By Gary R. Rasberry
ELIDA -- For the Celina boys track team, it was a night of pride and for the girls track team, it was another tight battle in an attempt to return to the top of the podium.
Both teams earned runner-up honors as the 2006 Western Buckeye League track and field meet concluded at Elida on Friday night.
But for the Celina boys, the second-place finish -- tied with Shawnee with 78 points -- was a night of celebration as the team posted one of its highest point total and finishes in many years.
"We've won the league with less points than we had today," said Celina head track coach Dan Otten. "Every event hit today, but the wins we had today were from seniors, all our performances were senior-led. Then our two puppy (freshman) pole vaulters got one point (Todd Hertel and Luke Bonvillian tied for sixth and earned a half-point each) that helped give us a tie for second, at least. Every guy we had today did what we had to do."
Celina was in third in the standings -- with boys champ Defiance firmly entrenched in the top spot -- and just a couple of points behind Shawnee going into the 1,600-meter relay. Ottawa-Glandorf was firmly in front as Celina looked to keep the second-place spot. Anchor runner Shawn Caruso crossed in second place with a time of 3:34, not noticing that St. Marys passed Shawnee down the stretch to give Celina a four-point increase to earn the tie for second. "Our guys knew they had to be two places ahead of Shawnee," said Otten. "Every event, they figured out what they needed to do and did it. That was a great performance by our men."
"It was intense," said Caruso, who also won the 800 run on Friday. "It was the first time I've been nervous in four years of the WBL.
"This is the same senior core since our freshman year. All of us worked together and scored more points together," added Caruso.
Senior Erik Chapin, who won the long jump on Wednesday, looked for the jumping double with a win in the high jump. His competition was defending champ Alex Kelly of Van Wert. With the rain and wind playing havoc, the two were the only ones to top six feet on the bar, but in the end, Chapin picked up the title with a top effort of 6-4. Kelly settled for second at 6-3 -- the height he won on at Defiance last year. Celina also got six points from Adam Hoyng, who took third at 5-10 in less tries.
"The high jump in the rain was tough," said Chapin. "Last year I had trouble (finishing fourth). This year I had to hunker down a little bit. There was some good competition out there. Right toward the end, I ended up doing very well."
Chapin also earned points in the 110 hurdles, taking second, and the 300 hurdles, finishing third and providing 34 of the team's points at the meet.
The other big win on Friday came from Jeremy Buening, who threw nine feet further than Elida's Cory Green to win the discus title with a throw of 140-8.
"It feels great cheering for all the guys," said Chapin. "We deserved it. We did really well. Guys haven't done this well in a long time. We're excited."
Other good showings for Celina's boys on Friday included Andy Ball picking up sixth place in the 200 dash and a fourth-place showing by the 800-relay team.
For the girls, it was a battle with defending champ Ottawa-Glandorf and a tough Defiance team for the top spot. Going into the last race, Celina was just a couple of points out of first as O-G and Defiance were tied.
The Titans won the race to claim the title with Celina second. Defiance dropped to sixth to claim just one point, allowing Celina to leapfrog over to place second behind O-G for the third straight year, edging Defiance by 0.17 points for second place.
"O-G is very good," said Otten. "You have to give O-G and Defiance credit. They did things well. For our team, we were one place off in every event. It was one of those days where if everything was perfect, we would have won, but it wasn't. The teams beat us."
Celina posted just one win on Friday as senior Jenna Schmitmeyer edged out Defiance's Mikaela Tolbert by 0.02 seconds in the 400 dash. Schmitmeyer placed in the top three in her other two sprint events, taking third in the 100 and second in the 200.
Eryn Langenkamp came up with 22 big points on the day, taking second in the 100 hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in both the long jump and pole vault. Amanda Smith picked up third in the mile run and fourth in the 800 with Melissa Roth placing fifth in the 3,200. Cayla Hellwarth took fifth in the pole vault.
For St. Marys, the boys took eighth with 27 points while the Lady Riders took seventh. Alex Spencer captured the only win of the day for St. Marys, winning the pole vault with a top height of 12 feet. Jason Durkee took fifth in the 800 and sixth in the 1,600 while Rob Doenges and Brett Frederick finished fifth and sixth in the 400. Alyssa Ball took second in the 200 dash and Kerri Imwalle took fourth in the shot put.
Celina travels to Tiffin for district action next week while St. Marys returns to Elida for the Division II meet.