YUKON — As he watched the runner in front of him stumble, then fall to the track, Deer Creek freshman Kyle Sander focused on getting to the line to hand off the baton to the team's anchor leg, Bryce Balenseifen, on the 3,200-meter relay.
But as Sander passed Tahlequah's tumbling runner, his foot clipped Sander's leg and knocked him to the ground as well.
Sander rolled, but bounced back up to make the handoff to Balenseifen, who finished off the Antlers' gold medal run at the Class 5A state track meet Friday at Yukon High School.
“I was just trying to get it to Bryce and let him take over,” said Sander, who followed Drake DiAngelo and Devin Turner in the relay. “I saw (the Tahlequah runner) struggling, so I sped up and tried to get past him. His foot came out and got my left foot, and I went straight down.”
Sander recovered and Deer Creek won by eight seconds, while Tahlequah, one of the favorites in the race, came in sixth.
The 20 points for winning the relay gave Deer Creek a boost in the team scoring as it hopes to defend its state title on Saturday. With 52 points on the first day, the Antlers hold a 19-point lead over second-place Duncan.
“I think it kickstarts the rest of the track meet,” Balenseifen said. “Hopefully it motivates our sprinters and jumpers a little bit by fighting and getting off to a strong start. So hopefully, we can feed off of that.
“At the same time, I'm sad for Tahlequah, because you never wish for that to happen to anybody, but unfortunately, it did.”
Balenseifen helped the Antlers' cause with an individual win in the 3,200 meters at 9:59.76, with both Blaine Powell and Coleman Crawley scoring in the event.
And Cole Verble won a tightly contested pole vault event, clearing 14 feet, 6 inches on his first attempt. Three other vaulters cleared 14-6, including Deer Creek's Jake Woodson. Deer Creek is in position to score in a variety of events Saturday as well.