Leona Smith

Fredericktown junior Leona Smith races toward the finish line during the last leg of the girls 4x100-meter relay race on Saturday afternoon at the Cowen Redbird Invitational. The Freddies finished second in the race and third overall.

LOUDONVILLE – Bob Geiger has coached cross country and track at Fredericktown High School since the turn of the century. He’s established one of the area’s premier running cultures, a well-oiled machine that consistently produces college talent (and championships). He knows what fast looks like.

This year’s girls 4x200-meter relay team, he says, is fast. Historically fast.

They proved it again Saturday.

The team’s first two runners, Paige Oswalt and Audrey Bouton, established a sizeable lead early on, and the back end finished the job. Katerina Hamilton handed the baton off to anchor Leona Smith, who raced across the finish line with a time of 1:50.34, less than two seconds off the school record. The Freddies edged Chippewa by a second and left the rest of the field in the dust. The next closest team clocked in at 1:57.60.

“The girls 4x100 and 4x200, those girls have worked really well,” Geiger said after Saturday’s Cowen Redbird Invitational, hosted by Loudonville High School. “That’s the fastest group we’ve had in the 4x200 for about 15 years.”

While Saturday’s victory came without struggle, Smith believes races like this help sharpen the team’s mentality. The focus becomes less on winning and more on the record.

“We still have to push ourselves even when there aren’t people in front of us, and that’s really hard,” said Smith, panting, Gatorade cup in-hand. “So I just think, when I’m in first and no one’s in front of me, I just have to shoot for the record, which is the next best thing to first.”

According to Smith, three of the relay team’s runners – Hamilton, Oswalt and herself – have competed together since middle school. Hamilton is a senior, and the team’s goal this year is to break the record while the band’s still together. They still have time, but their days are numbered.

“We want to catch it before Kat graduates,” Smith conceded. “We definitely want to get that.”

The 4x200 relay team’s first-place finish, worthy of 10 points, became pivotal for the Fredericktown girls team down the stretch. The Freddies earned a third-place team finish, besting fourth-place Cloverleaf by just nine points.

“This was pretty good for us because as usual, mid-season like this, we’re trying to get as many kids involved as possible, so we aren’t loading up,” Geiger said. “So to get a trophy when we’re not really trying to win the meet, we’re just trying to get as many kids involved, is great.”

The 4x100-meter relay team, which includes the same group of girls, placed second to Rittman by .52 seconds. Senior Nichole Groseclose, committed to West Liberty University, finished second in the mile with a time of 5:37. Sadie Sanders also earned silver in the 800-meter dash with a time of 2:33.14. To finish things off, the 4x400 relay team of Groseclose, Sanders, Lydia Stute and Smith placed second with a time of 4:24.99.

In field events, Celeste Swihart and Maureen Roddy finished third and fourth, respectively, in pole vault. Blake Dowalter finished sixth in discus throw.

Geiger mixed things up on Saturday to get more athletes involved, and his underclassmen stepped up to the challenge.

“They’re growing up,” the coach said, “so it was pretty impressive.”

The Fredericktown boys finished 10th out of 16 teams. Geiger said the team missed senior Paden Spencer, a 2018 state qualifier who did not race on Saturday. His 4x800-meter relay team finished second with a time of 8:37.39, and Geiger said “we get about 15 seconds faster when Paden’s on there.”

Geiger also moved Dakota Smith, the 4x800 team’s other senior, to the open 800.

“My two seniors on that (team) didn’t run,” Geiger said. “So they’re faster than that. Next week we’ll see what they can do.”

Colton Riel placed fourth in the 110-meter hurdles (17.14), while Smith finished second in the 800 (2:05.24). Connor Riley and Titus Krabill posted fourth and fifth-place finishes, respectively, in the two-mile.

Bulldog high-jumpers fall short in rare duel

The East Knox boys team finished fifth at the Cowen Redbird Invitational, and nearly a quarter of its points came from one event – high jump.

The Bulldogs had two of the final four competitors at Saturday’s competition, which began with 20. The springy duo of Anthony Gilmore and Chase Darr faced off against Berlin Hiland’s Declan Howell and Loudonville’s Justin Pryor at 6-feet.

