COLUMBUS — The cost of Nathan Streby’s effort Saturday bore out underneath a large white tent in the infield at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The East Knox senior had arrived in the tent, which was meant to hold state placers before they took their place on the podium, just after finishing the last race of his high school career: the Division III boys 800-meter state final.

It was just after 11 a.m. and temperatures on the track hovered around 90 degrees, the midday sun beating down unbothered from a clear blue sky, the second straight day of Saharan conditions at this year’s OHSAA state track and field meet.

And Streby was spent.

He went from sitting motionless on a bench to laying down on the floor, twisting restlessly on his back as he tried to catch his breath. He spent five minutes slumped over a trash can, dry-heaving and coughing and sneezing as an OHSAA volunteer placed a cold rag over his neck. He ultimately returned to the bench, clutching a cup of water and trying to control his breath as he awaited his trip to the podium.

Streby said afterwards that he had allergies. He’d had them for a month – the kind that induce congestion and constant sneezing.

But he had also just put it all on the line. He had just endured 112 seconds of maximum physical exertion – pushing his legs and lungs and mind to the limit – in an effort to put his hometown on the map one more time.

And that he did.

Streby placed third in the state in the Division III 800-meter final, finishing half-a-second behind second-place Caleb Sultan, of Cedarville, and four seconds behind champion Kaleb Nastari, of United.

Streby broke his own school record in the event with a time of 1 minute, 52.73 seconds. He repeated as an all-Ohioan, having placed second in the 800 at state last year.

“I’m glad I PR’d and kept dropping it down. I fell short of the 1:51 (mark), but that’s where the Lord needed me to be today, so I can’t be upset about that,” Streby said afterwards. “I’m glad to close the high school career off with a PR.”

Streby competed in a historically fast field Saturday.

Nastari’s championship time of 1 minute, 48.31 seconds set a state record (regardless of division), an OHSAA state meet record, a Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium record, and is now the fastest high school 800 time in the nation.

The senior and Penn State commit won the 800-meter state title by four seconds for the second straight year.

Streby, an Ohio State commit who came into Saturday’s race seeded second, said his goal was to be “within striking distance” of Nastari at the 300-meter mark, when runners converge from their starting lanes to the innermost lanes of the track.

But by the time the pack made it to that mark Saturday, Nastari had already established an insurmountable lead.

“It sucked to be in lane seven for the first 300. But I knew I was gonna have (Nastari) coming up on my inside and at the 200 mark, I was like, ‘Dang, he’s already here. It’s time to keep going I guess,'” Streby recalled.

“We took the cut in and I was a little farther behind than I was last year at the cut. I came in (on the first lap) at about 54 or 55 (seconds). So the start of the race was a little slower than I thought, but I felt stronger during the second lap.”

Streby had aspirations of becoming East Knox’s first state champion, in any sport. And while that didn’t come to fruition Saturday, the senior still said he was proud of the way his high school career ended.

East Knox head coach Jason Ewalt agreed.

“I’m very happy with his performance today – breaking the record, running faster,” Ewalt said. “And to put it into perspective, this is the first time he’s had somebody in front of him all year in the 800. He hasn’t had anybody to push him. So this has been great.”

Nathan Streby

Streby finished his high school track and field career as a four-time all-Ohioan (he also served as the anchor of the 4×800-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams that placed fifth and eighth, respectively, at state last year).

He broke three individual school records during his time at East Knox – the 800-meter (last set in 2002), the mile (last set in 2000) and the two-mile (last set in 2000) – and his 4×800-meter relay team last season set a new school mark as well.

Up until last year, no East Knox relay team or athlete had placed higher than seventh at the state meet. That changed when Streby’s 4×800 team placed fifth on the first day of last year’s state competition. Streby went on to set a new mark on the second day as well, placing second in the 800.

Streby qualified for state all three years (his freshman season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). He also qualified for the state cross country meet once and broke the school record in that sport last fall.

“He’s easily, hands down, the best runner to come through our program since I’ve been coaching,” said Ewalt, in his 28th year at the helm. “Just by his place at state and how many times he’s done it, (qualifying) three years in a row.”

Streby, who also played golf and basketball at East Knox, said it “felt good” to be able to represent his hometown on regional and state stages over the years.

“I’ve been a part of so many different (teams) that have gone to regionals, with basketball and track and cross country,” Streby said. “It feels great just to get East Knox’s name out there, because I know a lot of people don’t know what it is or where it is. But it’s been nice to get the name out there.”

Streby signed last fall to run at Ohio State as a preferred walk-on. He believes his experience at East Knox has prepared him for his next chapter.

“This really helped prepare me for college and becoming the adult that I’m gonna be,” Streby said of his high school career. “I really didn’t know what to expect, and then this past year and my junior/senior year really kind of shaped me up and got me ready for college.”

When asked Saturday about his high school journey, and what he wishes young athletes in his hometown would learn from it, Streby referred back to his faith and its importance in his life.

“It doesn’t matter how you do. … No matter what sport (I’m playing), I’m just trying to glorify the Lord in any way I can. Take Him with me wherever I go and try to spread Him,” Streby said.

“It doesn’t matter how you do; it doesn’t matter what your time is. If you can talk and you can breathe, you can spread the word. So that’s what I want the younger guys that look up to me to know.”

OTHER LOCAL ATHLETES SHINE AT STATE: Streby wasn’t the only Bulldog – or Knox County athlete in general – competing in Columbus this weekend.

His teammate, sophomore Isabella Grennell, placed 18th in the Division III girls shot put competition on Friday.

