Each year when I cover the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Championships, I always come away with many thoughts.
There are so many outstanding performances at the OHSAA State Track and Field Championships every year, that sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief.
After this past weekend’s state championships, I concluded that we are truly blessed with talent in the Lima area. In fact, we might be spoiled.
In all, we had seven Lima area individual state champions, four relay state titles, one team state title, one team state runner-up finish and many other state-placers (top eight in each event).
These accomplishments by our Lima area athletes were incredible.
For all Ohio high school track and field athletes, to compete at Ohio State’s Jesse Owen’s Memorial Stadium the first weekend of June is a dream come true.
However, the athletes’ accomplishments on the track or in the field events are just part of what gets my attention each year.
There are so many emotions flowing throughout the two-day meet.
The emotions can be an expression of joy, such as getting onto the awards podium or garnering a state title.
The emotions can be the result of the athlete not competing as well as they hoped.
Sometimes, the athlete is emotional because they realize their high school career is coming to an end.
There were several situations over the weekend that made me walk away with a smile on my face.
The Columbus Grove boys’ senior class has been nearly unbeatable the past three seasons (2020 season was cancelled due to COVID). This weekend, the Bulldogs tied for second place as a team with Paint Valley in Division III. This was the third time the Columbus Grove boys’ program has finished runner-up at the state meet. The Bulldogs won the Division III state title in 2003.
One of the main ingredients for Columbus Grove’s success has been its top-notch throwers.
This past weekend, Columbus Grove took first and second in the discus, and third in the shot put.
Columbus Grove seniors Tadd Koch and Lawson Maag finished first and second, respectively, in Friday’s discus. Koch’s winning toss was 175 feet, 2 inches.
Maag’s best mark on the day was 173-1. Teammate AJ Schafer placed third in the shot put with a school record mark of 59-8.
After Friday’s Division III discus finals, the casual observer might have been confused on who won the event. As soon as the last throw was made, Koch and Maag embraced one another in celebration of what had happened.
In their minds, there was no winner or loser.
Since grade school, the Columbus Grove throwers have competed with and against each other. The competition between them over the years helped propel their skills to the next level.
After Koch won his state title this past weekend, he told me his state championship was not solely his.
“Obviously, that’s the goal (to win a state title),” Koch said. “I don’t see this as a state title for just me. Obviously, only one person can win it. But it seems like it has always gone 1-2 with us. This is a dream come true; and what a way to end our high school careers.”
Maag added, “This is huge. We worked so hard this year. Nobody deserves it more than Tadd. If anyone beats me, I’m glad it is Tadd.”
Maag will be competing in the throws for Ohio State next school year. Koch will be competing in the throws at the University of Findlay.
When I completed my interview with Koch and Maag, they thanked me for the coverage – something a reporter does not expect. Now, that’s a class act.
Schafer also showed great sportsmanship.
Schafer, who will be playing football next school year at Indiana Wesleyan University, displayed humility after he set a new school record in the shot put but had to settle for third.
“I think I did all I could, today,” Schafer said. “It was great competition. I gave it everything I had.”
On the track, junior Luke Ellerbrock scored huge points for the Bulldogs Saturday, as he placed fourth in the 3,200 (9:28.12).
Columbus Grove is losing a very successful senior class. But I’m sure the program will still compete at a high level. They have a culture at Columbus Grove. However, replacing these high-level throwers will not be an easy task for boys’ head coach Chris Grothaus.
Titans, Fortman stand tall
For the Ottawa-Glandorf girls’ program, senior Alexa Fortman closed out her illustrious high school career on a very high note at the state meet.
At last year’s state meet, Fortman notched state titles in what is arguably the most difficult double in track, the 400- and 800-meters. In fact, she broke the Division II state record in the 800. The two events are only about 25 minutes apart, which allows little time for recovery.
This past weekend, Fortman successfully defended her state titles in both events. In the 400, Fortman clocked a winning time of 56.21 seconds, and a winning time of 2:09.96 in the 800.
Then, after recovering from the very warm temperatures Saturday, the Belmont University-bound Fortman came back after winning the 800 to anchor the winning 1,600 relay (Olivia Fenbert, Corinne Closson, Averie Fox, Fortman) in a school-record time of 3:56.97.
At the state meet, the O-G girls team placed fourth in Division II.
