Rick Beans is finishing his 30th year of coaching multiple sports at Clear Fork. If they could all go as well as his stint as sprint coach for the track program, he’d probably sign up for 30 more.
Right behind him in line would be boys head coach and throws coach Dave Carroll.
Carroll’s pet project, junior Eric Jackson, has made it to this weekend’s state meet in the Division II shot put and discus as one of seven Colts qualifying in five events.
“If all kids were like him,” Carroll said. “I’d probably coach till I’m 80.”
Beans and vault coach Jeff Layne have every reason to feel just as strongly with Clear Fork sending one of its largest hauls to Columbus in recent memory.
Representing the valley in the sprints will be the regional champion 4×200 team of sophomores Brittney Hart and Jordyne Helinski, junior Deijah Swihart and senior Samantha Basham and the regional runner-up crew of Swihart, Basham, Helinski and junior Elizabeth Stabb.
The latter’s 49.66 at the Lex regional broke a school record set in 1991. The 4×200 team flew around the oval in 1:44.18, breaking the school record for the third straight week.
“We knew we’d be pretty good (in the 4×200) because we were fifth at regionals last year (missing a state berth by one place) and Deijah didn’t run last year,” Beans said. “But I don’t think anybody expected a regional title. That would have seemed far-fetched, but the girls progressed every week.”
Basham likely will require knee surgery after the season, but Beans was glad she’s been able to put it off.
“It’s like deja vu all over again,” said Beans, who was head girls coach in the ’80s and early ’90s. “We were building back then, too.”
Clear Fork was without the pole vault for nearly 20 years before Layne, a former Lucas athlete, helped resuscitate that phase of the program. He sent two girls — sophomore Maija Johnson and junior Ellyse Shafer — to regionals and senior Wyatt Tilton broke through to the state meet.
Tilton broke the school record by clearing 13-6 at last year’s Ohio Cardinal Conference meet and has gone onward and upward ever since. He matched his career best of 14-3 last week at the Lexington regional.
“I’d be tickled if he got 14-6 (at state), and I think he can go even higher than that because he feeds off the competition,” Layne said. “He’s a silent killer. He doesn’t have the best running approach, but when he’s up in the air he can do crazy things with his body. People call him “The Noodle.” He’s perfect up in the air, which is the hardest part.”
Tilton missed qualifying for the state indoor meet, but a busy schedule in the winter set the foundation for this spring.
“He worked at it and worked at it,” Layne said. “Once he came on strong and figured it out, there was no stopping him. We went to eight indoor meets.”
No Colt has come farther faster than the 6-foot-3 Jackson. Remarkably, he added almost 10 feet to his shot in one year (56-9½) and his 152-6 in the discus is topped in this area by only South Central state qualifier Carson Kinney (154-5½).
“I was reading a thing on Facebook called “proactive coaching” where a college coach said his greatest kids are the late-bloomers, not the ones who are superstars at 10 years old,” Carroll said. “Eric is a prime example of that. I don’t mean this in a mean way, because I love the kid to death, but he just wasn’t very talented in football or track or anything. But he worked hard and absorbed coaching real good, and his transformation has been neat to see.”
Jackson was an all-conference guard on Carroll’s football team last fall and proudly announced that he’s up to 220 pounds.
“That might not sound like a big deal for a good shot putter, but he was only 175 or 180 about a year ago,” Carroll said. “It’s amazing. I remember his sophomore year, he was playing in a JV game, and I was sitting there wondering if there was someone else they could put in for him.
“College coaches will look at him and say, ‘My Lord, he could be 260 in a couple years because he’s got the big frame and carries it well. He’s quick and has the explosion you look for.”