Grennell’s third and final toss of 34 feet, 1.5 inches was her farthest of the day, but it fell four feet short of what would have been required to advance to the final round (where the field shrinks from 18 competitors to nine).

Ewalt said he was proud of the sophomore regardless, noting it was her first appearance at state and she spent most of this season working her way back from an ACL tear, which she suffered her freshman year.

“She’s had a great year. She’s coming off an ACL fix, so that’s really set her back. But she’s finally now getting confidence – she still has the brace on, but she’s finally getting confidence,” Ewalt said. Grennell won a district title this spring before placing fourth at regionals and qualifying for state.

“(Friday), she was seeded 18th going into it and nothing changed. She still threw a 34, so it’s not like she didn’t perform,” Ewalt continued. “But she’s got that experience now under her belt, which is big for a sophomore.”

Grennell was one of three freshmen or sophomores to compete in the event Friday. Ewalt believes she will take “quite a bit away” from this year’s state experience, and that it will pay dividends in the coming seasons.

“We talked about explosiveness – that’s a key thing for her,” Ewalt said. “But like I said, that explosiveness will come when she’s more confident on her leg, because she’s not using her legs very much. Once she starts doing that, she’ll improve significantly.”

Ella Bouton

Fredericktown freshman Ella Bouton made her first state appearance this weekend as well, placing 12th in the Division II girls shot put competition Saturday.

Bouton’s first throw of 36 feet, 6.25 inches was her farthest, but it fell seven inches short of what would have been required to advance to the final round.

Dave Rashley, Fredericktown’s throws coach, said Bouton’s experience Saturday should set her up well for the next three years.

“When she came out throwing (this year), shot put was not her main focus. She did an awesome job in discus at 123 feet this year, and then she came through in shot put, and she started at 32 feet this year. So she’s actually improved like six feet throughout this year, from start to finish, which is awesome. She’s just kind of hung in there,” Rashley said. 

“I think (competing at state) was almost a little bit less pressure, because she was really focused on discus this year. And I just feel like it’s a great opportunity for her to come do this event, the shot put, (during) her freshman year, at the start of her career. I feel like that’ll help her out.”

Bouton captured a Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference title this season before finishing third at districts and fifth at regionals, earning one of the two at-large bids to state. She was seeded ninth coming into Saturday – one of three freshmen or sophomores competing in the state event.

Rashley said Bouton has plenty to look forward to in the coming years, as long as she continues to work at her craft. She nearly qualified for state in the discus throw as well, placing sixth at regionals.

“I think it’s just (about) maintaining a level focus and level head throughout the rest of it. …” Rashley said. “In the offseason, enjoy the other sports. I think basketball is her true love, and (it’s important) for her just to focus and enjoy that. …

“I think long-term, it’s just, ‘How do we just enjoy it and work hard, and keep that balance?’ Because it’s important to have a drive, but not to be overstressed in the sports that you’re around. And I think she does a great job at that. She’s so supportive of all the other girls, and it’s just been unique to watch.”

Elsa Hoam

Bouton was joined at state by a teammate as well, Fredericktown senior Elsa Hoam.

Hoam placed 15th in the Division II girls 1,600-meter race Saturday, tying her personal record for this season with a time of 5 minutes, 21.55 seconds.

Hoam, who was seeded 18th coming into state, said she was pleased with how she ran. She was able to weather the heat and remain near the middle of the pack the entire race, finishing with three 82-second laps after a 74-second first lap.

“My coach kind of wanted me to not go out with the front of the pack because it’s a hot day and I kind of get tired in the heat. So he was like, ‘Hang onto the back, let them do the work and just drift off of them. And (on the) third lap, make a move and see where you go, and just race the best race because it’s the last race. Just do the best (you) can do,'” Hoam recalled.

“I think for where I am in the season and how I came into the race, I did pretty well. I did exactly what my coach wanted, and I’m happy because my only goal for the state meet was to not finish last. And I did it and I’m pretty happy with myself.”

Hoam won a KMAC title in the mile this year before placing second at districts and fourth at regionals, punching her ticket to state. She made her second and final state appearance Saturday.

Fredericktown head coach Bob Geiger said he was impressed with the way Hoam closed out her high school career.

“It’s awesome. She wasn’t supposed to make it,” Geiger said. “I mean, you look at the odds of making it out of the region, and she wasn’t supposed to make it. She was supposed to be last here by nine seconds, and she beat a couple girls and shifted in the middle and tied her season PR. What a great way to end.”

Hoam, an Ohio Wesleyan commit, will leave behind quite the legacy at Fredericktown. On top of her track accomplishments, she was also a four-time state qualifier and a two-time all-Ohioan in cross country.

Geiger said Fredericktown will miss her leadership, calling Hoam’s graduation the “end of an era.” But he also said her legacy will extend well beyond this school year.

“(It’s the) end of an era, but her impact will be felt for a long time,” Geiger said of Hoam. “The younger girls all want be Elsa – they still all want to be Elsa – and some of the closest people she worked with were the freshmen this year. So Elsa’s gonna go to Ohio Wesleyan and do great things, but she will still impact our program for years to come.”

Hoam said one of the biggest things she learned during her high school career was “how to work as a team and not just as an individual, and getting better that way.” She hopes to bring that “family” focus to her next life chapter.

“This experience at Fredericktown has been amazing. It’s the whole reason I love running,” Hoam said. “I came into running my sixth grade year in cross country like, ‘I like running, but I don’t know how I feel about a team.’ And they just made me feel so welcomed.

“It’s like another family to me. And I’m sad to see them go, but I’m happy for where they put me.”

Local sports are brought to you by Conway's Pharmacy in Mount Vernon and Danville.

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