Catch them if you can

COLUMBUS No matter where it was or what teams it faced, Calvert’s 4×100 team of Austin Ball, Tyler Long, Ren Boehler and Shane Boehler hadn’t been tested.

The foursome always won, and won by a lot.

Coming off the track and on his way to the podium Saturday, Shane, who ran the final leg, was asked about not being pushed by opponents.

“We still haven’t,” he said with a smile.

And now, there’s no one left to do it.

The Senecas won the 4×100 title at the Division III State Track and Field Championships Saturday. They led almost the entire race. Long had the lead when he handed off to Ren, then watched Ren keep the lead before passing the baton to Shane.

“I saw Shane take off, and we knew we had it in the bag,” Long said. “I remember running over to Austin, to get the guys together as soon as possible to celebrate this victory.”

Shane crossed the finish line in 42.79 seconds.

A great time, to be sure.

And yet …

“We still didn’t run the time we wanted to in finals,” Shane said. “We ran a little slower than regional finals, but we still won by a good amount. It’s nothing to complain about. We won by a good amount.”

Which, of course, is nothing new.

“They still weren’t tested. Shane got the baton, he had a 10-meter lead and he just took it home,” Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. “I can’t say enough about how hard those four boys have worked this year.”

The finish was the best of four podium trips Calvert athletes made Saturday. The boys 4×200 squad which consists of the same four runners narrowly missed out on a second state championship. It ran its best time of the season: 1:28.06.

It just so happened that on this day, it took a state meet record to win. Lima Central Catholic did that by running in 1:27.86.

“We knew because we checked out the regional results that Lima was gonna be really hard to beat,” Ren said.

Behm said he knew the boys probably were let down after the 4×2, which came before the 4×1.

“I think on the boys’ side there was a little bit of disappointment, because they wanted to get both relays today,” he said. “But running your fastest time, and getting beat by the state record, nothing to be ashamed of, and I think if anything it motivated them a little bit. They decided they were not gonna pass up that last opportunity to stand on the podium, and they didn’t.”

While the Boehlers who each competed in individual events Saturday get attention, Behm said Long and Ball have been just as important to the relays’ success.

“That’s what they’ve done all year,” Behm said. “The focus has been on Ren and Shane. I don’t think Austin and Tyler have gotten the credit they deserve, because there’s been a lot of times the race has been over by the time Ren gets the baton because Austin and Tyler have done such a wonderful job of getting a good lead. That’s just amazing when you’ve got two kids to start off a relay like that, where your third and fourth guy can run comfortable.”

Ball said he was anxious at the start of the 4×1.

“I mean, it’s always nerve-racking getting down in the blocks,” Ball said. “They have to have a lot of trust in me, and I’ve got to pull through on my end. Just (coming) out of the blocks I felt good, felt like I was catching the guy in front of me (with the staggered start) and the handoff to Tyler was really clean.”

But Ball wasn’t content to just hand off the baton.

“I remember screaming at him, telling him to go,” Ball said as Long laughed. “So, we got a good lead, I guess.”

“Everything went well,” said Long, who also ran in the 100 prelims Friday. “We were pretty confident coming in. We’ve been doing well all year. The atmosphere was great, the team’s been great. I got the handoff from Austin, ran as hard as I could.”

Then the baton went to a confident Ren Boehler.

“I love it so much, running third leg, because Tyler and Austin do a great job,” Ren said. “They’ve given me the lead, I think, every race so far.

“All I had to do was give it to Shane in the lead and I know we’re gonna win.”

Shane cruised to the finish line, three-quarters of a second ahead of Bluffton’s Isaac Little.

“That feeling of crossing the line in first place is exhilarating,” the anchor Behm said.

Those finishes, combined with seventh-place efforts from Ren in the 300 hurdles and Shane in the 100, helped the Senecas attain 22 points, good enough to tie with Maplewood and West Liberty-Salem for seventh place.

“This is probably one of the highest finishes we’ve ever had today on the boys side,” Behm said.

Calvert’s lone girl competing Saturday was Olivia Smith, a two-time state champion in the 800. Smith finished fourth in the event, running in 2:16.57. The winner, Columbus Academy’s Julia Rizk, finished in 2:14.3.

“It was one of the tougher fields,” Behm said. “Coming in we had seven or eight girls under 2:20, which I don’t think Division III half-mile’s ever seen that many girls under 2:20 coming in. So we knew it was gonna be tough.”

“We were in a big pack,” Smith said. “The first lap, and even halfway through the second lap, it’s hard to get a good position. You don’t want to get boxed in. You don’t want to run on the outside. It’s tough when you’ve got a pack like that to get a good position.”

But the ever-smiling senior remained positive.

“I just wanted to come down here and do my best,” she said. “Top of the podium was the goal, but fourth place is good. I’m happy with myself. I gave it my best; I gave it 100 percent and I thought it went pretty well today.”

Behm wasn’t surprised with his runner’s reaction.

“Olivia’s Olivia,” Behm said. “It doesn’t matter if she wins or she gets fourth place, she’s still gonna be happy with her performance.”

Ren Boehler also was pleased after running the 300 hurdles in 40.14 seconds. He also ran in the finals for the 100 hurdles, but missed the podium (15.68). Nine run in the finals, but only eight reach the podium.

All pretty impressive for a senior who picked up hurdling in April.

“First-year hurdling, to even make it here down to state is a privilege,” he said. “Making it to finals, I couldn’t have wished for anything more.”

Shane Boehler’s first test of the day was the 100. His calves had cramped up in the preliminaries Friday, and there was concern about how he’d do Saturday.

He ended up running in 11.3 seconds.

“Still kind of recovering from yesterday, my calf was still giving me problems,” Shane said. “I was just praying that when I came out of the blocks I didn’t cramp up again. I came out a little slower than I wanted to, but I didn’t push it, because I knew I had these three guys relying on me for the rest of the meet. I did what I wanted to do, I placed. I placed higher than I did last year. I didn’t meet my goal of top three, but I don’t have any regrets.”

Maybe they weren’t really tested in the 4×1. Or maybe Saturday was the test.

If it was, Shane and his teammates aced it.