By Gary R. Rasberry
As it has the past several years, the Grand Lake area will be well represented at the State Track and Field Meet this weekend at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus on the campus of The Ohio State University.
Seventy-seven participants representing all 11 schools in the area will take part. Even with all the talent that graduated last year, the number is just four less than last year's total of 81.
The local MAC teams will have 72 competitors, 40 coming from the boys teams in the area.
But looking at the breakdown of representatives, there are subtle changes that could change the fabric of what is to come this weekend.
Here is a overview of what to see and expect this weekend.
GIRLS DIVISION III
´ -- 10 to 4.
That is the difference in the number of competitors between the Versailles and Minster teams. Last year the Wildcats brought 12 participants to the state meet, winning a fourth straight title and 12th overall in the programs history.
After being the dominant force in the state track scene the past several years, Minster won't have the same expectations this time around. Only three local teams -- Celina, St. Henry and Coldwater have one each -- have less competitors going to Columbus than the Wildcats.
More shocking is the number of participants in what has been the calling card for the Wildcats, the distance events. Only one of the four -- Brigitte Sherman -- is competing in a distance event. Even more of a shock is the absence of any relay team. The last several years, the 3,200- and 1,600-meter relays have been key to the Minster state title runs.
Amy Kremer will be needed to help with scoring big points. Kremer is the only Wildcat in two events during the upcoming weekend. Kremer will need to do well in the high jump and make it to the finals in the 300 hurdles to help the Wildcats' cause.
That, in turn, opens the door for the Tigers, who wrestled the MAC title from the Wildcats in early May and captured the regional title at Piqua. Three of the four relays for Versailles are at state. Add in the multi-tasking of Jessica Schulte (both hurdles, long jump and the 4x400 relay) plus points from Amanda Barlage (pole vault) and Kaila Barga (400 dash to go with three relays) and the Tigers are a favorite to climb the podium on Saturday afternoon.
However, don't count out Marion Local. The Flyers have been impressive in keeping close to the Wildcats and Tigers through the MAC and first two postseason rounds. Marion has seven girls making the trip down with some experience coming through.
German exchange student Susann Wolf will work two relays and take part in the 300 hurdles. With Abby Schulte injured for a good part of the season, Wolf stepped up and became a solid part of the lineup for the Flyers.
Wolf has a little bit of history on her side to do well. In 2001, Johanna Garz, another German exchange student that came to the area, placed third for Fort Recovery in the 800 run.
´ -- The New Bremen girls showed signs of becoming the next distance power in the area, coming up big at regionals with a win the 3,200-meter relay final, beating out Minster, Marion and Versailles along the way.
The Cardinals will have a chance to score points in two other distance events as sophomore Amber Niekamp will also run the 1,600 and freshman Lori Timmerman will look to get points in the 800.
´ -- Catie Evers has shined all season for St. Henry, dominating the field in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes. The sophomore qualified for all three events at state and her time of 59.16 in the 400 meter at Piqua is fourth-fastest in the field.
DIVISION III BOYS
´ -- Last year the state track fans in attendance got a little taste of what New Bremen's Troy Lammers could do in the hurdles.
This year, Lammers hopes to finish his high school career with a bang as the New Bremen senior looks to capture both the 110 and 300 in stellar fashion.
Lammers won the 300 last season and dropped his time to 38.51 to set a regional meet record at Piqua last week. His 300 time is the fastest of the 16 qualifiers while his 110 time ranks among the top times in the field.
The rest of the Cardinal contingent will also look to have fine showings to help the Cardinals continue a fine postseason. Kevin Heitkamp will look to avenge a rough showing last year when he didn't make the top 10. Marcus Overman will look to make a run in the shot put while Jason Dammeyer will look to get points in the 1,600 open.
´ -- For the past several years, the Minster boys have had quiet success while watching their female teammates rack up state titles.
This year, the boys have three more representatives than the girls going to state. Given the different events the group makes up, it could make for a strong run for the top team spots.
Each throwing event has a Minster representative, with Dane Sommer in the discus and Derrick Gates in the shot. The 1,600-meter relay made it out and Michael McVety earned a berth in the 100 dash. Good showings from all could make for a great finish to a strong season.
´ -- Not a bad debut for Jared Stammen. After playing baseball for three years, he was talked into running track by fellow St. Henry football player Jon Hemmelgarn.
