By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy’s Stephen Jones and Tippecanoe’s Mitchell Poynter made the distance races a thrilling back-and-forth battle all night long.
But freshman Jayden Culp-Bishop helped the Trojans pull away in the team standings.
Culp-Bishop went 4 for 4, winning three individual events and competing on a first-place relay team, Jones added two more victories and the Troy boys track and field team turned what had been a 10-point lead over eventual runner-up Miami East in the middle of the meet into a 192.5-125 victory at the Miami County Invitational Tuesday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
* Close As It Gets
A mere 0.17 seconds.
That’s all that ended up separating Troy’s Stephen Jones and Tippecanoe’s Mitchell Poynter in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Both competitors traded the lead back and forth in both races, but in the 1,600 Poynter pulled away slightly heading into the final lap. Jones nearly caught him in the final 100 meters, but Poynter held him off at the finish line with a time of 4:24.89 to Jones’ 4:24.96 — a difference of 0.07 seconds.
“Stephen and I had raced Saturday (at the Butler Invitational), we had two days to rest and then race again tonight,” Poynter said. “The 1,600 was a great race. We both ran 60s on the last lap. We were both really pushing it.”
“The difference between us in the mile was only 0.07 seconds,” Jones said. “Coach (Bob) Campbell was up in the stands watching, and he’s very analytical about it, saying I was on this shoulder and it would’ve saved me this many tenths of a second. I wish I would’ve gotten that race, too.”
After Jones added a win in the 800 (2:00.51), with Poynter sitting out that race, the two met again in the 3,200.
Even with quality competitors like Newton’s Brady McBride, Piqua’s Andy Mayse and Tippecanoe’s Tim Andrews — all of whom finished in under 10 minutes — Jones and Poynter turned it into a two-man race, again trading the lead throughout.
Neither held much of an advantage, even in the final stretch, and they turned it into a 100-yard dash to the finish once again — this time with Jones winning by 0.24 seconds, 9:32.92 to 9:33.16.
“In the 3,200, I figured his legs had to be shot,” Poynter said. “We took turns surging, but it came down to the last 100 again. They were just both great races.”
“We have a friendly competition going. We run together a lot,” Jones said. “Honestly, it’s nice to be able to run against guys like him and Brady and Andy at a county meet.”
“Those races were tight,” Troy boys coach Deon Metz said. “You’ve got a lot of quality runners going on to run at the next level for quality college programs. Stephen really wanted that 3,200 — and you could tell in that last 100 meters just how much.”
Both runners, though, are glad for the chance to face off against such high-level competition on a local stage.
“To get serious races in at a county meet, at local meets where I’d normally be running alone, it’s nice,” Poynter said. “It’s fun.”
“It’s nice to get to race guys like them and also train with them,” Jones said. “It’s cool to be able to bond with people from different schools like this.”
* Homecoming Party
Welcome home, Jayden Culp-Bishop.
The Troy freshman — and also Troy native whose family had moved away for some time — had a breakthrough performance Tuesday night at the Miami County Invitational, winning the 100, 200 and long jump and anchoring the victorious 4×100 team for the Trojans.
“It feels good,” Culp-Bishop said of the 4 for 4 night. “I was born in Troy, but my family moved around a lot. We ended up in Georgia, I ran AAU track while off of regular track season, went to nationals for junior olympics.
“It feels good to be back. I was only a little kid when I was here last. The community has been really nice to us since we moved back, and it’s a good school. I’m liking it.”
Culp-Bishop started the day with a win in the long jump (20-2.5), then he won the 100 (11.31 seconds). He teamed up with Austin Jacobs, Robinson and DeMarcus Moody to win the 4×100 (44.89 seconds) and finished the night by winning the 200 (23.01 seconds).
“Jayden’s got to buy in, and he is starting to do that,” Metz said. “He’s only a freshman, but he’s starting to ask the right questions and do the right things. He’s only scratching the surface of what he can do right now.
“We don’t normally have him long jump, but we did today. We loaded him up in four events. He hadn’t long jumped since Greenville, the second meet of the season — but when you’ve got an athlete like that, you can just throw him in, and that’s what we did.”
But before he throws his name in with Troy’s recent successful sprinters like Nick James and Miles Hibbler, Culp-Bishop knows there’s work to be done — and he’s ready to do it.
“I’ve been trying to train as hard as I can,” he said. “I’ve been going to weightlifting, trying to build muscles and get faster. I’m just trying to stay as active as I can. I want to do the same thing I did tonight at the GWOC meet and try to get to state.”
* Rest of the Best
The Trojans added three more wins Tuesday night on their way to the team title.
Hurdler Zach Boyer swept his two races, winning the 110 hurdles (16.1 seconds) and 300 hurdles (42.36 seconds). And Travis Hall, who came two inches away from breaking the 50-foot mark at the Butler Invitational Saturday, added yet another victory in the shot put (48-9).
Miami East had a trio of victories, with Justin Brown winning the high jump (6-0) and adding wins in the 4×800 relay (8:43.68) and 4×200 (1:36.81).
Tippecanoe was third with 106.5 points, led by Poynter’s win in the 1,600.
Covington was fourth with 83 points. The 4×400 team of Zane Barnes, Brandon Magee, Jayce Pond and Lyle won (3:36.83) and Jett Murphy won the pole vault (13-6).
Milton-Union was fifth with 54 points, led by Shannon Milnickel’s school-record win in the 2,000 steeplechase (6:45.9).
Piqua was sixth with 42 points, led by Andy Mayse’s win in the 400 (52.75 seconds) and Tristen Cox’s win in the discus (128-6).
Newton was seventh with 36 points, led by Jack Yoder’s second-place finish in the 100 (11.78 seconds).
Bradford was eighth with 27 points, led by a pair of fourth-place finishers: Johnny Fike in the 1,600 (4:59.31) and Kyle Mills in the high jump (5-8).
Bethel was ninth with 26 points, led by Korry Hamlin’s second-place finish in the 2,000 steeplechase (6:45.9).
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.