By TED RADICK
Track athletes have to crawl before they can walk, and if they want a shot at the state meet they have to get out of districts first.
Athletes took that first step in Thursday’s opening day of the Division III district meet at Findlay High School. The meet, shortened by lightning midway through the preliminary track events, continues at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with the field events. Track events will begin at 1 p.m.
The weather has forced a change in that preliminary races will not be held in the 200-meter dash and 1,600 relay. Flights will be adjusted so that there will be a “hot” heat featuring the best previously recorded times.
In events completed Thursday, McComb and Waynesfield-Goshen held the lead in the boys team title race with 16 points through four events. Riverdale is tied for third with 15 points, and Van Buren is fifth with 14 points.
Through three events in the girls competition, Leipsic sits first with 221/2 points, followed by Arlington (20). Kalida and Riverdale are tied for third with 14 points, with Columbus Grove (141/3) fifth.
The top four finishers in each event qualify for next week’s regional meet at Tiffin. Thursday’s results saw several athletes get through to the regional for the first time.
Arcadia’s Samantha Watkins may have pulled the biggest surprise. She wasn’t even in the top 15 of The Courier’s track and field honor roll coming in, and popped a personal best and school record 38-111/2 to finish fourth, more than three feet out of the danger zone.
Watkins broke Heather Mengert’s school record of 37-6 that had stood since 1996.
“I was hoping to hit 35,” Watkins said with a laugh. “I was throwing really well yesterday, and I guess today it just clicked and I got it.”
Watkins got a little extra coaching this week that paid off.
“My brother (Shae) came back this week from Notre Dame and worked with me, and I went up and saw Mike Pendleton over the weekend and he helped me a lot, too.”
Pendleton’s daughters, Emily, Erin, Carly and Meagan, are part of the royalty of Ohio female throwers. So, too, are the Leppelmeiers, as Molly set a new state record of 49-8. That broke older sister Jackie’s state mark of 49-31/2. Molly had already surpassed that this season, but this came with a registered OHSAA official on hand.
“I’m really excited about it, the competition was great today, but I still want to hit 50,” Leppelmeier said.
Getting through to the regional, though, is the real point of the district meet.
“We have one of the toughest districts in Ohio, and then we go to regional and it only gets tougher,” Leppelmeier said.
Also advancing in the girls shot put were Liepsic’s Grace Rigel (43-10) in second and Riverdale’s Carrol Pauley (39-7) in third.
A pair of boys pole vaulters not only finished 1-2 in the event but also advanced to their first regional. Van Buren’s Aaron Keck won at 13-0 and Riverdale’s Taylor Bacon was second at 12-8.
“The competition is always good. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without the competition to push me,” Keck said.
Bacon noted that he and Keck have developed a solid rivalry that pushes both vaulters to go higher.
“Over the past couple years, we’ve vaulted against each other. It’s pretty intense.”
Both hope to keep it rolling at Tiffin.
“I’m really excited,” Keck said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since my freshman year. It was good day. Winning a meet always makes for a good day, but there’s always thing you think you can do better. I come off the mat and think, ‘I could have done that better.'”
Bacon was happy to get through after a fifth-place finish at the district last year.
“Last year I got 12-4, but I was one height off of making it to regionals,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Ada’s Jake Agin had work to do in the discus after the preliminary round of three throw. He was tied for fourth and on the bubble of either getting to Tiffin or seeing his career end. He improved in the finals by more than 10 feet to place third (146-5) and seal his spot at the regional for the first time.
“This is my first time to regionals in my four years,” he said. “I figured if I was going to make it, I was going to make it now. I definitely have some work to do, but I’m in the 150s right now so I should be able to get up there at regionals and hopefully get in the top four.”
Columbus Grove’s Rece Roney won at 158-10 and Cory-Rawson’s Bryce Tuttle was second at 147-4. Agin knows Roney is the standard to shoot for.
“If I get a little more height and a little more practice, I may not take him but hopefully I’ll be close enough to go to state,” he said.
Arlington’s Hannah Willow is another athlete who fell one spot short of getting through with a fifth-place finish last year in the high jump. This year, she took care of business with first-place jump of 5-4. That matched her personal best and beat sister Lauren, who was second at 5-2.
“Seeing her last week clear 5-41/4 (at the Blanchard Valley Conference meet), there was a little of jealousy because we had been tied for the school record,” Willow said. “That was the one thing we had together, since she has volleyball records, too. We push each other, and it’s a lot of fun. It was really cool to accomplish the goal, of getting to regionals together, because last year was disappointing.
“I told myself coming in that I’m not on good terms with this high jump pit. I needed to focus on fourth and above and advancing to the next level.”
Also advancing were Leipsic’s Olivia Nunez (4-10) and Riverdale’s Taylor Ashburn (4-10).
McComb’s Tanner Schroeder finished second in the boys long jump at 20-21/2, edging Kalida’s Austin Nartker, also at 20-21/2, on a better second-best jump.
