A good day for SE

While interviewing Seneca East head coach Justin Ruffing, the first word to come out of his mouth was good.

While not sure exactly what he was referring to, one can only assume he was talking about his boys track team, as the Tigers finished runner-up to Fremont Ross, one of several Division I teams.

The Little Giants proved too much for all other teams, finishing with 143 points. Seneca East outdistanced Toledo Central Catholic 109 1/2-98 1/2 for second.

It was a great change from the unpleasant weather that has haunted Ohio so far this year. A warm 65-degrees with a little wind and all sun. It brought out a bunch of season bests for most athletes, something Ruffing really enjoyed.

“It feels good,” Ruffing said. “It was nice to finally get some good weather and after grinding through practices and terrible weather, it was nice to have some good weather and for the kids to see some reward from all that work finally.

“I told them it was something they had to take advantage of and they did,” Ruffing said.

One runner who reaped rewards was Seneca East junior Jason Willman. Struggling with injury early in the season, Willman appeared to be in full swing Saturday.

Willman won the 1,600 (4:29.14) and 3,200 (9:44.19) with relative ease.

He followed the same gameplan in both races; hang on to the back of the lead pack and push the pace with around a lap to go. It worked to perfection both times.

Willman was unsure of how “in-shape” he was and questioned it before the meet.

“I either thought it was going to be really good or really bad, but it turned out all right,” Willman said. “I really thought I was going to struggle today running both events but I ran all right.”

Last year, Willman finished eighth at state in the 3,200 (9:42.17), barely making the podium while running on a stress fracture.

Still, even after an unsatisfactory winter of training, Willman banks on the positive.

“I still got a lot of work to do, I just want to focus on making it back there (state) first and see what happens. Just thankful I can still run.”

On the other hand, Ruffing states that his distance star’s performance Saturday indicates big things for the remainder of the season.

“Jason’s ready to roll,” Ruffing said. “It was his second two-mile of the year. He ran six laps of the two-mile not knowing where his conditioning was, so he was feeling it out.”

Kevin Moore was the only other Tiger to pick up a win, edging out Bryan’s Brandon Poncsak in the 110 hurdles (14.63-14.67).

“He’s where he should be,” Ruffing said of Moore. “He’s a really good hurdler who has worked really hard for four years.”

Ben Hahler added a runner-up effort in the shot (53-1 1/4) and third in the discus (142-8). Karl Burgderfer ended up second in the 800 (2:07.46).

Home team Columbian took sixth with 57 points.

For TC coach Marcia Focht, it wasn’t about winning; it was about improving.

“We’ve had a lot of PRs today. Our kids are still PR’ing; that’s what you want to be doing right now,” Focht said. “Regardless of where we finished, as long as they’re getting PRs, that’s the way you wanna go.”

No Tornado won an event on the boys side, but a runner-up finish from Brandon Gisbon in the 1,600 (4:35.34) and a second in the high jump from Caleb Peacock (5-8) paved the way.

Focht remains as optimistic as ever after the team’s performances.

“We’re doing great,” Focht said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Columbian’s girls also took sixth at the home invitational with 56 points. Seneca East finished just one spot ahead in fifth (58).

Columbian girls coach Amy Cooper saw the weather become a huge help and said the meet is a stepping stone into the league meet and beyond.

“It was really nice to see them open it up today, finally,” Cooper said. “Lots of PRs today all across the board.”

Columbian’s girls found their lone win in the 4×100 relay. However, TC didn’t know it had won until after it had been announced over the loudspeaker.

McKenna Theis anchored Columbian with a sizable lead going into the final stretch but Toledo Notre Dame Academy’s Chantalia Young (winner of the 100) came charging from behind and was making ground very quickly. When both runners crossed the tape, it seemed as if Young nipped Theis at line. It wasn’t until after it was announced that Columbian learned it won the event, 53.88 to 53.91.

At the end of the meet, in the final event of the day, the exact opposite outcome occurred.

Columbian’s girls had the entire stadium roaring at the end of the 4×400 relay.

With one lap to go, Michaela Sharlow handed off to Annie Demith, who sat 15 meters behind Van Buren’s Kristen Tropf. The gap kept decreasing and decreasing, and on the final straightaway to home, both anchors sprinted all out. Demith was unable to catch Tropf but closed the gap significantly and helped the team set a season-best time in the event (4:19.69).

Demith added a runner-up finish in the 400 (1:01.31).

Ari Felton also captured second in the shot (32-9) while the relay team of Chandler Carley, Sharlow, Demith and Theis ran second in the 4×200 (1:52.35).

Seneca East was led by the 1-2 discus sweep of Ashton Daniel (118-3) and Kaylyn Goshe (106-7).

Daniel also captured the shot with a heave of 38-2 3/4.