COLUMBUS — The 109th OHSAA state track championships were held last weekend at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University. Twin Valley South sent 14 athletes to compete for a chance to earn a state crown in one of 17 events.
Representing the Panthers’ track and field team were: JJ Utz, Sammy Shockey, Ethan Wells, and Matt Hemmelgarn in the boys 4×800-meter relay; Aaron Deaton in boys shot put and discus; Payton Gates in the boys long jump; Megan Wright, Grace Stewart, Abby Creech, and Madison Wright in the girls 4×800-meter relay; Abby Beneke, Morgan Newhart, Stewart and Mylan Crews in the girls 4×200-meter relay and Crews in the girls 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.
Senior Deaton came away with his second state gold medal in the shot put, and seventh place in the discus throw. His shot put distance best of 57 feet, 9 inches on his fifth throw during the final flight sealed it for Deaton amidst some heavy competition. Deaton performed well, but he couldn’t mimic a championship throw in the discus, managing to place nonetheless.
In the track events, Madison Wright started the girls’ 800-meter relay. In her first lap she had a good start at the gun, held a fourth place in half of the first lap until she crossed the line in sixth amidst a small pack of runners. Soon afterward, before third turn, she lost position for seventh. Stewart took the baton for the second leg in eight, but soon regained seventh position after crossing the second turn. She kept in seventh place after finishing the first lap. But she was soon losing ground in the second lap and nearly fell to ninth place. Megan Wright started her third leg, but her team was far behind and needed to stage a comeback to place. She held her position through much of her leg but lost it at the end, when handing off the baton to anchor Creech. Once Creech began her leg, South was in tenth position. But she was in a tight contest between South and two other racers for eighth place for the length of an entire lap. At the third turn of the second lap, she lost ground to the other racers and crossed the final line out of position for a medal finish.
“I think we had a pretty good season overall,” Madison Wright said. “We would have liked to have finished a little better than we did, but we ran hard. The pace was really off for us because everyone was going off so fast, but overall I think we did okay. We need to run our own pace instead of trying to run with everyone else at their pace, because the second lap we’re just kicking in as hard as we can to try and catch people.”
Next up was the boys 4×800-meter relay. Utz was the leadoff man, and things fell apart from the start. Before clearing the third turn in the first lap, TVS was in 13th position and was losing ground. Shockey took the baton on the second leg, but he also struggled to improve the team’s position in the relay. Just before he finished, the Panthers were last and never recovered. Wells and Hemmelgarn did their best to avoid the worst case scenario, but finished 16th in the race. “The team’s been together since my freshman year which is not three years,” Hemmelgarn said after the boys’ race. “At regionals, it all came together for us at the right time. It’s been cool coming down to state, having fun. We need to be more consistent, we’ve been really good at regionals but at districts, we weren’t on our game.”
Crews participated in the most events of anyone from Preble County with four events. She not only was part of the two girls’ relay teams, but she raced in the 100 and 200 meter relays as well. In the 100-meter race, the third event for Twin Valley, she started off too slow from the blocks but managed to finish with a respectable 12.792 second run. Unfortunately, she was two positions short of qualifying for the finals, 11th being her official finish. Her fourth and final event was the 200-meter run. Sadly, she finished last in the field.
“Next year, I’ll have to work more on the 200-meter run a lot more for next year,” Crews said after her final event of the year. “It’s one of my weaker runs, but I’m so proud of where I came this year, and I made my goal to make to state. I’m so proud of myself.”
In the girls 4×200-meter relay, it was Beneke to lead it off for the Lady Panthers. She had a good start, kept in decent position around fourth when she handed the baton to Stewart. Stewart ran hard but began to fall behind late during her leg of the relay, as the pack pulled away along the long stretch of the track. When Stewart handed off to Newhart, they were in seventh in the heat. South was in trouble and by the time Crews took the anchor position, it wasn’t looking good. Crews made an exceptional effort during her 200 meters as she began to gain ground and actually passed two opponents before the finish line, but there was just not enough time for her to pass up enough runners to finish high enough for the finals. Despite their time of 1 minute, 48.06 seconds, six teams from the first heat qualified for the finals, dropping the Lady Panthers down to 12th overall.
Gates was the last participant for TV South in the tournament. His jumps in the first flight were very good, but the majority of jumpers in the second flight blew past him and eliminated him from finals competition.
“First flight was a rough going for Payton,” said coach Richie Faber. “He only jumped 19 feet on his first try (19-feet, 9 ¼ inches). His final jump of 20 feet, one inch sat him in fourth in his flight, but the second flight just blitzed the first flight right out of it. They had seven of the eight final qualifiers in the event. Unfortunately, I think he was beat up this time of the year and it probably caught up with him a little bit. But (it was) a valuable experience.”
“We have some good guys coming back but we lose a lot of talent also,” Faber added. “I think we’ll be able to have some guys step up for us. I think we could have a good year next season. We have a good junior class and are looking forward to what they can do and what the younger guys can do.”
“Unfortunately, we had a rough 4×800 today, but we have three good opportunities later this afternoon (shotput, discus, and long jump),” Faber said. “Deaton did what he’s done all year long and that’s get a good throw from the start, just relax and go after it from there.”
“The girls competed hard today,” coach Glen Mabry said of his team’s efforts. “For all but one of them, this was their first time at state so they should all be back next year. So, they’ll use this as experience and be more prepared for next year.”
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or at Twitter @osanders_RH