Delaware track & field athletes head to Maryland for state meet

February 2, 2024

The Delaware Indoor Track State Championships will be held at Prince George Learning Center in Landover, Md., Saturday, Feb. 3, with the local teams from Cape, Sussex Academy, Sussex Tech and Sussex Central making the trip west across the bridge.

The 200-meter oval in Landover is a class facility that is fast but not banked like Virginia Beach, the Armory and Ocean Breeze, which makes it a bit tougher on the 200-meter and 400-meter events. I did a little research this week and I could not find another state in the U.S. that hosts their championships outside of their own state. The reason being is that Delaware does not have a facility that is large enough to host the championships. Tower Hill has a four-lane track on its campus, but it is not large enough to be a host. The same Tower Hill facility hosted the meet in the mid-‘80s when Cape, under coach Dave Frederick, won the title in 1983 and 1984.

Sallies on paper is pegged for 114 points, according to Cape coach Matt Lindell, and spread out well over the 15 events with an equal mix of top distance runners and sprinters. The next three boys’ teams are tight, with Cape scoring 66, Dover scoring 56 and Caesar Rodney scoring 49 points on paper.

Cape has the top three vaulters in the state for a big 24 points on paper, led by school record holder Bailey Fletcher, who recently jumped 14-feet-11-inches to break Sam Young’s indoor record. Cape’s Eddie Houck is ranked second at 13-6, with Brady Mauro ranked third at 12-0. It is the first time I remember that the Vikings had the top three in an event at the state championships.  

Here’s a local preview in the field events:

Katya Geyer of Sussex Academy is ranked fifth in the high jump at 4-11 and will aim for the magic 5-foot clearance that she has been unable to reach. 

Kennedy Johnson of Cape is in the championship flight in the long jump ranked seventh and will try to extend her personal best of 17-0. Stephen Hart is ranked third in the high jump at 6-2, with Ben Gusciora of Milford the leader at 6-4. In the high jump event, anything can happen, and I would say whoever clears 6-4 is in the driver’s seat. The Henlopen Conference has the five best high jumpers in the state – likely the first time that has happened.

Victor Perez of Sussex Central and Max Rial of Sussex Academy have the second and third best throws in the state at 48 feet and 46-8, and what an accomplishment it would be if they hang onto the silver and bronze medals.

Cape’s Addison Bowman is ranked second in the vault with her school record clearance last week of 10-6, and anything better would be icing on a cake season and likely the silver medal against a tough Elce Walsh of Padua, who has cleared 11-6.

The Cape girls have three triple jumpers over the 30-foot mark as they hold the sixth through eighth best jumps – Anejah Grace (32-1), Marley Fyock (31-2) and Isabel Mastrangelo (31-1).

Mallory Kauffman of Cape is seventh in the championship flight of shot put at 34 feet and has put together a fine season.

Bernard Jones of Cape sits in the second spot in 44-5 in the triple jump, only one-half inch behind Jakwon Kilby of Dover at 44-5 ½. Julian Cherundolo of Sallies is also at 44-5 and is a threat as well. It would be a huge win if Jones can pull this one out.

Speaking of jumps, it is Cape’s Kai Maull who still holds the long jump meet record and state record at 24-2, set back in 1998.  

Here’s a local preview in the track events:

Cape’s Anejah Grace is also ranked 10th in the 55-meter hurdles with a season-best time of 9.35, and it would be huge for her to make the final eight with a personal-best trial heat. Cape’s Maddy Gazze looks to dip under the 10-second mark in the trials. Cape’s Robert Redden has run 7.98, which on paper has him fifth and should have a sure trip to the finals with a clean trial performance. Isaiah Ro of Sussex Central has run 8.11 as well.

Sussex Central sprinter Destini Harmon is the lone local in the 55-meter dash with her season-best time of 7.67. Cape’s Trey Johnson and Redden are both in the 55-meter dash trials and will need a great race to move to the finals against a stud field. Cape’s Lily Noonan is entered in the 1,600-meter run where she has a 5:41.94 to her credit from the conference meet in an event where only four of the 16 athletes attend a public school. Cape’s Ben Cardin is the lone local in the 1,600-meter, running in the first section with a season-best of 4:37.20. Sallies’ Ethan Walther has a seeded time of 4:12.91, and he has a shot at lowering both the 1,600 and 800 state records.

