COLUMBUS — Ninety years ago Saturday, a young man named Jesse Owens made history at the OHSAA state track and field meet.
A senior at Cleveland’s East Technical High School, Owens led the Scarabs to their second straight state title by winning four events – the 100-yard dash, the 200-yard dash, the broad jump and the 880-yard relay (he was one of four members of the team) – and setting state records in all four.
He became the only boy to ever win four events at the state meet two times, having done it his junior year as well.
The PA announcer at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium made note of this before the start of competition Saturday morning, on the second and final day of this year’s OHSAA state track and field meet.
Seven hours later, he uttered another name in the same sentence as Owens’: Juliette Laracuente-Huebner.
The Highland senior did the unthinkable on a 90-degree weekend in Columbus – winning four Division II state titles in a span of 30 hours, and placing second in the team standings all by herself.
Laracuente-Huebner became the 25th girl in OHSAA history to win four events in a single state tournament, and the sixth to do it without being part of a relay team.
“It just means a lot. …” Laracuente-Huebner said Saturday afternoon, smiling as sweat turned to salt on her sunburned cheeks. “I just want to leave a legacy behind, and I’m glad that I came out here and won four (state titles), set meet records, put my name out there and made sure everyone knew who I was.”
Laracuente-Huebner didn’t quite pull an Owens, setting four state records in four events (in fairness, no one has since), but she came close.
She won the high jump state title Friday morning with a leap of 5 feet, 10.75 inches – breaking the OHSAA Division II record (last set in 2007) and the state meet record (set in 1995). She had placed third in the event last year.
Then, on Saturday morning, she won her third straight state long jump title with a leap of 19 feet, 11 inches – breaking the state meet record (last set in 2007), but falling an inch short of the OHSAA Division II record (last set in 2010).
Laracuente-Huebner returned Saturday afternoon to win the 100-meter hurdles title with a time of 13.64 seconds – which would have broken the OHSAA Division II record (which she tied herself at regionals the weekend prior) and the state meet record (last set in 2018), if not for a wind ruling. Laracuente-Huebner had placed third in the event at state last year.
And she completed the grand slam less than two hours later, winning the 200-meter state title with a time of 24.23 seconds – less than half-a-second off the OHSAA Division II and state meet records, which were set simultaneously last year. It was Laracuente-Huebner’s first time competing in the event at the state level.
“I told her, I’m speechless. I have no words for a performance like that. …” longtime Highland head coach Chip Wendt said.
“It’s just a great honor, it really is. It’s a great honor to be a part of that and to have a more-than-generational athlete. You know, I’ve used that term for years, but I will never, ever see something like this again.”
With her four state titles, Laracuente-Huebner accumulated 40 points for the Highland Fighting Scots. That was enough to lead the team standings heading into the final Division II race of the day – the 4×400-meter relay.
But Woodridge had other ideas. The Bulldogs from Cuyahoga Falls placed second in the relay, adding 8 points to their total and pushing them past the Fighting Scots. Woodridge finished with 45 team points, while Highland had 40. Toledo Central Catholic finished third with 39.
Still, Laracuente-Huebner received a standing ovation when the final team standings were announced. The senior smiled from ear-to-ear as she received the runner-up team trophy atop the podium.
“Juliette set a record in the long jump. Juliette set a record in the high jump. Juliette set a record in the hundred-meter hurdles,” the PA announcer bellowed.
“And she also just most recently won the 200-meter dash, nearly equaling Jesse Owens’ record of four records in four events in one meet, 90 years to the day here at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.”
Laracuente-Huebner, a University of Cincinnati commit, single-handedly won Highland’s first OHSAA state track and field team trophy this weekend. This after winning the OATCCC Division II/III Indoor State Meet team title by herself in March.
She thanked her coaches, teammates, friends and family afterwards for their support during the process.
“It’s bittersweet to come out here and win all four (events), just like I have been doing, and it means a lot,” she said.
“All the support that everyone has (given me) and just the recognition that I’ve been getting, and all the girls – you know, everyone’s cheering me on and we’re all cheering each other on – and my teammates from back home and my club teammates and school friends and all that. It just means a lot. …
“They mean the world to me and I’m just so happy that I have all those people behind me. It takes a village, it really does.”
Laracuente-Huebner will finish her career at Highland with six OHSAA outdoor state track titles and 10 OATCCC indoor state track titles. Wendt had one word to describe her high school career: “Iconic.”
“I’ll just say this: Any time your name gets mentioned with something Jesse Owens did, I mean, that’s almost like a mic drop to me,” said OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute, referencing the Ohio native and global sports icon.
“But when you think about it, if you get down here, you’re running against the best of the best in the state. So if you win one (state title) – if you even place in one (event) – that’s a heck of an accomplishment. But to do four, that’s very rare. And I think that puts you in a category that separates you from a lot of other state champions.”
Ute personally congratulated Laracuente-Huebner after her historic performance Saturday. He said he left her with a question to ponder.
“You get your name mentioned in a category with Jesse Owens – that doesn’t happen. And so obviously, when a student-athlete excels to that level at this level of competition, it’s just special. I mean, it’s rare. It doesn’t happen. So good for her,” Ute said.
“And I would tease her and say, ‘You’re right where Jesse was at your age, and he’s got a statue out there. So, what’s next?'”
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