SPENCERVILLE — The Columbus Grove girls’ track-and-field team was celebrating moments after it closed out Saturday’s Northwest Conference Meet with a convincing win in the final event, the 1,600-meter relay.
Columbus Grove scored an astonishing 202.5 points, to outdistance Spencerville for the team title, which scored 112.5 points. Lincolnview (90) finished third, while Bluffton (79.5) was fourth in the nine-team field.
However, the Columbus Grove boys’ squad, which went into the 1,600 relay tied with Bluffton for the team lead, was forced to wait out a decision by the meet officials, following the 1,600 relay.
In the final leg of the 1,600 relay, a Bluffton runner bumped into a Columbus Grove runner on one of the turns.
The final decision came back as a disqualification on Bluffton, which gave Columbus Grove the team victory over Bluffton, 111-107. Lincolnview (106.5) finished a very close third, while Ada (96.5) rounded out the top four teams.
Saturday marks Columbus Grove’s fifth consecutive NWC girls’ team title. For their male counterparts, it’s been two years since they’ve brought home the first-place conference trophy.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Columbus Grove boys coach Chris Grothaus said. “We knew it could come right down to the end. We just didn’t figure it would end up quite like that. But give Bluffton credit. They were really good on the track. They lacked in a couple field events, but their kids ran like crazy.
“But give our kids credit. Our four-by-four (1,600 relay) kind of knew what was at stake. Caiden Watkins (Columbus Grove’s anchor leg) went after it. He got the lead which caused some of that incident to happen there at the end. But it’s a team effort. We’re not top-end heavy like we’ve been in the past, where we have guaranteed points. So, it’s much more of a team effort.”
The Columbus Grove boys notched just one first-place finish in the two-day meet – Evan Hopkins’ win in the pole vault (11-feet).
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the PCL (Putnam County League) and Northwest Conference,” Grothaus said. “These guys were focused on that. Today, we scored in about every event.”
However, the Columbus Grove girls’ team scored points in droves.
“I didn’t expect that kind of a score, but I knew we were solid,” Columbus Grove girls’ coach Tim Staley said. “Carlee McCluer had a really nice day. She set a new record in the 300 hurdles. We put her out there on the four-by-four (1,600
relay). We got beat in the prelims (1,600 relay), so we wanted to give her one last hurrah out there on the track during the regular season, and she anchored that to a win. She (McCluer) ran a personal best today in the 100 hurdles. Rylee Sybert had another good day, winning the 100 (12.62), 200 (26.54), and was on one of the winning relays (800 relay) and second on the other (400 relay). She had a really good day. Alyssa Ellerbrock won the 1,600, 3,200 and four-by-eight (3,200 relay). She did a great job for us. The one that gets overlooked a lot is Erin Downing. She’s a very talented freshman. She won the 800 for us, and she ran on the 1,600 relay. She (Downing) was second in the 1,600, and she was on our four-by-eight (3,200 relay). She’s just a very versatile runner. Maddie Maag won both throws (shot put, discus). And Kayla Reynolds has been very steady in the high jump (first, 4-10). I can’t expect any more than what those girls gave. They had a goal in mind and they went out there and did it.”
McCluer lost a close race in the 100 hurdles to Spencerville’s Nelaya Burden. Burden won in a track-record time of 14.87 seconds. McCluer finished second in 14.98. In the 300 hurdles, McCluer edged out Burden for the win. McCluer’s winning time of 45.83 in the 300 hurdles was an NWC record. Burden clocked 46.95 in the 300 hurdles. Both McCluer and Burden were state-placers last season.
“I knew coming in today that it was going to be a good meet for me, because I really haven’t had much competition pushing me,” the senior McCluer said. “It was good having her (Burden) right next to me in lane four. She’s a great hurdler. I ran against her last year.”
Said Burden, “This entire year, my goal has been to beat the record. And it’s exciting that I got it. So, it’s really special to me to accomplish my goals this year as a sophomore.”
The Bulldogs also dominated the distance events.
On Thursday, Columbus Grove won the 3,200-meter relay (Downing, Taylor Ellerbrock, Lauren Benroth and Alyssa Ellerbrock) with an impressive time of 9 minutes, 53.68 seconds.
On Saturday, Columbus Grove took first and second in the 1,600, as Alyssa Ellerbrock won in 5:17.18 and Downing was second in 5:24.95.
In the 800, Downing took first (2:27.15), while teammate Taylor Ellerbrock was second (2:30.14).
In the 3,200, Alyssa Ellerbrock pulled away early from the pack for the win (11:43.87).
Alyssa Ellerbrock said it was difficult to run the time she wanted in the 3,200, since there was nobody pushing her.
“I was off on my splits right away (in 3,200),” Ellerbrock said. “It was nice in the mile (1,600), because I had my teammate (Downing) pushing me.”
Staley said his team’s lineup could look a little different when it competes at this week’s Division III district meet at Spencerville (Thursday and Saturday). The top four placers in each event at districts will advance to regionals.
“Some of these girls that ran individual events this week, won’t be running individuals next week, for the good of the team,” Staley said. “We’ll try to load up our relays to see what we can get in the tournament.”
On Saturday, Spencerville senior pole vaulter Gabrielle Goecke struggled to get her opening height of 10-foot. However, once she cleared it on her third attempt, the three-time state-qualifier went on to win her event with a clearance of 10-6. She went on to attempt 11-foot, but failed to clear it in her three attempts. Goecke’s all-time personal best is 11-2.
“I about gave myself and my coach a heart attack,” Goecke said with a smile. “I said, ‘this is not me.’ Then it came down to that third attempt and was like ‘Ok, let’s do this.”’
Goecke placed seventh at last year’s state meet.
“I really want to get up on that podium at state, towards the top,” she said.
Lincolnview junior Karter Tow won the 3,200 Saturday in a stellar time of 10:05.58. Earlier in Saturday’s meet, Tow finished third in the 1,600 (4:40.67). Teammate Alek Bowersock finished second in the 1,600, while Bluffton freshman Asher Antrim won in an impressive time of 4:38.59.
“Coming into the race (3,200), I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, because I just ran that mile today and had a personal best in that,” Tow said. “My teammate (Bowersock) had a really good race (1,600). So, we were both a little exhausted after that race. But I was able to come back and get the win.”
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