COLUMBUS – Highland will have a shot at three Div. II state track titles Saturday after posting impressive finishes in Friday’s prelims.
Brock Veley placed seventh in the 100-meter dash, earning a spot in Saturday’s final race (1:10 p.m.). Jack Weaver finished ninth in the 200, just five one-hundredths of a second ahead of Bishop Hartley’s Cameron Thomas, to take the final spot in Saturday's final (2:40 p.m.). And the boys 4x100-meter relay team, which consists of Veley, Landyn Albanese, Chase Carpenter and Weaver, finished fifth, giving them a shot at a state title Saturday (1:50 p.m.).
Weaver said the Scots competed Friday with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and they plan to do the same Saturday with gold on the line.
“We’re always just joking about how these big, city schools should really just destroy us,” Weaver said. “But we’ve worked really hard and we have a lot of pride when it comes to our races, and I think that’s what helps us.”
While Weaver said he and Veley felt disappointed in their first race Friday – each runner finished approximately .15 seconds slower in the 100-meter dash than usual, and Weaver missed the final cut by .01 seconds – they made up for it in the relay. The team’s time of 43.04 seconds was less than half a second off of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s overall winning time.
Weaver said he felt more comfortable as the day went along Friday. After a 3.5-hour rain delay, he came out and finished the job with a 22.82-second 200-meter dash.
“The 100, I was really nervous. There’s a lot of dudes there that are supposed to beat you. They run the exact same times as you, so it can go any way. And I think I psyched myself out a little bit, and that might have been the reason why I popped my head too early and didn’t run my race,” Weaver explained.
“But in the 200, I knew a kid that beat me at regionals, and I just remember thinking, ‘Alright, let’s do this this time.’ And I felt more prepared and excited to run against those kids of higher competition.”
After weathering the storm in Friday’s prelims, Weaver said the key to Saturday’s relay will be taking things “one exchange at a time.”
“We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves because as soon as you do that – you mess up one exchange and you lose two-tenths of a second, that could mean the difference between fourth and eighth really quick,” the junior said, “especially with all the teams here that are really good.”
PODIUM FINISH: After being seeded 15th in the Div. III boys 4x800-meter relay, based off of regional times, the Fredericktown Freddies surged to a podium finish on Friday.
The relay team of Paden Spencer, Thomas Caputo, Dakota Smith and Connor Riley finished in 8:08.85, less than half a second off the school record and good for seventh place in Friday’s state final.
For Spencer, Smith and Riley, all seniors, it was the perfect way to go out.
“Dude, it was one hell of a race. I enjoyed it so much,” an out-of-breath Riley said afterwards. “You know, I didn’t make it for the [3,200], but to come out here and finish with the boys and everything, I think that was actually five times better. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful race, and it’s been one heck of a four years running with these boys. I’m going to miss them, that’s for sure.”
The Freddies hung around the middle of the pack the entire race, never folding in times of adversity. Because it was the relay team’s first time at state, Spencer said they were simply trying not to get swept to the back of the pack.
“We’re kind of used to being out front, not really having – you know, we have a couple guys around us, but not a pack for the entire eight minutes, like we had today,” Spencer said. “So I think today was mostly, ‘Can we come out here and hold our own, and try to get a good time for our school and for ourselves?’ And I think we’re pretty proud of what we did.”
Caputo, the team’s lone underclassman, said it meant a lot to send his relay teammates out on a high note.
“These guys are some of my best friends and it means a lot to me, to be able to let them go out at the brightest stage possible,” the sophomore said. “And for me to be able to go home and say, ‘I gave my all today,’ means even more. These guys mean so much to me. I’m going to miss them.”
ONE LAST RACE: Seconds after the Centerburg girls 4x800-meter relay team finished their final race on Friday morning, they huddled together near the finish line.
Arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, they cried. They prayed. They said ‘thank you’ to Elise Tucker, the team’s lone senior, who had just ran her last race.
While the team finished 15th, the moment showed there’s much more to high school track than just the final time.
“We were just saying a prayer because we had an amazing season,” Tucker said afterwards, wiping away tears. “We’re just so, so thankful to be here.”
Centerburg’s fastest relay team spent most of the season at the front of the pack, which made Friday’s state race an adjustment, Tucker explained. But she felt her team handled it well.
“We knew that things may not be as perfect as we want them, we just have to push as hard as we can,” she said. “And we looked at some of the times, like we knew the first couple teams were insanely fast, and we felt like we had mentally prepared.”
Although Tucker’s career ended Friday, the future remains bright for Centerburg’s young core. Two freshmen, Abigail Dickohf and Avery Tucker, will look to lead the relay team forward in the coming years.
While Centerburg didn’t make the podium Friday, Tucker said she still felt grateful to be able to finish her career at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“I’m just so blessed that my last race was at state,” Tucker said with a smile. “Not a lot of people can say that.”
KMAC HIGHLIGHTS: Mount Gilead’s Allison Johnson, who qualified for state in four events, raced in only one on Friday. Coach Lauren Huelsman told Knox Pages the team felt it would be best if the sophomore conserved energy for Saturdays’ 800-meter run, which is considered to be one of Johnson’s strongest events.
Johnson placed third overall in the 100-meter hurdles prelims with a time of 14.72 seconds before forgoing her spot in the 400-meter dash and pole vault final on Friday. She will race in the 100-meter hurdles final at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the 800-meter final at 10:55 a.m.
Mount Gilead’s Connor Page placed second overall in the 110-meter hurdles prelims on Friday with a time of 15.29 seconds. He will aim for a state title on Saturday at 9:35 a.m.
The Indians’ Brandon Stevens also posted impressive finishes Friday. He finished sixth in the 400-meter dash, earning a trip to Saturday’s final (10:35 a.m.), and also anchored the 4x400-meter relay team that placed second overall and will compete for gold at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Micah Tuggle finished eighth for Mount Gilead in shot put with a throw of 52 feet, five inches. He entered Friday with the state’s third-best mark.
Perhaps most impressive Friday was Mount Gilead’s Bradley Landon, who won a state title in the seated shot put with a throw of 25 feet, three inches – a state meet record.
“It’s really satisfying,” Landon told Knox Pages afterwards. “And I expected to win, so I would have been really disappointed if I didn’t. But it feels good.”
Northmor’s 4x100-meter relay team finished fifth overall in prelims, earning a spot in Saturday’s final race (10:20 a.m.). The Golden Knights’ Tony Martinez placed 11th in pole vault with a mark of 13 feet, six inches. He beat Fredericktown’s Steven Tumbleson, who vaulted a personal-record 13 feet, and Mount Gilead’s Kyle White, who topped out at 12 feet.