A RUN FOR GOLD: LSA Boys Win First Team Title in 20 Years
It all came down to one race - the 4x400-Meter Relay.
At any track & field meet, the 4x400 is always the final race of the weekend and heading into it Lutheran South Academy track & field coach Gene Benson knew his boys team needed to do well to secure something they hadn’t won in 20 years.
As Jaylin Lowery raced down the final stretch and crossed the finish line, the clock for LSA stopped at 3:24.92. Lowery pumped his fist in excitement.
They were State Champions.
“Everybody was out there whooping and hollering,” Benson said. “Everybody was ecstatic in the win.”
Winning the 4x400-meter relay (Jaylin Lowery, Max McGee, Marcus Gaitan and Matthew Gaitan) gave LSA a final total of 103 points, enough to beat out TMI-Episcopal by 21 points to capture the 2022 TAPPS 5A Men’s Track & Field State Championship, the first since 2002 for the Pioneers.
“It’s been a while,” Benson said with a laugh. “It’s always good to win the title like this. It’s exciting for everybody. We knew we had a chance and went in there and the athletes performed. Which is what they were there to do.”
Benson is in his 31st year leading the LSA track & field program.
As the veteran coach reached back into his memory to 2002, the similarity to that run to a title and the one in 2022 was on the final day they just kept scoring.
The Pioneers also walked into the final day with points already on the board.
Wilson Klein cleared 14 feet in the pole vault to take silver, while Adan Rivas finished fourth clearing 10-feet-6-inches. In the high jump, Kaden Harvey finished as the State Runner-up clearing 6-feet-4-inches. In the triple jump, Lowery finished fifth with a leap of 41-feet-11-inches.
With those, LSA had 25 points already on the board heading into Saturday. Then, the points piled up event after event.
Joel Hutchins brought home the 100-meter dash State Championship with a school record time of 10.67, took bronze in the 200-meter dash (22.71) and then anchored the bronze-medal-winning 4x100-meter relay (43.00).
“He had a big meet,” Benson said of Hutchins. “At the State meet everybody is good, so you must be ready to go. He was rearing to go, met that competition and met the challenge to what was happening.”
The rest of the 4x100- meter relay team was Ethan Savell, Lowery, John LeBlanc and Hutchins.
In the distance races, the Pioneers also garnered points. In the 400-meter, Marcus Gaitan took silver (50.33) and Lowery placed fourth with a time of 50.70. In the 800-meters, it was Matthew Gaitan taking bronze (1:58.90), besting his brother Marcus who took fourth (1:59.25).
Alec Salerno placed seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (46.07) and the 4x200-meter relay (Max McGee, Jonah Weber, LeBlanc, Matthew Savala) placed seventh (1:33.33).
In the end, the points were enough to push LSA to the top of the mountain, which Benson hopes excites other athletes walking the halls for years to come.
“You always hope a State Championship will excite athletes in the school who maybe haven’t thought about running track,” Benson said. “We also have a good group of athletes coming back next year and that’s always exciting knowing that many coming back participated in the State Championship and would like to have another one.