COLUMBUS – Heading into this school year, the last thing Chase Carpenter thought he'd be doing was running track.
The Highland senior had never run before; he typically used the spring months to get stronger for football, where he starred on the offensive line.
GALLERY: Highland sprinters at OHSAA Track and Field Championships
Four Highland Scots competed at the OHSAA Track and Field Championships this weekend in Columbus. Brock Veley placed seventh in the 100-meter dash, while Jack Weaver finished ninth in the 200. The 4x100-meter relay team of Veley, Landyn Albanese, Chase Carpenter and Weaver placed sixth with a time of 43.06 seconds.
It took some convincing from three of his best friends – Brock Veley, Jack Weaver and Landyn Albanese – to get Carpenter to join the relay team this spring. It’d be one final chance to don the Highland blue and red before graduation, the trio said. It’d be a fun thing.
“Then we end up here,” Carpenter said Saturday, a wide smile on his face as that same relay team walked towards the state podium. “I wasn’t really planning on that.”
What began as a “fun thing” turned into a sixth-place finish at this year’s Div. II state meet. Highland’s 4x100-meter relay team finished less than a second behind first-place Dayton Dunbar and outran the likes of Elida, Columbus DeSales and Bishop Hartley.
“It’s almost like a fairy tale,” said Carpenter, waving to family and friends that sat among thousands at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. “It really is.”
Carpenter became a key piece to Highland’s relay success this season, serving as the third runner on the all-state 4x100-meter team. As he handed the baton off to Weaver on Saturday afternoon, the junior thundered down the homestretch to the tune of thousands roaring. The team finished with a time of 43.06 seconds, seven one-hundredths of a second off its personal record.
“They did everything well today,” Highland sprints coach Michelle Hudson said. “There is nothing that they could have done better, in my opinion. It was a great race and they were just a little bit off their PR, so you can’t ask for anything more.”
While Weaver said the team seemed a tad nervous during prelims on Friday, they got into a groove during Saturday’s final race. Veley said they fed off the energy of the crowd and the sheer speed of their competition, which included bluebloods like Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Oak Harbor.
“Everything’s just so much more fast-paced. I mean, everything’s like boom-boom-boom, like time and order. And when the gun goes off, the crowd’s just going crazy because it’s so loud around here,” Veley said. “So your adrenaline gets flowing and you want to just do your best for the rest of your teammates.”
Veley said the team came into the season with a workable mix of competitiveness and spontaneity. As the season progressed and the stages got bigger, their mindset never changed.
“We came in just having fun. We stayed relaxed and did the best we could. Luckily, it all worked out. We reached the podium,” said Veley, whose team also won the KMAC, won districts and placed second at regionals this season. “I’m proud of all of us.”
Veley also earned a trip to the podium on Saturday in the 100-meter dash, where he finished with the state’s seventh-best time (11.20 seconds). Weaver took ninth place in the 200-meter final, finishing just four one-hundredths of a second away from another podium appearance.
For Veley and Carpenter, Saturday marked their final high school athletics competition. The two have dedicated themselves to multiple sports at Highland over the years, and said this weekend felt like the perfect way to go out.
Sixth in the state, for a small-town team that came together by chance?
Now that’s a fairy tale ending.
“You get a really proud feeling because we had a ton of people here today," Carpenter said. "It’s really cool to have the community supporting you, having your back.”