Centralia boys not fazed by state, earn four medals

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 5/31/23

Centralia’s boys hadn’t run a state track race before this past Friday and Saturday.

Day 1 Mexico, Centralia State Track Photo Gallery

Day 2 Mexico, Centralia Photo Gallery

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Centralia boys not fazed by state, earn four medals


Centralia’s boys hadn’t run a state track race before this past Friday and Saturday.

Day 1 Mexico, Centralia State Track Photo Gallery

Day 2 Mexico, Centralia Photo Gallery

The Panthers took home four medals from the Class 3 state track and field championships at Adkins Stadium in Jefferson City to contribute the total 13 earned by the school — the girls had nine as part of a third-place team finish. JR Lesher led the Panthers with three medals, and Rohan Holiman medaled in two events.

Head coach Ben Sontheimer said the team has strong mid- to long-distance runners, as evidenced by all of the boys medals coming from those events. Lesher finished seventh in the 1600 on Friday and eighth in the 3200 and fifth in the 4x800 on Saturday, Holiman took fifth in the 800 on Friday and was part of the 4x800 the next day along with Lesher, Dryst Bostick and Landon Moss.

“We’ve broken five distance records in this past year,” Sontheimer said. “The big credit goes to coach Jason Watermann as he does an outstanding job with those guys.”

Lesher rebroke the school 3200 record with a time of 9:40.25 on Saturday, and Holiman set the new 800 record at 1:58.82 with his run on Friday. Those were two of six total school records broken by Centralia at the meet as the girls had Lewis set the 200 record at 26.03, Bostick run to an 800 time of 2:23.51 and a 1600 mark of 5:16.92, and Hawkins edged out her previous long jump record with a mark of 5.39 meters.

Watermann is also the head cross country coach as Lesher and Holiman went with the rest of the boys and all of the girls to the state meet last year. Lesher and Holiman didn’t medal, but they still had a chance when the weather warmed up at the end of track season. 

“JR last year had a tremendous offseason,” Sontheimer said. “We spoke at our spring awards banquet and I said, ‘Whatever he did in the offseason, everybody needs to do’ because he came back a different kid. He was stronger, he was faster, he’s a kid that gets after it in the weight room because he knows it helps him perform better and he just put the mileage in.”

“Rohan was really battling some injuries at the start of the season, and we weren’t sure he would be able to finish the season,” Sontheimer said. “We backed off a little bit and gave him some room to get better, and he just really excelled. His 800 times were just phenomenal at the end of the season. He just absolutely peaked at the right time.”

Lesher held on to seventh place in the 1600 on Friday and passed a runner down the home stretch on Saturday in the 3200 to make the podium.

"I did so much running over the winter and summer," Lesher said. "I'm really glad that my hours paid off."

Lesher said it is difficult to deal with the amount of people on the same track in long-distance races as all 16 state qualifiers compete at the same time, but he managed to do so and it helped him win his first medal in the 1600 on Friday.

“It went out way faster than I was used to,” Lesher said. “It was really hard to navigate all the traffic and saw more people around than I was used to. I really just tried to move past people as much as I can and then just give it everything I have and leave everything out there.”

Lesher’s times from districts to sectionals to state decreased outside of his sectional time in the 3200, which ended up being shattered anyway at state in school-record time, but Holiman’s 800 times kept falling until he finished south of two minutes for the first time. 

If you were to ask Holiman not too long ago, he didn’t think he would be at state, let alone on the podium. The competition that he saw helped him become the best of himself.

“I started out the year about 20 seconds slower than I am now,” Holiman said. “It definitely is just being pushed to do it. My time two weeks ago would not have gotten here. Then you come into districts, it brings out how much you can really do.”

Holiman said he believes he could have done even better but is not disappointed from the result with his senior season coming up. 

Of course, Holiman had another chance to run Saturday when he and Lesher teamed up with the sophomore Bostick and the senior Moss. The four ran a season-best 8:13.40, beating their sectional time by three seconds and falling short of the school record by about two seconds.

“We all believed in ourselves, and we knew we could do it from the beginning,” Bostick said. “We know we earned it. It feels amazing.”

Moss said they were going for the school record, but failing to break it doesn’t diminish their accomplishments as the relay team has already made great strides. He, Lesher and Holiman won districts with a time of 8:38.92 but were eliminated at sectionals. The Panthers began that season above 9:20 and were north of 8:50 to start this season.

“This season we have gone so much further,” Moss said. “We got way stronger as runners. For me as a senior, this being my last season, I love it.”

Sontheimer said Bostick has had a great season with six personal-bests and also has experience in the field by throwing javelin so it will be nice to have him back next year. The same is true for sophomore Jacob Beard, who finished 10th in the pole vault on Saturday at a height of 3.65 meters, and junior Cayden Dunna after missing finals in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

When it comes to Beard, Sontheimer credits Tyler Forsee for getting him and others ready to compete in the weight room.

Junior Cayden Dunn missed the finals in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles after being less than a second behind the top eight in the 110 with a time of 15.57, compared to a 15.54 in eighth place, and tripping to a 16th-place finish in the 300. Dunn consistently was in the top two in the hurdle events this year after qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles a year ago.

“Cayden Dunn had a real rough weekend,” Sontheimer said. “I couldn’t be more disappointed  for a kid. I talked to him and he’s not going to get discouraged and use motivation to come back next year.”


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