One more time

Photo by Tim CreasonMichigan City's Justin Wozniak (discus) will join teammate Ryan Stefanko (shot put) and New Prairie's Jacob Corbett (3,200 meters) on the Indiana All-Stars track and field team that will compete in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Saturday at Michigan State. Wolves coach Lucas Snyder is a member of the Indiana staff.

Three years ago, when Michigan City finished second in the boys track state finals, Wolves coach Lucas Snyder was asked to be a part of the Indiana All-Star staff for the annual Midwest Meet of Champions.

"They ask the winner to be the honorary coach, but the (Carmel) coach (Ken Browner) had already done it," Snyder said. "They asked me to do it, so the Ben Davis coach (Mike Davidson) and I did it. It's fun."

What started as a one-time deal has turned into an annual trip for Snyder, who was later asked to be the recruiter for the high jump, where the Wolves had medalists three years in a row (2016-18), and long jump. The top three seniors in each event are asked to participate.

"We've been fortunate to have some pretty strong boys who were good enough to be in it," Snyder said, listing 2016 state champion and runner-up high jumper Daniel Armstrong and ShanQuan Hemphill, sprinter Matt Lockridge, state champion hurdler Makiyah Smallwood, 800-meter runner Jacob Adams and high jumper Keyshawn McGill. "It's my fourth year on the staff and we've had eight kids make it now."

This time around, it's not the jumps, but the throws as shot putter Ryan Stefanko and discus thrower Justin Wozniak made the team.

"It's awesome to be able to do another meet with 'Woz,'" Stefanko said. "I'm just looking to throw a new personal best there and get over 60 feet."

Like Stefanko, Wozniak is aiming to improve on what he did at state (177 feet, 2 inches), where he finished second, and possibly crack 180 feet.

"It's really a big deal. It's a huge meet, but it's also the least amount of pressure we've had all year," Wozniak said. "I'm just looking forward to having fun, having one last meet with Ryan, this time for good, unless something happens later on in college."

New Prairie's Jacob Corbett will run in the 3,200, making a stop at Grand Valley State along the way today for a recruiting visit.

"I'm running the 32 again, so maybe I can do even better and break another school record," Corbett said. "I thought my season was over and I was happy with what I did, but I was definitely happy to be invited to run in this meet. I wanted to represent well. We ran a blue and gold (intrasquad) meet at school and I ran a PR in the 800, a 1:58, so the relaxed setting helps a lot." 

The team travels today to East Lansing, Mich., the site of the meet on the campus of Michigan State, where it will have a practice, receive uniforms, and attend an awards banquet. The meet will follow a team breakfast Saturday. 

"It's great for the kids to just go out and let it loose, and whatever happens, happens," Snyder said. "It's a different beast than state."

While the teams spend little more than 24 hours together, it's easy for Snyder to pick up on what makes the athletes elite.

"It's so evident in how they prepare, how they work," he said. "They don't know me from anybody, but I tell them to do something and they do it, no questions asked. I've had some big-time athlete, track kids and kid going to Ohio State for football, it's mind boggling."

Indiana will compete against similar teams from Ohio and Michigan. A parade of competitors will kick things off at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The pole vault and discus start immediately afterward.

There is no cost to athletes who are selected. Travel costs, souvenir uniforms that the athletes keep, T-shirts, meals, and lodging are all underwritten by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches. The meet, which started in 1974, is the only scored, interstate all-star event of its kind in the United States.

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