Area teams swept the top four spot in Thursday’s lone running event finals, the boys and girls 3,200 relays. Bluffton’s Isaac Andreas, Luke Young, Baylor Garmatter and Christopher Harnish won the boys race in 8:28.84, with Hardin Northern (8:30.04), Riverdale (8:36.32) and McComb (8:46.88) second through fourth.
Kalida’s Kelly Doepker, Madison Langhals, Kyla Fortman and Taylor Lucke won the girls race in 9:53.19. Also advancing were Columbus Grove (10:10.68), Leipsic (10:20.12) and Bluffton (10:24.76).
BOYS TEAM STANDINGS
Through four events
1, McComb & Waynesfield-Goshen 16. 3, Riverdale & Upper Scioto Valley 15. 5, Van Buren 14. 6, Columbus Grove 13. 7, Bluffton & Hardin Northern 12. 9, Kalida 11. 10, Cory-Rawson 9. 11, Ada 7. 12, Arcadia 5. 13, Allen East 4. 14, Arlington 3. 15, Pandora-Gilboa & North Baltimore 2.
Boys Regional Qualifiers & Area FINISHES
DISCUS — 1, Roney (CG) 158-10. 2, Tuttle (C-R) 147-4. 3, Agin (Ada) 146-5. 4, Waitman (W-G) 143-11. 5, Hill (Arc) 136-4. 6, Ridenour (CG) 131-0. 7, Crawford (NB) 130-6. 8, Sowers (Riv) 127-7. LJ — 1, Rose (USV) 20-9. 2, Schroeder (McC) 20-2½. 3, Nartker (Kal) 20-2½. 4, James (W-G) 20-1. 56, Case (McC) 19-8. 7, Jefferson (Blu) 19-3½. 8, Clum (Ada) 19-2. PV — 1, Keck (VB) 13-0. 2, Bacon (Riv) 12-8. 3, Searson (W-G) 12-4. 4, Kurtz (USV) 11-6. 5, Rickenbacher (HN) 11-0. 6, Fersch (Kal) 11-0. 7, Brooks (P-G) 10-6. 8, Marshall (C-R) 10-0. 3,200 RELAY — 1, Bluffton (Andreas, Young, Garmatter, Harnish) 8:28.84. 2, Hardin Northern (Sheldon, Cooper, O. Bame, N. Bame) 8:30.04. 3, Riverdale (Gannon, Evans, Hunter, Scott) 8:36.32. 4, McComb (Rider, Case, Rode, Buck) 8:46.88. 5, Van Buren (Seitz, Ingwersen, Stall, Bair) 9:04.18. 6, Arlington (Frater, Webb, Bacon, Beck) 9:07.56. 7, Kalida (von der Embse, Roebke, Martin, Doepker) 9:09.40. 8, Arcadia (Boyd, Sowders, Stahl, Stoner) 9:15.43.
GIRLS TEAM STANDINGS
Through three events
1, Leipsic 22½. 2, Arlington 20. 3, Kalida & Riverdale 15. 5, Columbus Grove 141/3. 6, McComb 101/3. 7, Arcadia 6. 8, Bluffton 5. 9, Carey & Ada 3. 11, Pandora-Gilboa 2½. 12, Cory-Rawson 1/3.
Girls Regional Qualifiers & Area FINISHES
SHOT — 1, Leppelmeier (McC) 49-8 (state record). 2, G. Rigel (Leip) 43-10. 3, Pauley (Riv) 39-7. 4, Watkins (Arc) 38-11½. 5, Klausing (Kal) 35-7½. 6, Nelson (Ada) 35-6. 7, Maag (CG) 35-2½. 8, Morrisey (Kal) 34-10¾ . HJ — 1, H. Willow (Arl) 5-4. 2, L. Willow (Arl) 5-2. 3, Nunez (Leip) 4-10. 4, Ashburn (Riv) 4-10. 5, McCluer (CG) 4-8. 6, Butler (Leip) 4-8. 6, Maag (P-G) 4-8. 8, Griffith (McC) 4-8. 8, Garmatter (C-R) 4-8. 8, Reynolds (CG) 4-8. 3,200 RELAY — 1, Kalida (Doepker, Langhals, Fortman, Lucke) 9:53.19. 2, Columbus Grove (Myerholtz, Malsam, A. Ellerbrock, T. Ellerbrock) 10:10.68. 3, Leipsic (Quintero, Koenig, Henry, Pena) 10:20.12. 4, Bluffton (Kindle, Fett, Conley, Hoff) 10:24.76. 5, Riverdale (K. Collier, Benitez, McKamey, J. Collier) 10:26.22. 6, Carey (Watkins, Eley, Wood, DeFeo) 10:59.58. 7, Arlington (Dodds, Jones, Riegle, Jordan) 11:14.82. 8, Arcadia (Green, Pessell, Hofacker, Conine) 11:18.34.
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