Vaulting to state

The first day of the regional track meet is all about moving on – to Friday’s finals in most events and to state in a few others.

Wednesday brought both types of success, especially for Calvert.

The Senecas had their girls 4×800 squad qualify for state and a combined six boys and girls entries advance out of the semifinals, while Carey’s Dana Newell added a title in the high jump to highlight the Division III regional’s first day at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of possibilities going,” Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. “About how I thought it’d go today. I knew my long shot today was the girls 4×2 and the boys 4×8, and they still ran very well today. I’m not disappointed at all by any means. They worked hard.

“You can’t single out one person, especially when you’re talking about as many relays as we run, because you’ve got a team,” he said. “Those kids have worked as a team and practiced their handoffs, so to single one kid out and say ‘that’s what did it,’ ‘that’s what didn’t do it’ is unfair to the rest of that group.”

But one Seneca did stand out.

Olivia Smith anchored the 4×800 to both third (9:56.55) and a state berth, and anchored the 4×400 to second in its heat (4:11.44), giving the Senecas an automatic spot in Friday’s finals with the third-best overall time.

In each race, the junior started the final leg trailing runners. Each time, she moved the Senecas up.

The 4×800 might have been her best performance.

She got the baton in the No. 5 spot, one away from a state berth and several meters behind.

It didn’t matter, as the defending state champion in the 800 reeled in two runners – beating them by 4 and 8 seconds, respectively – to help Calvert end as one of only three teams to break the 10-minute mark.

“For the majority of this year, we haven’t really had anyone in front of us in the 4×8 when I get the baton, so having people in front of me gave me that extra push,” Smith said. “And I just wanted to do what I could for my team – get us down to state – and I tried my best, just like the other three girls.”

The 4×400 was similar.

Smith was the third anchor to get the baton, but motored past Van Buren’s Kristen Tropf and was gaining ground on Archbold’s Jensyn Garrow before the latter crossed the finish line 4 seconds ahead of her.

Behm said the same situation could present itself in Friday’s finals, and he’s fine with that, especially since the junior and the other relay runners – Morgan Smith, Danielle Kontak and Marisa Horn filled out both the 4×800 and 4×400 – will have fresh legs.

“She’s never had to run the 400 in the 4×4 yet. She’s never been challenged. We’ve always gotten the baton with her in the lead and she just ran to win it,” he said. “Now that we’re starting to see some competition where she’s going to have to chase people down, which is what she loves to do, I think the times are really going to drop.

“We’ll have a lot fresher legs for that 4×4, and I think time’s going to come down even further and I think Olivia’s going to get the baton a little bit closer [to other runners] on the anchor leg, and we’ve all seen what she can do when she’s behind,” he said. “She likes to chase people.”

That will come after an afternoon of watching other Calvert entries compete.

Morgan Smith advanced to the finals in the 400 (1:01.43), while Olivia Smith will also run the 800, which had no prelims.

For Calvert’s boys, Shane Boehler advanced to the finals of the 100 (11.29) and 200 (22.53), and anchored the 4×200 (1:30.9) and 4×100 (43.48) to the fastest times in the prelims.

Austin Ball, Tyler Long and Ren Boehler joined him on both relays.

Meanwhile, Newell cleared 5-3 to capture the high jump title and her third trip to the state meet, which begins next Friday at Ohio State University.

The senior also competed in the shot at past regionals, but this year decided to concentrate on the high jump. It paid off.

“I’d like to go in more events, but it’s nice to just have the one event and focus on that,” she said. “The last few years at regional, I’ve had high jump and shot put. This year it’s been really nice; one thing and you’re done.”

Joining her as a three-time state qualifier is Seneca East’s Ashton Daniel, who finished third in the shot (40-10 3/4).

“I thought my chances were pretty good, but it only takes one [good throw], so you never know what’s going to happen,” the senior said.

“Finally coming together, I think,” she said. “Stuck at 39 [feet] for a while, but hit the 41 mark last week (personal-best 41-3 1/4) and consistently 39 and 40 today.”

Old Fort’s Adam Alexander rounded out the first day’s qualifiers, outlasting Hilltop’s Will McKinney in a vault-off for the fourth and final state berth.

Both cleared 12-6 before bowing out of the competition, and they had to go head to head later to determine who moved on to state.

The honor went to Alexander after he cleared 12-4 in the extra session.

“It was nerve-racking, for sure. It was definitely nerve-racking,” Alexander said. I was just trying to keep my adrenalin up because I had to wait a while, and without adrenalin I usually can’t vault that well because I’m so small.

“It’s just really exciting. I’ve worked for so long just to get my technique down, and now it finally paid off,” he said. “I just had so many people cheering for me and picking me up. It was just a great time.”

Lakota’s Cariss Reese and Mohawk’s 4×400 girls team were the only other area entries to move on from the semifinals. Reese will run in finals of the 300 hurdles (46.71), while Lynsey Trusty, Kayla Risner, Aubrie Flood and Ali Konkle will join Calvert in the girls 4×400 (4:18.85).

Several other local athletes will compete in finals that were already scheduled for Friday.

The girls entries include Old Fort’s Kayla Garza in the girls 1,600; Risner, Seneca East’s Kirsten Camp and Hopewell-Loudon’s Kailey Coleman in the 800; Mohawk’s Julia Daniel, Seneca East’s Anna Willman and New Riegel’s Abby Cassidy in the 3,200; Daniel in the discus; Old Fort’s Molly Cleveland and Carey’s Monique Altvater in the long jump; and Reese, Lakota’s Makayla Kiser and H-L’s Logan Frank in the pole vault.

The boys entries include Old Fort’s Marcus Meyers in the boys 1,600; Calvert’s Jared Thompson and Carey’s Ben Kromer in the 800; Calvert’s Austin Schultz in the 3,200; Carey high jumper Tommy Arredondo; and shot putters Jacob Goble and Jacob Moran of Carey and Lakota’s Kevin Crowe.