Throughout her high school career, I have watched Fortman dominate the competition on the track. However, when Fortman comes off the track, her humility and gratefulness quickly takes center stage.
Fortman is always quick to credit not only her teammates and coaches as the reason for her success, but also her faith in God.
Ottawa-Glandorf will not be able to replace an athlete like Fortman. However, with the abundance of young athletes on their roster and more coming up from middle school, the Titans should continue to be a force.
On the boys’ side for O-G, the Titans’ 3,200-meter relay (Masen Vogt, Ty Rosengarten, Isaac Macke, Ethan Metzger) finished 11th (8:14.55). Rosengarten finished 10th in the 3,200 (9:52.89).
Worshman battles through adversity
Temple Christian senior Cece Worsham qualified for the Division III state meet in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, and the 200-meter dash.
However, the biggest challenge for Worsham this past week was trying to recover from an automobile accident, days leading up to the state meet.
Worsham battled through the adversity and placed fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.68) and fourth in the 200 dash (25.38).
After earning all-Ohio status (top eight placers in an event) in those two events, Worsham said she was grateful for getting through the very challenging week.
“Going into this (the state meet), I felt a little unsure,” Worsham said. “But I have a lot of support from my family and my coaches. I wasn’t really looking for PR races. I’m glad I just got through it and did well.”
Worsham will play volleyball at Gulf Coast State in Panama City, Florida next school year.
The great run for the Bluffton boys 3,200-meter relay came to an end this past weekend. Seniors Eden Antrim, Erik Nygaard, Sam Derstine and Landon Armstrong made up the Bluffton 3,200 relay.
Last season, the same four athletes placed third at the Division III state meet.
This past weekend, Bluffton finally notched that elusive state title. The Pirates also broke the school record in the process, clocking a winning time of 7:52.13.
Armstrong also placed fifth in the 800 (1:55.52) Saturday, while Derstine finished 13th in the 800 (1:58.23).
Bluffton’s 1,600 relay (Derstine, Armstrong, Landon Shutler, Antrim) placed sixth (3:26.25).
Antrim also placed fifth in the 1,600 with a school record time of 4:19.03.
The Pirates finished sixth in the final team standings in Division III.
On the girls’ side for Bluffton, senior Brianna Taber placed fourth in the pole vault (11-4), which was a new personal best.
Mustangs run wild
Possibly the most interesting story for our area was about the Allen East boys.
Allen East sent four boys to the state meet. Jacob Hershberger, Jackson Friesner, Isen Schafer and Trey Hensley competed in two relays for the Mustangs.
On Saturday, Allen East won the state title in the 800 relay (1:29.57). They came back soon after that and placed sixth in the 400 relay (43.69).
Hershberger placed fifth in the 100 (10.94).
The unique thing about Allen East was that Hershberger and Hensley spent most of their time in the spring, playing baseball.
Hershberger said he did not get a full week of practice with the track team until district week.
It made me wonder what could have happened if Hershberger and Hensley did not split their time with baseball and track but focused solely on track.
On the girls’ side for Allen East, Rilynn Jones placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (46.09).
For Delphos Jefferson’s Lyv Lindeman, getting on the podium was the goal for this junior standout.
Lindeman did just that, placing third in the 100 hurdles (14.63) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (44.99). It was bittersweet for Lindeman, who just missed making the podium (top eight finisher) at last year’s state meet.
The Marion Local boys team came away with the Division III team state title this past weekend. The Flyers scored 38 points for the two days, while Columbus Grove and Paint Valley tied for second with 30 points.
Marion Local’s Nate Buschur set a new school record in the pole vault with a clearance of 15 feet, 10 inches.
One of most bittersweet moments at this year’s state meet was Ottoville senior Kellen Schlagbaum’s state title in the 300 hurdles.
Schlagbaum, a three-sport athlete, suffered an ankle injury during this past season’s basketball tournament. It took a while for the senior standout to get back to full strength.
Schlagbaum looked to be at 100 percent on Saturday as he won his first-ever state title.
There were also many other state placers from the Lima area.
As we close the book on this year’s spring track season, I’m already trying to project how next year might look.
There were many area top-notch senior athletes that graduated this spring, who will be very difficult to replace.
However, one thing is for certain – the cupboard is not bare.