By ANDREW WILLIAMS
COLUMBUS — Bluffton senior Noah Stratton said Friday that he and his teammates wanted to enjoy their experience at the OHSAA state track and field meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
But he made it clear the Pirates were on a mission and were treating it like a “business trip.”
On Saturday, Stratton and his teammates proved those comments were more than just words.
Bluffton placed second in the 400 relay, fourth in the 800 and 1,600 relays and got a fourth-place showing from Stratton in the 400 to finish fifth in the overall team standings with 29 points.
Lima Central Catholic topped Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 52-42 for the Division III boys team championship. Columbus Academy edged Warren JFK 39-36 for third, and Bluffton edged out Archbold (23) for fifth. Liberty-Benton (12th, 15 points) and Patrick Henry (13th, 13) also had top 15 finishes in the team standings.
Bluffton’s quartet of Adam Wannemacher, Dylan Alt, Andrew Lee and Isaac Little provided the top finish for the Pirates by earning the runner-up spot in the 400 relay in a time of 43.54.
While they were unable to catch the speedy champions from Tiffin Calvert, who posted a mark of 42.79 seconds, Little said the performance and time they achieved was as good as it gets for the group.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to try to make our school record which is a really low time,” Little said. “We kind of knew that it would be really pushing it for us to beat Calvert and run a low 42 like they were running. So 43.5 is perfect for us. It’s the best we’ve done all year and I think it’s the best we could have done.”
Alt, who was also a member of the 800 relay and 1,600 relay squads, said making three trips to the podium in one day at the state meet is a special experience. And getting to share it with teammates makes it even more rewarding.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Alt said. “I’m proud of everybody that’s on our team. We work really hard and we deserve everything we do today.”
Along with Alt and Little, Noah Stratton and Robbie Stratton combined for fourth in the 800 relay by running a personal-record time of 1:29.07. They missed finishing third by four hundredths of a second.
Alt, Noah and Robbie Stratton and Robert Demellweek put together another fourth-place showing in the 1,600 relay in 3:22.14.
Noah Stratton, who placed seventh in the 400 a year ago, improved upon that position Saturday by taking fourth in the event and establishing a new personal record in 49.50 seconds.
“I’m extremely happy with my performance today,” he said. “I got fourth, better than how I did last year so that’s always good. I ran a PR. That’s my best time I’ve ever run in the 400 so you’ve got to be happy with that.”
Going out on a high note was important to Stratton and he said he has no regrets as he ended his high school career by winning three medals at the state meet. While he’s certainly going to miss competing, he said he has been lucky to be a part of such a special event so many times.
“I’ve been down here four years in a row,” Stratton said. “I’ve been blessed enough to get down here all four years of high school. Been with great relays and just to be able to be in this atmosphere every year, it’s going to be sad coming down and not being able to perform. It’s a great atmosphere and I love it.”
Patrick Henry’s Zach Nye matched teammate Marcus Myers’ third-place finish in the discus event Friday by placing third in the 110 hurdles in 14.50 Saturday.
After taking fourth in the event at last year’s state meet, Nye said his goal was to improve upon his performance this season.
“It feels great,” Nye said. “It felt great last year coming in fourth and just getting down here again this year felt good. Being able to improve and get to third, it just feels awesome.”
Van Buren senior Ted Simmons was the top area finisher in the 800 finals that saw three area runners make it onto the podium.
Simmons placed third in 1:55.20, Columbus Grove’s Bryce Sharrits took sixth in 1:57.88 and Riverdale’s Chad Pever landed in eighth with a time of 1:58.90.
“It feels rewarding,” Simmons said. “Here it’s hard to stay focused because there’s just a lot to see and it’s easy to get distracted. It feels good to be able to keep my focus and do alright.”
Patrick Henry’s 400 relay team of Jacob Ehlers, Nye, Mitchell Bonner and Donny Johnson reached the podium with the eighth-fastest time of 44.84 seconds.
Ada’s Matthew Wilcox, a returning state-qualifier from last season, made the finals but missed the podium in the 400 for the second straight year with a mark of 50.52 seconds.
Ada senior Daniel Klinger, competed in the wheelchair events and was fifth in the 800 (2:35.56), fifth in the 400 (1:13.72) and fifth in the 100 (21.73).
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