet.
“I hated it for him,” Jones said of Carlson’s second place finish. “For two years, he hadn’t been beaten.”
In other events:
• Father Ryan’s 4 x 200-meter relay team of Andrew Cathey, Ryan Jones, Ryan MacClary, and Becker finished third with a time of 1:29.06.
• Father Ryan’s 4 x 800-meter relay team of Carson Spalding, Clark Steffen, Sully Smith, and Will Thompson finished sixth with a time of 8:27.42.
• In the decathlon, Pope John Paul II Preparatory School’s James Dugger finished 15th with 4,553 points, including the fifth best distance in the decathlon triple jump, and the eighth best time in the decathlon 400-meters; Father Ryan’s Patrick Hisrich finished 19th in the decathlon with 4,156 points, including the eighth best distance in the decathlon shot put.
In the team standings, Father Ryan’s boys finished fourth with 73 points.
In the girls state meet, a pair of freshmen led Father Ryan to an eighth place finish in the team standings with 38 points.
Addison Belletete finished second in the triple jump with a distance of 37 feet 3.25 inches; third in the long jump with a jump of 17 feet 10.75 inches; third in the 100-meter hurdles in :15.12; and fourth in the 200 meters in :25.95.
Caroline Perri finished second in the 300-meter hurdles in :45.61; seventh in the 100-meter hurdles in :16.02; eighth in the pentathlon with 2,809 points, including the seventh best distance in the pentathlon shot put.
“They’re both really good all-around” performers, Kent said of Belletete and Perri. And the tough competition they faced all season helped prepare them for the state meet, he added.
“The key to it is week in and week out we went up against some really stiff competition, both public schools and private schools,” Kent said. “It gave us great experience. And doing as well as we did gave us confidence. I think that’s why they did so well in the state meet. They were used to great competition. … They knew what to expect and they were confident. It goes without saying, we had quite a bit of talent on the team too.”
Father Ryan’s 4 x 800-meter relay team of Grace Feltner, Fiona Mikhail, Maggie Slattery, and Katie Knapp finished seventh.
For Pope Prep, Sarah Kopf finished sixth in the 400 meters in 1:01.09; Kate Hisrich finished fifth in the long jump with a jump of 16 feet 8 inches; and Shealee Smith finished 20th in the pentathlon with 2,119 points. The Knights finished 15th in the team standings with 7 points.