Wednesday's preps: Renaissance sweeps PSL track titles

Eric Coughlin
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Renaissance hurdlers Paige Chapman and Jaylah Walton don’t have much competition for the 100-meter high hurdles in the PSL — except for each other.

As they have virtually all season, the duo finished one-two, with Chapman eking out the victory in 15.24 to Walton’s 15.37 at the city championships at Renaissance on Wednesday.

“Having a teammate like Jaylah (Walton) pushes me to run faster,” Chapman said. “And we still are super-cool (with each other). It makes us go even harder.”

Chapman and Walton improved on their state-qualifying times from regionals, 15.42 and 15.43, respectively.

Their coach, Darnell Hall, knows the value of good teammates, having won Olympic gold in the 4x400 relay in 1992.

“It’s real good to have the competition in practice,” Hall said. “I haven’t seen a partnership like them since I ran way back in the day. They’re gelling together as a unit, and you’re seeing the fruits of that labor right now.”

The Renaissance girls ran away with their second-straight city championship, dominating several events to finish with 252 points. Detroit King finished second with 108.

“I’m really proud of all our girls,” Hall said. “They worked hard for this.”

Hall switched things up in the 4x100, running a team of all seniors, with only one of those seniors on the state-qualifying team.

“We did a tribute to the seniors,” Hall said. “It wasn’t our No. 1, fastest time in the state team that ran last weekend. When you can let the seniors leave on a positive note like that, knowing they probably won’t compete in college, I’ll take that. That’s when you know you’re going in the right direction.”

The senior-laden group won the event in 50.59, well ahead of Detroit Cass Tech’s 54.16.

The Renaissance 4x200 relay team came just short of setting a city record, finishing in 1:41.95, shy of the 1:38.47 mark set by Renaissance in 1999.

“Having such a great team brings a lot more confidence,” Walton said. “We all support each other. Even if we fail, our teammates will pick us up.

Chapman and Walton, who also runs the 300 hurdles, will now shift their focus to the state meet on June 2.

On the boys side, King senior Jaeveyon Morton was crowned the fastest high schooler in Detroit, winning the 100-meter dash in a blistering 11.08 and the 200 in 21.68.

“I finally got my first place in the 100,” Morton said. “Last year I got third. I’ve been competing all four years. I’m real happy to finally win it.”

Morton, who didn’t go to states last year, thinks he can win the 100 at that level on June 2 at East Kentwood.

He will leave to play football at Iowa State just a couple weeks later, but King coach Fernando Massey says it hasn’t wavered his focus on running.

“He’s been working so hard this year,” Massey said. “His mind is right. He had a good football season this year, and after that he had a vision to improve his times in track, and he’s done just that.”

Cass Tech had won seven boys city championships in a row, but this year they were unseated by Renaissance in a relatively close meet that wasn’t settled until after the 3200-meter run, the second to-last event. Renaissance finished with 141 points, King was second with 120, and Cass Tech finished a distant third with 83 points.

Sprinting events were almost even between Renaissance and King, but Renaissance picked up valuable points in the distance events with sophomore Riley Torin picking up second place in the 1600 and third in the 3200.

The most impressive performance of the day belonged to the King 4x200 squad. Its time of 1:26.56 broke the city record (1:26.80) set by Central in 1981, but Renaissance was racking up too many points in other events for King to keep pace.

“Our boys weren’t the most talented team, but they were the most balanced team,” Hall said. “They came out here and changed the culture of boys track at Renaissance.”

Hall is in his third year at Renaissance. He knew he had something special with the girls team right away, but it was different with the boys.

“My co-coach, Calvin Johnson, he drew the blueprint and I just followed it.”

Hall celebrated his 19th anniversary as a Detroit police officer on Wednesday, and has embraced his role as a community leader.

“It’s all about building character in the kids,” Hall said. “You have to let them know what they need to do and set goals.”

Boys baseball

Birmingham Groves 7-5, Birmingham Seaholm 2-4: Ryan Laub pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out five, and George Cutler and Nick Ringler each had two hits and an RBI as Groves (21-8) won the first game. In the second game, Roger Motley tied it with a home run in the fifth inning and Cutler hit the winning homer in the second game.

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.