East Kentwood — Brandon Jiles doesn’t ever remember winning a track and field meet this way.
The Oak Park girls team won another state championship, its second straight and fifth in six years, but the way they did it Saturday left Jiles particularly pleased.
The Knights only had one first place all the day but it was a particularly important one.
In the final event of the day, the 1,600-meter relay of Jayla Jones, Tamyra Todd, Kourtney Kennard and Chloe Vines set a state record, winning in 3 minutes, 45.13 seconds (the record was 3:46.43), defeating Detroit Renaissance, which was second in 3:48.35, and Rockford third (3:53.63).
The relay victory helped Oak Park edge past Renaissance 74-71, and Rockford (69) in the final standings.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won a meet winning only one race,” Jiles said. “The kids showed up big time. Renaissance front loaded (its relay) so that made us run a little harder on the back end and it all worked out.
“It was fun, but it was stressful.”
The Knights’ depth was crucial, providing a key fourth place in the shot put (Camari McCarroll), Jones earning a third in the 800-meters, and N’Stajah Banks getting a fourth in the 300-meter hurdles.
“It was very satisfying because you’re clawing away at a win,” Jiles said. “We had an overall outstanding meet. We didn’t do anything exceptional but we were gritty.”
The tradition the Knights have built is something they want to maintain.
“They take a lot of pride in running for Oak Park and competing for our school,” Jiles said. “It’s just a tradition. I have kids all across the country competing at amazing universities. They take a lot of pride in winning.”
Individually, Leeah Burr (Detroit Renaissance) won the 400-meters (54.17) and Kaila Jackson won the 200 (24.04).
Renaissance won the 400-meter (46.58), and 800-meter relays (1:37.20), edging Oak Park in both races.
Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende (Rockford) ran 4:40 to win the 1,600-meters and won the 3,200 (10:24) and was second to Gabby Hentemann (Grand Haven) in the 800-meters (2:08.70).
“It’s pretty tough, obviously, but I’ve been running four events every meet,” VanderLende, who will run for Michigan, said of her preparation for Saturday. “I was prepared but a little nervous.”
Qe’Neisha Young (East Kentwoood) won the 100-meters (11.89) and Lauren Fulcher (Troy) won the 300-hurdles (42.75).
Nicole Bow (Dexter) won the pole vault (12-feet 10-inches), Grace Stark (White Lake Lakeland) took the 100-meter hurdles (13.43), Elizabeth Knoll won the high jump (5-foot-6); Jasmine Cierkley (Okemos) won the shot put (44-feet, 1/2 inch); Kennedy Jackson (Walled Lake Western) the long jump (18-10), and Belle Okoroafo (East Kentwood) the discus (140-10).
Bay City Western won the 3200-meter relay (9:11.33)