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NEW YORK STATE BOYS TRACK & FIELD: WAVERLY SPRINTERS LOOKING FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS AT STATES (2024-06-06)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
CICERO, N.Y. — Pardon the pun, but the Waverly boys’ sprinters are on quite a run.

Seniors Ralph Johnson and Micah Johnson return to States in a pair of individual events looking to add to their career medal haul, and will be joined by newcomers to the New York State Division 2 Track & Field Championships — juniors Kolsen Keathley, and Xavier Watson in the 400-meter relay.

"It’s pretty special. I keep saying that, but I mean it," said Waverly coach Dave Hogan. "We’ve had a good run of talent from our sprinters the last three years.

"We’re really fortunate," he added. "The work they do is paying off, and the way we train is paying off."

Johnson, who finished fifth in the 200-meter dash, and seventh in the 100-meter dash last year, and Chandler, who placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles as a sophomore last year, will both be competing in the 100 and 200 sprints. Kayleb Bechy finished fifth in the 100 last year for the Wolverines.

Johnson is the top seed this year in the 200 at 21.52 (he ran 22.24 last year), and is the second seed in the 100 at 10.65 seconds (he ran 11.16 last year).

Hogan said he’s enjoying the ride.

"I know, as a coach, and I try not to lose sight of it, this may never happen again in my career.

"I said it last year, and I’ll say it again, I’m just trying to soak it in, and make it something special for the boys to remember, too," Hogan noted.

Hogan believes the experience on the big stage that is the State meet will benefit Johnson and Chandler.

"Ralph, in particular, has admitted those first-time jitters are out, and he’s more locked in and focused this year because of that past experience, and that’s a really good thing.

"I’m sure Micah feels the same way, he just hasn’t vocalized it to me," said Hogan.

Chandler is the 15th seed in the 200 at 22.29 seconds, and is the18th seed in the 100 at 11.08 seconds.

Hogan is amazed at the athleticism he’s coaching on a daily basis.

"They both have a lot of natural talent — the gift is there," he said. "I’ll give them a lot of credit, some of it is pure experience — they both do indoor and outdoor (track) … their bodies are literally at peak performance right now.

"If we’ve done our thing right, and we’ve prevented injuries, and kept them fresh and fast, then they should be at peak performance state right now given the workload and stresses they’ve put on their bodies.

"We say through our training, and maybe it sounds a little too scientific, but it’s all nervous-system driven," noted Hogan. "Our training lately has been driving at getting the nervous system to fire as fast as it can.

"I think these guys are just living proof of the fact it’s working," he added.

Johnson and Chandler are the experienced hands on the 400-meter relay that won a silver medal last year in Division 2 and a fourth-place medal in the Federation Cup (all classes) race.

Keathley and Watson, both transfers from Athens, have fit right in, and Hogan couldn’t be happier for them.

"I’m excited for (Xavier Watson and Kolsen Keathley) … I’m so happy for them.

"Waverly Track & Field has welcomed them with open arms. of course, and they’ve excelled within this relay, and they’ve excelled individually as well," said Hogan.

I’m so happy that it’s panned out for them, and we’ve gotten this far," he noted. "I’m glad they get to come to Syracuse and experience it, and they get to run with two of the fastest guys our school has ever seen.

"It’s just a really cool set up for success," Hogan added.

It’s the third year in a row the Wolverines have run in the 400 relay. Chandler was a major cog in the relay two years ago, but was injured winning his medal in the 400 hurdles, and was replaced in the finals.

Hogan said the hand-offs as always will be the key to Waverly’s success in the relay.

"Two weeks ago, in the Class C meet at Sidney, we saw the complete downside of this race being won or lost by the hand-offs when we dropped the baton.

"A week later we run a season-best time," noted Hogan. "You know, that’s track and field some times in a lot of way, and certainly the 4-by-1 relay.

"I try to remain optimistic, and trust the fact they are great athletes," added Hogan. "They are smart, they know the ins-and-outs of the race now. I like to put it on them, and let them to respond to it because they know how to handle pressure in those situations."

Hogan believes a change in the relay order that moved Johnson from the opening leg to the anchor has re-vitalized the foursome.

"The boys were at a pretty stagnant time," said Hogan. "It was a fast time, but we all thought they had plateaued, then we changed the order up, and saw good things happening with the new order.

"The first time we ran it, they dropped the baton," he noted. "Since then, though, it’s been nothing but great.

"I think our trajectory is putting us in the right spot," Hogan added.

Hogan believes the Wolverine foursome is at the peak of that trajectory.

"Last week after the State Qualifier, Ralph (Johnson) said he feels like he’s peaking. I look at them outwardly and say they’re peaking.

"Micah is dealing with injury, so I’m not as confident about him peaking, in terms of cutting down time again," said Hogan. "I just don’t know about that.

"I do think the 4-by-1 relay has more time to cut," he added. "From what they say to us, they’re looking to cut down their time, and they really think they can."

The 400 relay is the top seed in Division 2 at 42.52 seconds.

The New York State Track & Field Championships are Friday and Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Field events begin at 11 a.m. Friday, and track events get under way at 12:30 p.m.

The preliminaries of the 100-meter dash are slated to begin at 2 p.m. Friday, while the 200-meter dash prelims are scheduled to begin at 3:55 p.m. The 400-meter relay is set to begin at 5 p.m.

The finals for all three events are Saturday.

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IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Xavier Watson looks to take a hand-off from Ralph Johnson. IN PHOTO 2: Waverly’s Kolsen Keathley takes a hand-off from Micah Chandler. … VSR STOCK PHOTOS.

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