By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Eighth to first.
First to fifth.
Fifth to and then back again.
Saturday’s 1,600 involved more jockeying for position than any other race Tippecanoe’s Mitchell Poynter ran the whole season.
And in the end, the Red Devil junior held off a number of challengers but couldn’t quite catch the two leaders at the end, laying claim to a third-place finish at the Division I state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Poynter wasn’t used to fighting so hard for position mainly because he coasted to easy victories in most of his races this season, but competing in the D-I finals is an entirely different kind of race — the kind that he can appreciate.
“I’ve never had to jump around that much in a race,” Poynter said. “It was great. I’m just so thankful to be able to come here and run, to compete against these guys. This was a great experience.”
Poynter ran a time of 4:14.22 — bettering his regional time of 4:17.77. Hudson’s Gavin Gaynor won the race in 4:12.16 and St. Xavier’s Brad Eagan was second in 4:13.83.
It wasn’t the time Poynter wanted, but the result more than made up for it.
“I wanted to qualify for the McDonald’s Nationals, and 4:12.5 was the cutoff time for that. So I didn’t quite make it,” Poynter said. “But I am still extremely happy with third place.
“The race went out kind of slow in the beginning, which kind of happens in races like this. And it was hot today, too. But once we got going, it was a great competition.”
In the middle of the second lap, Poynter had fallen all the way to eighth place and was boxed in by a group of runners. He made a strong move to get out of it, though — so strong that he held the lead momentarily. By the time the runners came down the back stretch, though, he’d fallen back to fifth or sixth place.
Poynter was back up front fighting for the lead again by the end of the third lap, fluctuating between second and third place. And the entire final lap simply turned into a battle of wills — and Poynter wanted to make sure he was as high on the podium as he could reach.
For Poynter, it was the second time he has competed at the state meet at Jesse Owens — and that first experience years ago helped on Saturday.
“I ran here on the 4×800 relay team when I was a freshman, but this was my first individual appearance,” he said. “I was way more afraid when I was here as a freshman. I had no clue what was coming.
“It helped a lot. I knew the feel here. It’s just a different kind of competition. Everyone is rooting for you and wishing you good luck.”
It was also Poynter’s second third-place finish in a state meet this year. In the fall, he finished third individually at the D-II state cross country meet, helping the Red Devil boys capture their first team state championship.
“They were both so special,” he said. “Like I said, it’s just exciting to get to come here and be able to compete against runners like this.”
And he’s not done doing it, either.
“I’m happy with two third-place finishes — and I have another year still to work on doing better,” Poynter said.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.