By ANDREW WILLIAMS
Every high school track and field athlete in Ohio has the same goal when the outdoor season begins each spring: to make the trip to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Ohio State University’s campus to participate in the state championship meet in June.
While many dream of the possibility, few actually get to realize that dream each year.
Van Buren senior Ted Simmons got to compete at the state meet as a sophomore with the Black Knights’ 3,200 relay team, when he led off the fourth-fastest quartet in the state in that event in 2012.
Now in his final year of high school competition, Simmons has the opportunity to make it back to Columbus as an individual in the 800 and 1,600.
He’ll get his chance to qualify today when running event finals take place beginning at 6 p.m. at the Division III regional track and field meet at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
Finals will also be held in the girls pole vault, long jump and discus, along with the boys shot put and high jump today at 5 p.m.
The top four individuals in each event will advance to next week’s state meet.
Unlike many of his fellow competitors, Simmons isn’t sweating being one of the top four finishers in the 800 and 1,600 races. The senior is taking a more John Wooden-like approach and focusing only on what he can do, not what the other runners may do.
“I want to leave everything I have out there,” Simmons said. “If all I have takes me to state, I’ll be very thankful and I’ll do my best. If it doesn’t, well as long as I do my best that’s what happens.”
Simmons is in search of some redemption from a year ago, when injuries hampered him at the regional meet and he was unable to run in all the events in which he qualified.
This season, he feels much better than he did at this point a year ago. He was the most valuable male performer at the Blanchard Valley Conference meet and followed that up a strong district performance.
“Last year I got to regionals and I was having some tendon problems,” Simmons said. “So I wasn’t in tip-top shape. I qualified in the 4×800 and the 800 and unfortunately I wasn’t able to run the 800. It was disappointing but it kind of motivated me for this year too.”
Another thing Simmons has come to realize this year, is that he doesn’t have to win these postseason qualifying races to advance farther in the competition.
In years past, he would fully exert himself and go for the win in each race which often left him with less energy for races later in the meet.
With the timing of the running finals today, Simmons will have approximately 40 minutes between the end of the boys 1,600 and the beginning of the 800 to get ready.
“There’s not a lot of recovery time from race to race,” he said. “So it’s picking your battles and racing smart.”
No matter what happens, though, at the end of today’s meet Simmons will leave knowing he did everything he could to earn a qualifying spot to next week’s state championships.
If he earns one more trip to Columbus, he’ll be excited for the opportunity. But if he doesn’t, it won’t change him or anything he’s accomplished.
“If you look at world records or anything like that, it really humbles you,” Simmons said. “You might be a big deal in your school or in your town, but there’s always someone better.
“It’s important to realize, at least for me, to maximize what I can do. If that gets me somewhere that’s awesome. And if it doesn’t, well it’s going to make me a better person in the end.
“I think that’s the way to go. If you give it all you have and you go to state, that’s awesome. If you don’t, that’s cool.”