BLUFFTON – Some people might call it beginner’s luck.
Some would call it raw talent.
At Saturday’s Spartan Invitational at Bluffton University, Lima Senior sophomore Rico Stafford won the high jump (6-feet), finished second in the 400 meter dash (52.67 seconds) and was part of the 1,600 meter relay that finished second (3:35.68). Joining Stafford in the 1,600 relay were Jaden Walker, Shyhiem Watson and Bryan Mays.
The Spartans’ strong showing in the sprints and relays helped lead them to an impressive second-place finish in the final team standings Saturday.
Hilliard Darby won the boys’ team title with 148.5 points, while Lima Senior ended the day with 89 points. Toledo Central Catholic was a close third (84). Lima Central Catholic was fourth (64) and Wapakoneta came in fifth (62.5). There were 11 boys teams at the invite.
On the girls’ side, Hilliard Darby made it a sweep, winning with a score of 111.5. Notre Dame Academy finished second (109.5), while Wapakoneta had a strong showing, coming in third (94). Toledo Central Catholic (84) and Marion Harding (56.5) rounded out the top five teams. Lima Senior finished sixth in the final team standings (51). There were 12 girls teams at the invite.
For Stafford, who is a standout in basketball and football, this spring is the first time since grade school that he has competed in track.
However, Stafford is confident of his chances of becoming competitive in track and field.
“It’s not as hard as it looks,” Stafford said about the high jump. “In basketball, you have to jump a lot. And with me dunking, I just come out and use that to my advantage. I always think to win, but I wasn’t thinking about going this far and winning it all.”
Longtime Lima Senior boys coach Stephen Carter believes Stafford will continue to improve.
“Actually, I expected him to do that (win the high jump),” Carter said. “I think, potentially, he can go a lot higher.”
Along with Stafford, Lima Senior had several others excel in the sprints on Saturday.
Sophomore Bryan Mays won the 100 meter dash (11.29) and was fifth in the 200 (23.95). Freshman Jaden Walker came in third in the 200 (23.64) and eighth in the 100 (11.77). Both Mays and Walker were part of the 1,600 relay.
“I’m surprised,” Mays said about winning the 100. “I had some good guys, like from Lima Central Catholic and my little cousin Jaden (Walker) next to me. So, there was some good competition.”
In the boys 800-meter run, Lima Central Catholic’s Scott Willeke battled Hilliard Darby’s Daniel Reynolds, but was just edged out at the finish line and had to settle for second. Reynolds’ winning time was 2:01.46, while Willeke crossed in 2:01.73.
Willeke also was part of LCC’s 3,200 relay that finished second in 8:46.24. Joining Willeke in the relay were Ben Stechschulte, Sean Daley and Alex Rigg.
Rigg also had a strong showing in the 3,200-meter run, placing fourth in 10:10.96.
On the girls’ side, Wapakoneta was strong in the field events and distance events.
Wapakoneta freshman Allie Zofkie ran away for the victory in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Zofkie’s winning time of 5:47.28 in the 1,600 was more than eight seconds faster than second-place finisher Katarina Genson from Notre Dame Academy.
In the 3,200, Zofkie got out to a commanding lead in the first 800 meters and ran away for the win in 12:07.18. Toledo Rogers’ Kristen Fink was a distant second (12:41.16).
“I was pretty happy because our coach told us there would be some Toledo and Columbus schools here. He told me that I should be able to stay with them,” Zofkie said.