From one Nicolet WIAA state track champion to another, Bryan Jones likes what he sees in newly crowned Knight 200-meter dash titlist David Dunlap.
'I like that he's a very fluid athlete,' said Jones.'The way he runs the 200 right now is very good, but I see a lot of room for him to grow. I just love the way he attacks the the turns and slingshots it right onto the straight.
'That's one of the most important aspects of the race, to be able to take full advantage of that centrifugal force (built up on the turn) and slingshot it home.'
Jones, the legendary Knight 400-meter state record holder and face of the 1990 Nicolet state team champions, was at the state meet in a La Crosse the weekend of June 3 and 4, making one of his periodic trips back to Wisconsin from his home in Florida.
The WISTCA Hall of Fame honoree still holds the WIAA 400 record and must have been amazed later that day to see Nicolet's 26-year-old 4x400 relay finally go down in an intrepid effort by a squad from team champion Brookfield East. Jones was part of that relay.
But mostly, he was happy to see the unbroken Nicolet sprint tradition that has included him as well as 1990s 100 and 200 state champion B.J. Tucker (another WISTCA Hall of Famer) and, more recently, the surprising 2012 title-winning 4x100 relay anchored by Brandon Kappel.
'That's always amazing to see,' Jones said. 'I wished they would have scored 30 or more points, but I'm just blown away by what they accomplished. Just very proud.'
The junior, Dunlap, who admitted to a healthy dose of being 'scared' by the magnitude of the state meet, didn't act that way as he joined the impressive winners' circle. He and fellow 4x200 relay runner Dakari Williams had gained experience being on the 2015 state place-winning 4x200 relay.
Dunlap came out of the Friday preliminaries as the top seed in the 200 (21.99) on a warm and windy day. On the cooler, less windy finals day of June 4, Dunlap slowly built up to his championship moment.
He was second in the 100 dash final in 11.0, as club-running teammate Bryant Brown of Milwaukee Marshall-Morse ran a perfect race to win in 10.77.
Not much later, he and teammates Kamari Clayton, Williams and Tyler Grisham smashed the Nicolet school record they set last week in the sectional, taking fourth (1:27.62) in a terrific 4x200, as Brookfield East, Plymouth and Menomonee Falls all hit the line simultaneously, with East winning the title in 1:26.95.
'We beat the school record, which was a good thing, but we could have been with those others,' said Williams, one of three scheduled returnees on the relay. 'There were some little mistakes there that we can clean up before next year.'
Williams had also qualified for state in the 100 dash and missed making the finals by just 0.03 of a second with his 11.4 trials effort.
Then came Dunlap's moment in the 200, as he again had to face down Brown. The pair came off the turn clear of the field and then both used that centrifugal force to carry them home. Dunlap maintained a small lead and held off Brown for the title, 21.58-21.60. The time was a personal best for him.
Afterward, Dunlap had a little smile on his face as he absorbed his newfound championship status.
'I honestly don't know what to do,' he said. 'But we have to go back and find a way to celebrate. This just feels amazing. The race was hard, very hard. I just didn't know that I'd ever get this far.'
Current Knights coach Jeff Houck loved the approach that the sprinters, especially Dunlap, took to their labors.
'The instant (the 100) was over, David knew it was his best race,' said Houck. 'To his credit, it took him about two minutes to get over (it) and move on. He knew he had a relay to run within the next hour and had three athletes counting on him. All four relay legs ran their best race of the year. When the race concluded, they held their heads high, having run their fastest time of the year and again breaking the Nicolet school record.
'David's race in the 200 was a great way to cap off the weekend. After running five races in the last 24 hours, we were hoping he still had something left in his legs for this last race. As we all saw, he did. While David will never admit it out loud, he really was hoping to win at least one of the events at the state meet. The fact that he was able to run his fastest time of the year on his last race of the year speaks to David's ability to pull through in clutch situations.'
Dunlap said the club work he did last summer against 2015 state champion Maurice Simpson, formerly of Milwaukee King, really helped him. Having that friendly rivalry with Brown was also a big aide.
'I just thank God for pushing me because I just started working really hard at things this year,' he said. 'I just wanted to be faster than Maurice because he used to beat me in practice all the time.'
The sprinters' efforts earned the Knights 23 points, good for ninth in the state D1 field, as Brookfield East won its fourth title in six years with 49 points.
Houck said it was a fun season.
'The group of kids we had at the state meet was a joy to be around,' he said 'All of them except Tyler (Grisham) are going to be returning next year. While Tyler's shoes won't be easy to fill, I am confident that we have a core group to build from. Both the kids and coaches are already excited to see where next season will take us.'
No doubt another former Knight and current Florida resident who also knows what its like to be a champion will be interested, too.