COLUMBUS Columbian hurdler Autumn Nichols didn't deny she was a little disappointed by Saturday's finishes.
By most standards, a fifth and ninth place at the state track meet is pretty good.
But Nichols, always wanting to improve, had hoped to set another personal record in the 300 hurdles, after setting the school record Friday.
Nichols finished the 300 hurdles, her top race, in 45.13, a tad slower than Friday's time.
"It's exciting to be on the podium this year, I've never done it before," she said after her final race. "My time wasn't my best time ever ...but it happens.
"I think I definitely was in the zone more yesterday."
Nichols started out the 300 very well.
"Up through the fifth hurdle she was faster [than Saturday]," Columbian coach Amy Cooper said. "But she was a little off... by the time she got that final stretch, she didn't have as much to give. She gave everything she had."
In the 100 hurdles, Nichols finished in 15.75.
"To get ninth is good for her," Cooper said. "I know she's disappointed, but she was really nervous, I'm glad she had that race to run before the 300."
"I was so nervous," Nichols said about the 100 hurdles. "Looking back on it now, I'm just trying to forget about it, think about more the positive things, like making it this far. I wasn't even predicted to make it out to finals."
In the end, Nichols said she was happy she ended her high school career running her race, the 300 hurdles, at state.
"It's definitely an honor to have that be the last race," she said. "I've worked so hard in trying to improve every little thing in that race. I mean, who would have thought that that race is 101 percent mental. But it definitely was an honor to compete for Columbian for one final day."
The year's final meet ended with some hardware for a few other area athletes.
Three Seneca East boys found their way to the Division III podium, along with another from Old Fort and a girls relay team from Carey.
Seneca East junior Kevin Moore led the contingent of athletes not from Calvert (see separate story) by running sixth in the 110 hurdles in 15.3 seconds.
He entered the state meet with the fastest time out of all four regionals in 14.51 seconds, but had the fourth-best after Friday's preliminaries (15.24).
The junior was not pleased with his result.
"Not at all. I was expecting to win," he said.
Teammates Jamie Schafer and Jason Willman added eighths for the Tigers. Schafer's trip came a day after he and others in the 4x400 missed out on their bid to run in the finals. The senior used that experience as added motivation to run the 400 in 50.29 seconds, missing seventh by twelve-hundredths of a second to Sidney Lehman's Justin Stewart.
"I was kind of disappointed that the 4x4 didn't make it, but we had a good overall season," Schafer said.
"It felt nice," he said. "It was a big goal to get up there, and I'm glad I made it up there."
Willman, a sophomore, repeated that later in the morning after taking eighth in the 3,200 in 9:42.17. In fact, part of his motivation for a spot on the podium also came a day after running in a relay. He was part of the 4x800 which finished 16, but only the top eight make it to the awards stand.
"I was just happy to be able to get something out of my trip to Columbus," he said. "I ran in the 4x8 and we didn't place yesterday, so I wanted to make sure I got to place."
For a while it looked as if he would end on a higher step. A slow start saw him in the No. 2 spot after the first lap, but runners started surging ahead of him over the next few circuits and
Willman just couldn't match their pace.
"I didn't count on being second the first lap, but everybody kind of went out a little slow and I didn't want to, so I stayed up a little higher than I originally planned," he said.
"Once they got past, they kept increasing speed and I slowly drifted back," Willman said.
Old Fort senior Zach Alexander qualified in both the 1,600 and 800, but withdrew from the former to run in the latter.
He finished eighth in a personal-best 1:56.81.
"I figured it'd probably be hard to double up here , and I really wanted to see what I could do in this 8; try it without the mile," Alexander said.
"I've never run this without [running] the mile before it. I really didn't know how I was supposed to feel. I PR'd; they told me I ran a 56," he said, referring to a time of 1:56. "I was surprised."
His medal came a day after twin brother Nathan captured second in the pole vault.
Though he lost in the battle for family bragging rights, the running brother said he was definitely happy for the vaulting one.
"I was definitely excited for him. He was hoping for that top spot. I told him he left it open for me to beat him, but that was a joke," said Zach Alexander. "He's definitely more advanced in his event, so we don't really compete in that sense. We're supportive."
"This definitely my most fun state experience," he said. "I brought down a relay (the 4x800 ended 15th) and we got to have fun all night and all weekend. It's just amazing, and this just tops it off."
Carey's 4x200 team of senior Oriana Billock, sophomore Lauren Wenner, sophomore Gwen Wentling and freshman Amber Spurlock crossed the line seventh in 1:49.1 after entering the finals with the seventh-fastest time from Friday's prelims (1:48.38).
Friday's results put the Blue Devils in Lane 8 for Saturday's finals.
That's normally the outside lane, but state meet rules put nine entries in the finals for the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400, as well as the individual races from the 400 on down.
That meant the Blue Devils had another team starting in front of them on the stagger, and Billock, the team's leadoff runner, called that a boost.
"It was really a great push because Bluffton is one of the main people we wanted to get, so knowing that she was right in front of me, that I could chase her down, was great," she said.
Better weather also helped.
The foursome said Saturday's weather was much better than Friday's rainy cold, with the exception of the second day's wind. But Billock said the Blue Devils countered that challenge with solid handoffs.
"Handoffs, I think we were perfect overall," she said. "Probably our best all year.
"We didn't have to worry about dropping the baton [because of rain making it slippery]," Billock said.
Two other area seniors also competed Saturday, but did not find their way to the podium.
Calvert's Joe Brodman ended 11th in the 1,600 (4:31.94) and Hopewell-Loudon's Aaron Lucius took 12th in the 3,200 (10:06.05).