By ROB HAMILTON
Mount Gilead’s quartet of senior Taryn Chapman, juniors Bryanna Bolha and Rachel Bush and sophomore Jenna Shipman had a banner weekend at the Division III state track and field meet. Competing in both the 3200-meter and 1600-meter relays, they not only broke school records in both events, but placed fifth in the state in both, as well.
The four started early on Friday, as the girls’ 3200 relay was the first running event contested in the state meet, starting at 9:30 a.m. Compared to the same event in 2013, the pace was blistering, as the first six teams across the finish line all had a faster time than last year’s champion — a fact not lost on Mount Gilead assistant track coach Dennis West, who coached all four girls in cross country.
“We’ll take that every time,” he said of their finish, which came in a time of 9:33.83. “They ran a time that would get them a top two finish most times and were fifth.”
Bush was a bit surprised at the pace, but noted that anything can happen at this level of competition.
“I was kind of surprised, but since we were here the last two or three years, we knew what to expect.”
In the race, Shipman and Bush, the top two 800-meter runners on the team, took the first two legs, with Bolha and Chapman finishing the race. West noted that in a meet this competitive, he felt that was simply the best strategy.
“You can’t save your speed, so we ran our top two in the front and we did outstanding!” he said. “After three or four years of trying to get on the podium, we have a new school record.”
Bush added, “I thought it went well. We had a lot of fun and I’m pretty proud of how we did. We set a new personal and school record.”
Those emotions were still present Saturday at noon after the team took fifth in the 1600 relay by breaking their school record, which they set two weeks earlier at districts, with a time of 3:59.23. They had the fourth-best qualifying time in Friday’s prelims, finishing their heat in 4:03.71.
“We beat our district time, but the competition was really tough,” said Bolha. “We definitely lived up to the expectations of our coaches. It was an honor to work with them and with this group.”
One thing the quartet noted worked in their favor was their chemistry. Bolha mentioned that she and Bush had competed on relays together going back to middle school.
“It’s a big accomplishment doing this with these girls,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”
Competing on the cross country team together also helped with their chemistry.
“We’re like a big family and push each other to do our best,” said Bush, while Bolha added, “We’re all really competitive and want to run faster to not be the slowest.”
Chapman, the lone senior of the group who will be attending Malone University in the fall, agreed. While much of her past two high school years had been marred by hamstring issues, she was end her time with the Indians in style.
“These girls have made my year — they’re amazing.”
Another thing the four felt worked in their favor was their versatility, as Shipman noted, “We’re very well-rounded.”
With cross country, they all have a strong distance base, but in track, many of them also focus on sprints, hurdling events and various field events, with Bush also qualifying for the state meet in the pole vault and 300-meter hurdles.
While she did not place in the pole vault, as her height of 9’6” placed her in a tie for 12th, she was able to squeak out a spot on the podium in the 300 hurdles. After finishing with the ninth-best prelim time, she finished eighth in the finals in 45.62 to snare the last podium spot, edging out Fairbanks’ Gabby Burchett, who’d topped her in both districts and regionals.
As the ninth qualifier, Bush had to start in the farthest outside lane — an experience she found a bit stressful.
“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “You don’t know when people are going to pass you until you get to the stretch and you see them all with your peripheral vision.”
Unlike in the two relays, Bush still can’t lay claim to the record in this event, though, as Chapman still holds it from her freshman year.
“I think she kind of wants me to get it,” she said — a sentiment the senior shared after the 1600 relay was completed. “She better get it before she graduates,” said Chapman. “I want her to lower it so no one else can.”
The Lady Indians finished in a tie for 24th place at the state meet with nine points. Also competing in the prelims were a third relay and an individual. The quartet of Makaylee Wyatt, Rebecca Kindred, Morgan Brooke and Olivia Brewer finished in 1:50.29. Also, Kindred ran the 100 hurdles and had a prelim time of 16.92.
Division II State Meet
Mount Gilead’s Austin Hallabrin claimed sixth place in the 800 with a time of 1:55.69 to earn a spot on the podium. Hallabrin, who was unable for comment after the race, as the effects of Saturday’s heat resulted in him needing assistance from the training staff, continued his late-season improvement, trimming nearly a full second off his regional time in the race. He was also the only freshman in a race where 14 of 16 competitors were either juniors or seniors, leaving plenty of optimism that he’ll have many opportunities to advance farther up on the podium.
Teammate Tyler Beck competed in the 3200. The junior finished 13th in 10:08.55.
The Highland boys also had competitors in a pair of distance events.
Their 3200-meter relay team of Logan Ebersole, Kevin Jones, Josh Irvin and James Hubbard grabbed the final podium spot by finishing eighth in 8:03.57. “We started out seeded third and broke the school record last week,” said Ebersole, the lone senior on the relay. “Just to make the podium; we wanted that. When at state, you take what you get.”
Last week at regionals, Highland and Eastwood broke away from the pack fairly early in the race. On Friday, all four Scot runners had to fight for position nearly the entire race.
“It was just a dogfight, the whole thing,” noted Ebersole. “That’s what makes this stage of the game so much fun.”
While Ebersole has run in the state cross country meet multiple times, this was his first time running in the state track meet, giving him a perfect conclusion to his high school career.
“To end it with these guys, I couldn’t be any more honored,” he said. “Two years ago, we were ninth or 10th in districts; last year, we made it to regionals and this year, we were on the state podium and broke the school record. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Jones also ran on Saturday in the 1600, where he placed 10th in 4:24.05, beating his regional-winning performance by 23 hundredths of a second.
Rob Hamilton may be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1805.