Chase Darr

East Knox high jumper Chase Darr tied for second on Saturday with teammate Anthony Gilmore. Both Bulldogs cleared the 5'10" bar but struggled to conquer 6'0".

After all four competitors missed their first jump, Howell cleared the bar on his second. Gilmore, who came up lame after his first try (he later said he turned his ankle going into the jump), struggled to elevate on the final two. Darr, who came in with a PR of 5’8”, simply couldn’t get his hips through. Pryor had similar struggles.

Howell won with a height of 6’0”. Afterwards, Gilmore (whose career high is 6’1”) said he “wasn’t really as focused as I needed to be.”

“I mean my steps, they could have been better,” the senior said. “Just little things like that.”

Saturday’s defeat marked a rare occasion for Gilmore, as he has already earned five first-place finishes so far this spring. This was just the second time he has finished as a runner-up.

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“It’s good for him. He just needs to fix the little things and he’ll be good,” said East Knox high jump coach Jared Darr, older brother of Chase. “They just need to keep working hard.”

Gilmore ran the 4x100 and 4x200-meter relays on Saturday as well, but he said high jump has always been his favorite event. He expected stiff competition at Loudonville and plans to use his runner-up result as motivation heading forward.

“It’s going to make me come back Monday at practice ready to go hard,” Gilmore said.

Following Gilmore and Darr’s podium finish (they tied for second), the East Knox boys saw production from several different places on Saturday. The 4x800-meter relay team, which won last week at Highland, ran 11 seconds faster and placed fourth this weekend. Dawson Moreland ran the mile in 4:44, a time head coach Jason Ewalt said is “really good for him” this time of the year. Moreland placed second in the race.

“He’s trying to get it into the 4:30s, we’re trying to get him there,” Ewalt said. “Each week Coach Jones is progressing with him, with his workouts and what not, and he’s gradually taking it off because you don’t want to peak too early in the season.”

Nathan Whitney finished fourth in the 800 and second in long jump on Saturday. Bryan Hockenberry took bronze in discus throw with a distance of 129-01. To cap things off, the boys 4x400 relay team – comprised of Whitney, Moreland, Darr and Cody Cockrell – placed fourth.

The East Knox girls team placed 10th in a competitive field. They were led by the 4x200-meter relay team of Madison Annett, Lilly Thomas, Alexandria Magers and Ashley Van Hoose, which finished fourth (1:58.75). Magers also placed fifth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 64.51 seconds.

“We kind of toned it down a little bit today,” Ewalt explained. “We had that invitational Tuesday at Crestline and they did really well, and we had a couple injuries and stuff so we kind of let back a little bit and loaded a couple events. I’m pretty happy with the day.”


The Highland boys team placed sixth and the girls placed ninth on Saturday. Brock Veley and Jack Weaver finished first and second, respectively, in the 100-meter dash. Veley won the race with a time of 11.12 seconds. Weaver then turned around to win the 200-meter dash (23.00), while Veley finished third.

Weaver and Veley

Highland's Jack Weaver (middle) and Brock Veley (right) compete in the 100-meter dash on Saturday afternoon at the Cowen Redbird Invitational. Veley placed first while Weaver finished second.

The boys 4x100-meter relay team of Veley, Chase Carpenter, Landyn Albanese and Weaver won gold with a time of 44.24 seconds. Landon Remmert placed second in 300-meter hurdles with a time of 43.56 seconds.

On the girls side, Camberly Schade placed third in the mile with a time of 5:38.32. Erin Conner finished third in shot put with a throw of 30-10.00.

The Northmor boys finished second, while the girls placed seventh. The boys 4x200 relay team placed second with a time of 1:36.08. Drew Zoll won the 400-meter dash in 52.65 seconds. Tony Martinez placed second in pole vault. The girls 4x800 relay team placed third with a time of 11:09.23. Lexi Wenger earned bronze in 100-meter hurdles.

The Mount Gilead girls finished 12th and the boys finished 16th on Saturday. Cardington-Lincoln's boys team placed 15th (the girls team did not score).

Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.