Cape’s Ben Clifton is seeded sixth at 1:59.53 and will have his eyes on the school record, while teammate Cardin Benjamin at 2:02.69 will run in the first section along with Justin Friscia from Sussex Academy seeded at 2:03.98. Sussex Central‘s Harmon will race the 200-meter dash seeded at 26.83, while Redden of Cape will also run the 200 seeded at 23.39.  

In the 3,200 meters, eighth-grader Paige Ballinger is seeded fifth at 11:20.05 in one of the fastest races on paper. Tatnall has the top three positions, led by Carlita Kaliher at a blazing 10:47.01. Division I cross country state champ, Anna Bockius of Padua, is a few ticks behind Ballinger, while Lily Noonan of Cape, Katya Geyer of Sussex Academy and Faith Mitchell of Milford will also compete. Ballinger is coming off one of the finest Henlopen Conference performances in indoor history, as she recently captured the 1,600, 800 and 3,200 races on the tough Snow Hill oval.

On Saturday, the Sussex Academy standout will have fewer laps with higher intensity and will race against girls that are four years and four grades older, meaning that when many of her competition entered high school, Paige was still in fifth grade. Looking at the national level, Ballinger is ranked 32nd all-time in the 3,200 meters with her 11:20 time among eighth graders and first all-time in Delaware by a second. The all-time eighth grade national record is 10:21. The top 16 runners at Saturday’s meet are all under 12:17, which is one of the fastest indoor fields to date.  

On the boy’s side, Cape’s Jason Baker has run 9:48.81, which puts him fourth in the field. Only two Henlopen Conference runners made the top 16 cut and only three public school runners are in the field.

Here’s a local preview of the relay events:

The girls’ 4-by-800 relay will kick off the finals as one of the best races to watch early in the meet. Padua is seeded at 9:06 with Tatnall at 9:16. The state record is 9:09, so the race for gold will be an exciting one to watch. Nearly two laps back is the rest of the seeded section, with Caesar Rodney ranked third at 10:04. It looks like only two public schools made the seeded championship section. Sussex Academy has the top time in the second section at 10:39, and if they stack it up, they should mix up much of the fast section. Cape has run 10:46 and Sussex Central at 12:08.

In the boys 4-by-800 relay, Cape and Sussex Academy will be in the championship section, as Cape has run 8:43 to be seeded sixth and Sussex Academy has run 8:43 for seventh. Cape has several 800-meter runners who can anchor under 2:05, and Sussex Academy will have Friscia on the closing laps. Sussex Central will also compete in section three of the relay.

Cape will lead the locals in the girls’ 4-by-200 relay, as the Vikings have run 1:53.72. Sussex Central has run 2:01.36, with Sussex Academy at 2:02.32. The Cape boys are ranked fifth in the seeded section of the 4-by-200 relay with a recorded time of 1:34.19, while Sussex Central, Sussex Tech and Sussex Academy will also compete in later heats.

In the final event, the 4-by-400 relay, Cape will run in the fifth section of six with a seeded time of 4:26.50. Sussex Academy has run 4:38.11, while Sussex Central has run 4:42.40, and will compete in the early heats.

I have been to many state championships as a coach and a runner and the bottom line is the results on paper are normally never the results that happen, but at least now my readers know where our local public school athletes stack up against the state while they are watching the meet. Anything can happen and the athletes still need to show up and perform.  

A few parents have told me they plan to cut out my column and follow along event by event cheering our Cape, Sussex Academy, Sussex Central and Sussex Tech athletes to season best performances and personal records.  Good luck at the Delaware State Championships in Maryland.

State championship flashback

Speaking of “anything can happen at a state championship meet,” at the 1993 indoor state championship at the Delaware Fieldhouse, there was one event left, the triple jump, and the announcer over the loudspeaker had Cape in third with 48 points behind leader Sallies with 70 and Newark second with 52. That was in the days when you could enter more than three athletes per event if they met the standard. I had four quality jumpers in Willie Savage, Bruce Pitts, Art Hugger and Nashon Selby, all who had jumped over 45 feet. I explained to the boys that I was not great in Mr. Eisenhour’s math class, but first, second, fourth and fifth added up to 24 points, and when added to our 48, you come up with 72 points, two ahead of Sallies. They looked at me and said, “We got you, coach,” as I walked away and watched the event with Seaford’s Rob Perciful, who won the state title the year before in similar fashion. Two hours later with our 24 points, we piled back into the blue Cape station wagon with our state championship trophy, and I bought them all their promised happy meals at McDonald’s in Smyrna.


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