By Kevin Eickman
The 2013 Milford girls and boys, track and field teams concluded their seasons Saturday, competing at the DIAA State Championships this weekend. The meet featured solid performances from athletes that had solid seasons. Those athletes continued them through the DIAA meet, held at Caesar Rodney High School.
The meet was a true reflection of the Buccaneers just completed season. The girls finished with a 9-4 conference record, The boys finished the campaign with an 8-5 showing. This season was a little different in the fact that the Bucs were not as dominant in the team relays as they usually are. It is an indication of just how remarkable the track team has been in recent years, even while being the smallest team in Division 1. Talking with coach Czar Bloom about the season, it is clear the this year’s team was a little different for him. “We set the bar very high for ourselves, and it was inevitable that we would have a season when we might falter,” commented Czar. “We just never seemed to get the whole team aspect working the way we wanted to.”
Milford had a week of big individual performances, starting with the Henlopen Championships which was held a week earlier. In that meet, senior Henry Phalen won the Henlopen title at 3200 meters. The race was indicative of the effort Phalen has given to Milford, as once again he improved, becoming just the second Milford runner to run it in under 10 minutes. “That was just a typical Henry race, he just went out there and ground the other guys down,” Bloom stated.
Another Milford senior going out on a high note is Alexis Groce, who has continued to work hard and improve as her career has progressed. At the Henlopen Championships Groce won the Henlopen title at 800 meters, turning in a time of 2:19.1, the fastest ever in the history of that meet. Groce however, was just getting warmed up. Saturday she put on a clinic, posting a scintillating 2:17.86, and winning the event nearly three seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. “Alexis just keeps getting better and better, it has been fantastic to watch her develop as a runner,” commented Bloom. “She is an outstanding competitor, and we are really going to miss her next year.”
Last but not least, there is Ryan Thomas. The Milford junior is developing into an athlete that comes around once in a very long while. When Thomas jumps, it’s not a matter of if he will win, but by how much. While Thomas competes in the high jump, his signature events are the long and triple jumps. At the Henlopen meet, Thomas won both the triple and the long, finishing second in high jump. After winning the long jump, and finishing fifth in the high jump on Friday, Thomas took aim at the triple jump on Saturday.
Thomas started slowly during the preliminaries on Saturday, struggling to find his rhythm. “I was kind of tight early in the day, it took me a while to get it going,” Thomas said. Once the finals began, it was obvious that Thomas was starting to find his groove. On his first jump, Thomas posted a 47′ 7” jump, which was good enough to win. Thomas wasn’t done however, he wanted more, and he was determined to get it. With Thomas standing at the line, he joined in with the rhythmic clapping of the spectators gathered around. He jetted towards the pit, and hit the board, after taking his third step and becoming airborne, it was obvious this was a special moment. Spectators, coaches and other competitors waited in anticipation of the the distance. Finally it was announced: 49′ 3”. With that Thomas had set a new Division-1 meet record. “I was feeling really loose in the finals, I was very comfortable with how I was feeling,” stated Thomas.
To put all of this in perspective, as of this writing, that jump puts Thomas in the top 10 of the entire country this season. Talking with Bloom about Thomas, he sees big things on the horizon for the young man. “It’s an incredible reflection on the pride he takes in his craft, all of the effort and work he puts into it, has contributed to his beautiful season,” Bloom stated.“He is competing on a different level then anyone else.”