Comets depth, leadership to propel ‘19 team

Rahul Parikh | Sports Editor

Head coach Chip Dobson talks about his goals for the upcoming season.

The Mason Boys’ track and field team is looking to leap new hurdles this year.

With the likes of seniors Akari Porter (200M, 400M), Jaymon Penn (100M, 200M), Josh Wright (100M, 200M), junior Nick French (110M Hurdles, 300M hurdles), returning for the track team, and junior Keegan Mullins leading the field events in high jump, the program has their eyes set on a 12th straight Greater Miami Conference (GMC) championship, and a better postseason finish, after placing 38th at state last season.

Head Coach Chip Dobson said the unique advantage of this year’s team will be the depth of the distance team, the talent of the sprinting squad, and overall camaraderie and leadership within the team.

“This year we have a very deep distance team with lots of capable runners,” Dobson said. “Combining that with the starpower we have in sprinting and other events, this year’s team is really something to look forward to.”

For this year’s sprinting team, (typically 100M-400M races) Akari Porter will be the head of the pack of an extremely experienced squad. Porter said that with a majority of the top sprinters being returning seniors, (Penn, Wright) the Comets should see a major improvement this season with the combination of experience and youth.

“With our returning seniors we definitely have a good backbone for the team,” Porter said. ”If we improve the little things and work with our newer guys who are also very talented, we will easily improve all of our times.”

For Porter specifically, he’ll be looking to break records this season. Last season, Porter came .6 seconds away from a school record in the 400 Meter with a 48.40. The same mark earned Porter an impressive 5th place finish at state, making him Mason’s highest placing athlete at the competition. Porter said that he is extremely confident in his ability to break the record and make history this season, and will do whatever it takes to do so.

“I’m very confident in my chances to get that record this year,” Porter said. “As long as I push myself, do the right things in practice, and take care of my body, I shouldn’t have any problem.”

Kahari Land-Brandon practices hurdling during a practice preceding the team’s first meet at Moeller.

Last season, then Seniors Abel Nijakowski, Michael Uematsu, and Aaron Goetz led the long distance team (1600 and 3200 meter run) to a productive season. With them gone, Johan Meyer, Micah Champagne, and Austin Cooper figure to lead the longer distance squad – and they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Dobson said the distance runners are bound to replace them this season have shown promise early on, and he has confidence they will be able to step right up into a bigger role.

“Obviously losing those runners is huge, they were fantastic and will be hard to replace,” Dobson said. “But these guys we have right now are really working hard and committed so far; they have a bright year ahead of them.”

Junior Nick French is the leader of the hurdling events for this years squad, and had a successful season last year finishing in the top five of the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) in the 110, and 300 Meter hurdles. French is also a member of the 4x200M relay alongside Porter, Wright, and Penn. This relay team has represented some of the Comet’s best finishes. They placed second at the indoor state championships already this season, and are looking to break the Sprint Medley Relay (SMR) record this season.

Porter said that for this relay to make history this year, they need to continue working on technique and steadily improve throughout the season.

“When we place second in the indoor state meet, we had some problems with handoffs,” Porter said. “We definitely thought we had a chance at first if we clean that up, which should also improve our time in chasing the SMR record.”

For the field events, juniors Keegan Mullins and Josh Schimpf will star the team in high jump, while Schimpf will also compete in the long jump. Junior Cage Tatman will pole vault for the Comets, while fellow junior Chris Zhang figures to lead the team in the triple jump. Mullins said in order for the field events to improve this year, they will need to push themselves throughout the year and concentrate on correcting mistakes in practice.

“We definitely have some talented athletes this season,” Mullins said. “But in order for us to win another GMC title we have to put in the extra work and stay focused.”

Photo by Mia Sweitzer.

Video by Rahul Parikh.