For a trio of Verona boys track athletes, the shot put and discus are events they have dominated this season.
The Wildcats will look to keep that dominant run going in the postseason, as all three qualified for Thursday’s Verona sectional with their performances in the WIAA Division 1 Middleton regional, on Monday, May 20, at Breitenbach Stadium.
Jackson Acker won a regional title in the discus, unleashing a throw of 191 feet, 8 inches. It’s the top throw in the state this season and is the No. 1 throw in the nation by a sophomore.
“It was 10 feet over my goal, so it’s amazing,” Acker said. “I wanted to go into the state meet placing top five in disc. Now, I definitely feel like I have a shot at one or two.”
He’s closing in on former Verona three-time state champion Luke Sullivan’s state record of (192-10).
“He’s really setting himself up for a tremendous state meet,” coach Joff Pedretti said.
Acker also took third in the shot put (50-0 1/2) and helped the Wildcats win the 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter relays.
Senior teammate Dylan Bourne finished second in the shot put (51-9) and third in the discus (142-3), and senior Ben Vandervest took fourth in the shot put (48-9). Four in each event qualify for Thursday’s Verona sectional.
“The goal is to get three shot putters to state,” coach Joff Pedretti said. “We have done step one. Step two will be really tough. We will come and give our best. The hard part will be at sectionals because only three move on to state.”
In all, the Wildcats qualified 10 individual events and all four relays (400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200) for the sectional. Senior Jatavion Hawkins cleared 6-0 top win the pole vault. Senior Max Herkert finished second in the pole vault (13-0) and took fourth in the high jump (6-0). Soko also added a fourth-place finish in the 100 (11.46).
Senior Jayden Joe-Wright returned from a hamstring injury that had forced him to miss the Big Eight Conference meet, winning the 200 (23.22) and running a leg of both of the winning 400 and 800 relays.
“We picked the two relays, and I thought his strongest open is the 200,” Pedretti said. “In the 100, it looks like he’s still accelerating and gaining on guys when he approaches the line. In the 200, we gave him an extra 100 meters to do that.”
Pedretti said he wanted to really load up the relays.
In the 800 relay, Acker led off the relay and handed off to senior Mason Jordan before sophomore Javon Presley and Joe-Wright closed the race.
“It was my first time starting the 4x200, so that was a little intimidating,” Acker said. “I started the 4x200 because it’s slightly shorter than the other legs of the race. I think that 10 to 15 meters may have saved enough energy.”
Acker said it definitely helped having Joe-Wright back in the 400 relay, and the two of them joined sophomore Graham Stier and senior Tim Soko in winning the 400 relay (43.30), 0.20 seconds ahead of Madison West.
“We were a tenth of a second off the school record,” Acker said. “Me and the third leg had a bad handoff. If we iron that out we easily could have the school record. We crushed our time from last year.”
In the 3,200 relay, junior Brad Tuomi, junior Drew Gonzales, senior Ian Grossenbacher-McGlamery and freshman Aidan Manning took third (8:22.06).
Senior Jason Ford placed fifth in the 3,200 (9:40.82) and missed qualifying for the sectional by about 0.5 seconds.
Middleton captured the regional team title over Verona 161-120.5, but Pedretti said that wasn’t the team’s focus.
“We really see this as a prelim for Thursday (Verona sectional),” Pedretti said. “Thursday is the state qualifying final. We knew we didn’t have to come in here and win things.”