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June 8, 2014 - Al Stephenson
I picked up my buddy at 6:30 A.M. A long time track coach and official, he accompanied me to Columbus for the Division III State Track and Field finals. It was an early departure, but we have been making this trip for years now. When you get to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium and gaze down on the high school athletes who are about to let it all hang out on a quest for a podium finish - well, it's worth losing a little sleep to be there.
Though I am there to watch all the athletes perform, it is the local athletes that give me the most satisfaction. Seneca East's Jason Willman and Jared Stockmaster will be running the 3200 meter race, but this day is going to belong to Tiffin Calvert and five very special athletes. Olivia Smith will be the two-time defending state champion in the 800 meter run, while Shane Boehler, Ren Boehler Tyler Long and Austin Ball will be looking for the top of the platform in both the 4 by 220 and 4 by 100 relays. I am eagerly awaiting the start of the festivities.
My buddy brought to my attention a group of people who were standing near the starting line for the 100 meter hurdles, the first event of the day. He pointed out their shirts and said they would be giving a little salute before the race began. Sure enough, the group known as the Blockheads had a meeting followed by a chant. These folks are in charge of making sure the starting blocks get to the proper positions for each race. They raised there arms and said; "We are the Blockheads, da ta da ta da ta da!" It was a cool way to start the day.
I saw Calvert coach Stewart Behm just before the first race of the day, and I asked him how Shane (Boehler) was doing. On Friday, he pulled up with cramps on his last race of the day, the 200 meter prelims. Coach Behm said, "we are keeping our fingers crossed." It was not long before we had our answer. Boehler finished seventh in the 100 meter dash making the podium. He was hoping for a better finish, but most importantly the cramps did not return.
Calvert had the fastest time in the 4 by 200 prelims and ran a great race in the finals finishing with a PR. However, Lima Central Catholic set a meet record to nip them for first. Some may have been disappointed, but I was happy to see them on the second spot on the podium.
The 4 by 100 relay followed shortly and this time the Senecas would not be denied. The four speedsters can now add State Champs to their resumes and they were never really threatened. That left Olivia Smith to run her race.
I spotted Olivia lying down on the sidewalk outside of the stadium stretching out. She was behind an elongated motorized cart whose driver was purchasing food at a mobile vehicle called Pitabilities. He got behind the wheel of his cart and started backing up. Olivia spotted the cart and quickly scrambled to get out of the way. Typical of Smith, she apologized for being in the way even though I thought the driver should have been more aware of his surroundings. Oh well, no harm done, though it made me plenty nervous.
Smith was facing a tough field in the 800 and a "threepeat" in any athletic endeavor is extremely difficult. She would finish fourth on this day, again a disappointment for some perhaps, but gee whiz - how can anyone be disappointed with two firsts and a fourth at three consecutive state track meets. Congratulations Olivia. You have had an amazing career.
Willman finished 7th in the 3200 and Stockmaster narrowly missed a podium finish as he came in tenth. Liberty Center may have had the most dominant athlete for the second day in a row. On Friday Nick Demaline won the shot put competition throwing some seven FEET farther than his competitors. On Saturday Brittany Atkinson won the 3200 run by a whopping 23 seconds. I'm telling you, when you go to the State Track Meet you will see outstanding performances.
The view from my seat suggests that it was a whole lot of fun to watch Calvert's athletes in Columbus yesterday. Congratulations on a job well done.
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