Only sports journalist Howard Cosell — known for his blustery, cocksure personality — might rival Jonathan Ball when the PHS track and field coach is spewing superlatives.
The athlete on the receiving end of Ball’s most recent tributes is multi-talented Tanner Hodges, who opened the 2011 season in extraordinary fashion on March 5 at the Desert Classic Invitational in Queen Creek.
Hodges’ most remarkable feat was anchoring the 4x800 relay to a second-place finish in 8:46.29.
On the team with Hodges were Ezra White, Jamie Wadington and Sam Grassel.
Knowing the medal-winning performance was a real gem, let’s let Ball relive the relay as it unfolded.
“The boys set Tanner up nicely, but he had to finish it,” the coach said. “With 200 meters to go, Tanner was in fourth place, trailing two guys by about six or seven meters.
“He came out of the turn and got real aggressive leaning out the other two guys at the (finish) line.
“He has really learned how to compete at a high level.”
Watching the team run to the silver medal against top-notch competition, Ball said, “was one of the highlights of my coaching career.”
Ball continued to laud Hodges saying, “Watching his development not only as a runner, but also as a competitor has been one of the reasons I love coaching.”
Hodges has been on the team for three years, arriving when Ball was in his first year as an assistant coach.
In addition to praising Hodges, Ball commended Kyle Raeke, Ian Dillon and Cameron Romance for turning in personal best performances in the Classic.
In the 300-meter hurdles, Raeke finished ninth in a 43-runner field. His time of 42.55 easily bested his previous PR of 45.66.
Raeke was also 12th in the 110 meter hurdles in 16.76.
In the 52-runner field entered in the 200 meters, Dillon was 14th in 23.82 and Romance took 23rd in 24.18.
Dillon’s previous best was 24.19 and Romance’s PR was 24.36.
The pair also showed well in the 100 meters, with Romance taking 23rd and Dillon finishing 25th. Both their times of 11.85 and11.86 respectively were just tenths of a second off their personal records.
Also representing the Longhorns well at the Classic were Keith Williams (400 meters), Blake Brown (high jump, triple jump, 4x100 relay and long jump), Levi Sopeland (pole vault) and Justin Morrati (shot put and discus).
The Longhorns travel tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9, to Sedona for the annual Friendship Meet.