Stammen not only contributed, but he runs in both the 800 and 1,600 relays at state after just missing out on going in the 400, an event he won -- and beat Hemmelgarn in -- at the MAC meet. Stammen was part of the winning state champion basketball and football teams the past two years, which helps in getting ready mentally for the tough semifinal heats and finals heats.
The Redskin relays, which feature five guys for the four spots -- the only change is Ryan Huwer runs the 800 while Chris Hoying handles the 1,600 relay -- will look to wrap up an exceptional year. Hemmelgarn's speed in the two middle sprints plays a big part in the team's success.
´ -- A year after making an exceptional run to state, Parkway is back and has additional troops.
Brandon Bowen missed out on his chance to max out on events -- participants are allowed to take part in just four events -- when he didn't qualify for the 100 dash. Bowen, does, however, have a strong chance to contend in the 200 and the long jump and is part of a 400-meter relay team that has the second-fastest time coming into the meet.
Jacob Fox, who will run the third leg of the 400-meter relay, will be busy in the qualifiers on Friday as he also runs the 110 hurdles. Fox will have a familiar sight to aim for as Lammers will be in the same heat.
Senior Josh Huber came up big in earning a spot in the discus at the state meet. He has some tough competition in his flight with Columbus Grove standout Blaine Maag throwing immediately following him in flight two. Maag was second at state last year, but returns with a the top throw in the field of 184-8. Defending champion Nick Panezich of New Middletown Springfield is also in the field, throwing with Minster's Sommer and St. Henry's Steve Dailey in the first flight.
DIVISION II BOYS
´ -- The Versailles boys and girls each won the MAC title this season in track.
Considering that both are bringing 10 representatives to state, it appears that the teams could be vying for the state double win as well.
It may be a little harder, but the Tigers have a solid chance with their ability to get points in several events.
The 3,200-meter relay will need a good race to get points as only five of the 16 teams entered had slower regional times than the Tigers' 8:11.81. The 800 relay made a big run in the final legs to make the trip to state.
The place where points will be big is senior Jeff Hileman. Hileman will compete in both hurdle races with a sore hamstring suffered in the district meet. Hileman was able to get second in the 110 and third in the 300 at Welcome Stadium despite looking gimpy towards the end of the 300. A healthy Hileman usually means big points for the Tigers.
´ -- It's been a progressive career for Ben Pax. After not making it out of districts his first two years, the Coldwater standout made it out as a junior and finished second in the state in the pole vault.
This year, the Coldwater senior has won district and regional titles and is the favorite to win the top prize in the state competition.
Pax has hit as high as 15-6 this season and shares the top regional height mark coming into the weekend at 15 feet with Travis Jones of Clinton Massie.
´ -- David Wilker is hoping not to have the rollar-coaster finish for a second straight week.
Last week in the 3,200 final at Dayton, Wilker, in the final four laps, went from fourth to ninth, back up to sixth, took second place for a lap and a half before finishing fourth and making his second straight trip to state.
The Coldwater sophomore has been solid all season and will be ready to try and better his sixth-place showing of last year. His time of 9:48.24 is a couple seconds off his time from last year, but warmer weather than last Friday should make for a better run.
DIVISION II GIRLS
´ -- Janelle Jansen once again will be the standard-bearer for the Coldwater girls this week.
Jansen engaged in a battle for the top spot at the regional before finishing third and earning a personal best for the season of 9-9.
Jansen will need to get over 9-9 to make a run at state. With nine of the 16 competitors vaulting 10 feet or better, Jansen will need a solid effort to make the podium again after placing fifth last season.
DIVISION I GIRLS
´ -- Julie Snyder is making what she and her team hopes will be the first of many trips to state.
Snyder, the talented Celina freshman who went into regionals looking to qualify in four events, won a regional long jump title and placed well in the 100 hurdles. Things should go well since Snyder will not have to multi-task too much this week.
With the hurdle semifinal set for 10 a.m. Friday and the long jump competition set for later in the day at 1 p.m., Snyder should be able to focus on both with ease.
At the league meet and the district and regional competitions, Snyder had to forgo some of her final jumps to get ready for the 100 hurdles. Snyder, though, put up quality jumps to ensure moving on.
Now, she can get every jump needed to place and still have time to get ready for the other event.