By Bruce Monnin
COLUMBUS -- A virtual swarm of MAC athletes descended on Columbus' Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for the first day of the state track meet Friday. But the level of competition is much higher at the state meet, and there were at least as many who were disappointed as there were of the fortunate ones who did qualify for Saturday's finals.
There were only two event finals Friday, and area athletes saw the podium in both events. The Marion Local boys managed a seventh place finish in the 3,200 meter relay, while the Minster girls got off to a great start towards their fourth consecutive state championship by winning the same event.
Boys 3,200-Meter Relay
The Marion Local boys team finished on the podium in this event for the third straight year, finishing in seventh place.
Lee Homan, Ryan Winner and Tyler Speelman all return next year and hope to improve on this year's result, but for senior Corey Winner, it was his last time for this race. "The time was a little bit off our regional time," noted Winner. "We would have liked to have had our team season record, but it wasn't quite there today. We tried our best."
Missing the podium but also competing in this event were the 11th place New Bremen team of the New Bremen team of Jason Dammeyer, Jason Koverman, Jacob Larger and Josh Schwable and the 15th place Minster team of Phil Winner, Doug Preston, Chris Burke and Austin Winner.
Girls 3,200-Meter Relay
The Minster girls repeated their 2002 and 2003 state championship in the 3,200-meter relay. The race started with freshman Brigitte Sherman completing her portion in fifth place in a tight field. Brigitte liked the atmosphere at the meet.
"It was very exciting. I liked the crowds and the cheering," said Sherman.
Then it was time for the experienced seniors to take over. Kristen Shenk managed to move the team up to fourth place after her leg, only six seconds behind the leaders.
"I just tried to keep my eye on the person ahead of me and tried to pick up as much ground as I could."
Much like last week at regionals, Joanna Gruber used her turn to vault the Wildcats into the lead. Gruber took her initial six second deficit and turned it into a four second lead by the time she was finished.
"I just like to feed off the competition," explained Gruber. "My adrenaline always gets pumping right when I get the baton and I just take off."
And when Sunni Olding is given a lead to work with, the Minster coaches and fans feel very secure.
"My job is to bring it home," confirmed Olding. "The team made my job easy this year, so I just made sure we went across the line first.
The Versailles girls' team of senior Trisha Krueger and freshmen Kristin Smith, Caitlin Liette and Renee Eilerman also made the platform, finishing seventh in this event. The Marion Local team of Nicole Schaefer, Stacy Evers, Trisha Bruns and Terri Feltz finished 12th.
The Minster teams saw quite a (Continued from page 6)
bit of action on Friday. One of the more heartwrenching moments occurred after it appeared the girls' 800 reIay team had successfully advanced to Saturday's finals. But then the Minster coaches were told by the judges that they were being disqualified for executing a handoff just outside of the legal zone. Kacie Otting also failed to advance in the 100 hurdles, but the girls' 1,600 relay did later qualify with the fifth best time in the field. The Wildcats boys put three relay teams into action, failing to qualify the 1,600 relay, while both the 400 and 800 relays posted the sixth best time in the field.
Marion Local was another busy team on Friday. Abby Schulte placed seventh overall in the 100 dash preliminaries, but failed to qualify in the 200. Bridget Schmackers also came up a little short in the 100 hurdles, as did the girls' 400 relay team. Both the boy's 400 and 800 meter relay teams competed but neither advanced to Saturday's finals.
New Bremen's Troy Lammers had one of the more successful days for area athletes, as he started with the fifth best time in the 110 hurdles and later posted the best time in the field in the 300 hurdles.
The Parkway boys' 400 relay team did not make it out of the preliminaries, as was also the case with the St. Henry girls' 800 relay and with Jon Hemmelgarn in the 400 meters.
A few other MAC athletes were in division three action Friday. Versailles' Jessica Schulte did not qualify in the 100 hurdles, but later ran the fifth fastest time in the 300 hurdles. New Knoxville's Tom Wiest competed but did not advance in the 200 dash, and Delphos St. Johns qualified their girls' 400 relay and boys' 800 relay teams, while the boys' 1,600 relay did not advance.
The Minster girls are still the favorites in the girl's competition, though Bedford St. Peter Chanel, Gates Mills Gilmour Academy and Gates Mills Hawken are all projected to be within striking range.
On the boys' side, New Bremen looks to be one of about 12 teams tightly bunched together, but will need some unexpected points from their field events to help Troy Lammers bring the Cardinals to a high placed team finish.
The division three field events will be held Saturday beginning at Noon at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. The running finals will follow starting at 4:15 p.m.