The Division III state track and field meet got off to a great start for the Mount Gilead girls and remained good the rest of the way through, as the team finished in 14th place with 18.5 points.
Despite being seeded 10th after regionals, the team’s 3200-meter relay of team of Allison Johnson, Micah James, Baylee Hack and Emily Hanft were able to place third with a time of 9:34.83 — shaving over 16 seconds off their regional time. After the race, the members of the team gave a lot of the credit for their performance to simply having a positive mindset.
“We just showed up and had positive nerves and ran better,” said Hack. “We care a lot for each other. I wanted to give her (Hanft) the baton in the best situation and don’t think we’ve ever raced that hard.”
James added: “We enjoyed ourselves and being able to compete. We’re not just teammates, but also good friends.”
Johnson and Hack would go on to have big meets, as both also placed in individual events. Johnson advanced through Friday’s preliminary heats of the 100- and 300-meter hurdles with the sixth-fastest time. She would then run fourth in the 300 hurdles in 44.72 on Saturday after placing sixth in the 100s with a time of 14.91.
“I’m just so happy,” she said after the 100-meter hurdles. “All my coaches, family and friends have supported me through this.”
Johnson didn’t immediately know she would even compete in the 100s at state after regionals, as she finished fifth in that event. However, the Ohio High School Athletic Association implemented a wild card for running events this year, where the top two times not in the top four of the regional meets would advance to state to place 18 runners or relay teams in each event.
“It’s awesome,” said Johnson. “Our regional was very competitive, so I knew I had to fight for the wild card or top four. I was happy (when I found out) and knew I had to train even more.”
She would then place fourth in a very competitive 300-meter hurdles race in which less than one-tenth of a second separated second place from fifth.
“I knew I was right behind a couple people, so I was really trying to push and attack the hurdles,” she said. “It was close.”
After a very successful freshman year that included being a three-time state placer in track, as well as placing fifth in the Division III state cross country meet for the second-place Indians, Johnson is already looking to improve for her sophomore year.
“I definitely want to place on the podium again and move up higher,” she said. “Cross country will be here soon, so I want to go after a state title.”
Hack placed seventh in the 1600 with a time of 5:07.65, while also running 13th in the 3200 in 11:57.56.
“I’ve never been in a race that fast or tight before,” she said of the 1600. “I fought for it. I really wanted the podium. I knew I wasn’t seeded well, so I wanted to surprise myself.”
Isabela Schroeter also placed for the Indians, as she competed in Friday’s field events where she tied for sixth place in the high jump by clearing 5’2”. Also competing for the Lady Indians was Jessica Brewer, who ran in the preliminary heats of the 100 (13.02) and 200 (27.28) on Friday, but was unable to advance to the finals.
The boys’ team tallied two points, as the 1600-meter relay team of Liam Dennis, Nathen Weaver, Trevor Ball and Brandon Stevens placed seventh in 3:28.58. Simply getting on the podium was pleasing to the quartet, as they advanced out of prelims with the ninth-fastest time, putting them in a situation where if they didn’t improve that placement, they’d be the only team in the finals to not earn medals.
“We knew we were young and would have to work hard to get on the podium,” said Dennis, while Weaver added, “It’s amazing,” after the race.
Stevens needed to overcome a slow start to his final leg, as he got the baton in eighth place right behind the team from Lordstown and then had to quickly dodge Lordstown’s third runner as he left the track.
“It was really tough,” he said. “I just had to get around him as fast as I could. I was thinking of the team and how hard they worked to get here and I better do the same.”
Stevens also ran in the prelims of the 400, where he had a time of 51.33, while Dennis competed in the prelims of the 110 hurdles (15.86). Connor Page ran Friday in the prelims of the 110 hurdles (15.93) and 300 hurdles (41.22). Also, Colten Clark was 13th in the pole vault, clearing 12’6”, Ethan Supplee tied for 14th in the high jump by clearing 6’ and Casey White ran 15th in the 1600 in 4:40.39.
Two Northmor seniors closed their high school careers on the podium in the state track meet, as Demetrius Johnson finished third in the long jump with a top effort of 21’9.5” and then he and Conan Becker teamed with junior Drew Zoll and sophomore Adam Petulla to run fourth in the 800-meter relay Saturday with a time of 1:30.33.
Johnson was initially disappointed in how things turned out, as he was going for his third state title in the long jump. While his last attempt may have been sufficient to claim first place, he was called foul by a very narrow margin to leave him in third place.
“I kind of waited a little bit and then turned around,” he said. “It was sad.”
Becker had previously played baseball, but was looking for a new sport and Johnson did a good enough job of pitching track to him that he finished his high school career running for the Knights — a decision that led him to a pair of individual school records in the 100 and 200, as well as a trip to the state meet podium.
“My decision to run was made last year and I loved it,” he said.
Johnson, Becker, Zoll and Petulla also ran in the 400-meter relay, but their time of 45.06 wasn’t enough to advance to the finals.
“I can’t be mad we didn’t make the finals in the 4-by-1,” Becker said. “It’s my first year running and kids go through this every year.”
As they prepare for the future, Johnson and Becker are happy at how their graduating class represented Northmor, as they led their football team to its first-ever playoff appearance, placed in the state track meet and had very successful careers in basketball (Johnson) and wrestling (Becker).
“Really, I love our class of 2018,” said Johnson. “We put Northmor on the map. Other classes are good, too, but we’ll be a class that’s remembered.”
Tony Martinez also competed in the state meet, as he placed 12th in the pole vault by clearing 13’. In the girls’ pole vault. Hope Miracle tied for eighth place to reach the podium, clearing 10’6” in the process.
After finishing sixth in the Lexington regional in the 100-meter dash, Highland’s Brock Veley was able to run one more race when he earned the second wild card slot in the state meet.
Competing in the Division II meet, the Scot junior ran in the prelims of that race and finished with a time of 11.24.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS