Dover boys capture DIAA indoor track & field championship

Members of the Dover High boys indoor track team celebrate with their state title trophy. Dover High School photo

DOVER — Jim Solomon had plenty of confidence in his 1,600-meter relay team.

But that doesn’t mean the veteran Dover High boys’ indoor track & field coach wasn’t a little nervous.

Solomon remembered a few times in past years when mistakes cost the Senators in the meet-ending event.

“I was trying to stay positive, thinking-wise,” he said.

So when Dover’s Hezakiah Ali-Bentley, Dante Jones, Ric Johnson and Nathaniel Guy cleanly won the 1,600 relay in a time of 3:35.70, Solomon was pretty happy.

The win in the event also gave the Senators the DIAA boys’ team state indoor title by 10 points (66 to 56) over second-place Salesianum on Saturday afternoon.

“I was just relieved,” Solomon said with a laugh.

The state crown was the fourth for Dover’s boys since the DIAA began running an official indoor track & field state meet in 1982. The Senators have also finished second a total of eight times in the team standings.

Solomon said Dover really had to battle to capture this state crown in the meet, held at the Prince Georges Sports Center in Landover, Md.

The Senators’ 66-point total was the lowest for the boys’ state champion since 2011. But Solomon said that was because the competition was a lot tighter this year.

“We kind of figured out that we needed to get to 60 points to walk out of there with a trophy,” said Solomon. “Unlike the past four or five years, the competition was really good. Middletown was tough. AI (DuPont), of course, Sallies, and William Penn were tough. It was neck and neck the whole meet.”

Besides the 1,600-meter relay, Dover’s only other individual winner was Bradly Anyanwu in the shot put.

Solomon said the Senators’ got some crucial depth this year from a few football players deciding to take part in indoor track this year. Jordan Magee, Javon Peace and Dazhmier Brooks all earned points for Dover on Saturday.

Magee, who’s headed to Temple on a football scholarship, took third in the shot put — an event he hadn’t competed in before — while Brooks placed fourth in the 400-meter dash in just his third time competing in the event.

Solomon credits former Senator track athlete James Kilby, now a Dover football assistant coach, for getting some of the grid players to come out for track.

Even the four runners on the 1,600 relay have football connections. Ali-Bentley is the son of former Senator football standout Hameen Ali while Dante Jones is the son of the former Dover head football coach of the same name.

“It took some time to sell it to some of the football players,” said Solomon. “Between he (Kilby) and I, we just kept at it. We stayed patient. When we got to the (Henlopen) conference meet and they got some medals, it kind of clicked.

“When we got to the state meet, they did well. But they left a lot on the table. In track & field, if you really want to be good. … you have to really train to complete with some of the guys who actually train to run track — that’s their sport.”

The indoor meet, of course, helps teams get ready for the outdoor track & field season in the spring. Dover is the defending Division I outdoor state champion and has finished no worse than second in each of the last five seasons.

But Solomon said indoor state crowns don’t always translate into outdoor state titles. The Senators last won both indoor and outdoor state championships in 2015.

“Other teams will get guys from basketball and wrestling,” said Solomon. “It depends on who’s eligible and who comes out.
“We look good on paper but we’ll see what happens when the season starts. A lot of stuff goes into it.”

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