By Gary R. Rasberry
Of all the three divisions, the area has been well-represented over the years in Division III at the state track and field meet.
This year is no different as 46 of the 63 local competitors are in the small division. Add in New Knoxville's four girls and 11 more from Delphos St. John's and the Midwest Athletic Conference has a total of 61 in D-III looking for titles.
While there are some surprises both positive -- Parkway's group of five -- and not-so -- Marion Local not having a single male athlete in Columbus -- the weekend should be eventful for local participants.
GIRLS ¥ Six Minster Wildcats, mainly in the 3,200-meter relay and distance events, will look to help the Wildcats reclaim its spot as one of the powerhouses in the state.
The key to the team is youth as most of the team are underclassmen, but also already veterans of cross country success.
The only question will be if coach Kristin Heitkamp will be down in Columbus. Heitkamp went into labor after Friday's regional meet and delivered a healthy baby girl on Saturday.
Minster freshman standout Bernadette Burke is in a battle for a top-eight spot, will have to deal with Bellaire St. John's Central star Natalie Perzanowski, who has the top time of the 16 runners at state in the 3,200 with a mark of 11:08.48.
A better chance for a state title comes in the 3,200-meter relay, an event the Wildcats have dominated over the years. Burke, Brigitte Sherman, Jenna Fausey and Katie Dahlinghaus have grown as a team and could make a run for the podium.
New Bremen, Versailles and Marion Local, the other 3,200-meter relay teams from around the area to make it to state, will be trying to sneak in to take a podium spot.
¥ Janelle Jansen makes her third trip to state in the pole vault, having already finished in the top eight the past two years.
The Coldwater senior will need another solid showing to make it three trips to the podium after a regional mark of 10-feet, but Jansen has marked off 10-6 during the season. Seven of the 16 vaulters have a better regional mark than that of Jansen, with one being MAC-rival Amanda Barlage of Versailles, the conference champ.
Barlage, runner-up at Columbus last year, hit 11 feet at Piqua's regional and had an 11-3 at the MAC meet to break her own meet record. The 11-3 mark was her best at state last year, losing on total misses in the gold-medal chase.
The state record is 11-6 and could drop if Columbus Grove's Jenna Oard matches her regional mark of 12-feet. Oard was third at state last year.
¥ Missing out on state last year by the shortest of margins, Coldwater's Ashley Kanney is in a competitive field in the 800-meter run. From top to bottom in the state field, the margin of time is 14 seconds, with the sophomore Kanney's time of 2:21.89 right in the middle of the pack.
Kanney has two chances to make a run at the podium by running the 1,600 meter earlier before the 800-meter run.
Fort Recovery's Mindy Vogel and Minster's Katie Dahlinghaus, who each were behind Kanney for third and fourth at the regional, could also make a run for the top-eight.
¥ Freshmen have been known to make impacts at the state track meet before and Parkway standout frosh Marian Bevington has a good chance to do the same.
Bevington has the third-fastest time in the 100-meter hurdles, based on regional times. With her time being the second-fastest in her heat, Bevington has a great chance to place top four in the preliminaries to move on to Saturday's finals. The top heat time is held by Simone Culver of Harvest Prep, fourth in the state last year in the event.
Bevington also is in the long jump and her main foe all season has been St. John's star Alisha Anthony, the defending state champion and state-record holder with a leap approaching 19 feet.
The good news is that Bevington will have a break between her hurdle qualifier, set for 10 a.m., and the start of the long jump, slated for 1 p.m. Anthony will have less of a break, having to run the 200-meter dash prelims at 11:40 a.m.
¥ Holly Stein will look to reach the podium in both throwing events at state. The Fort Recovery junior has had success on all levels, most notably as a former national Punt, Pass and Kick champion.
Stein had the seventh-best shot try from the regionals, which should be her best chance to earn a placement.
¥ Fisher-mania is alive and well at the state meet.
Parkway senior Jason Fisher and freshman brother Josh both made the state meet. Jason dominated the field in the discus last week at Piqua, while Josh broke through and placed fourth in the long jump.
Jason has the best chance to earn a podium spot as his winning throw at the regional is the second-best of the state field. A second trip to the podium is also in the cards as Fisher's regional shot put effort of 51-2 1/4 is within earshot of the top eight.
The younger Fisher is in a competitive field in the long jump with no jumper going over 22 feet in the regionals, but a lot of 21-feet showings abound.
¥ While the Fisher's enjoy state for the first time, Panther teammate Jacob Fox returns to state and will look to earn a spot on the podium in the hurdle events.
Fox, who was part of the Panthers' relay success last season, has the fifth-best time in the 110-meter hurdles and seventh in the 300-meter hurdles. Fox caught a break by being in the preliminary heat with just two times faster than his in the 110.
¥ New Bremen's best chance to get a podium spot comes in the the 800 or 1,600 relays. Chris Heitkamp, Martin Travis (also a state qualifier in the 100 dash), Brennon Speckman and Lucas Larger are in a very competitive heat of the 800 relay.
The 1,600 relay went with some retooling to make it to state, most noticeably taking Jason Dammeyer out of the 3,200 to run the 1,600 relay, which worked as the team won the event to snare second place in the team standings.
The Cardinals -- Heitkamp, Travis, Dammeyer and Scott Brackman -- are again in a balanced field and will need to set a new personal best to get a top eight time and move on to finals.