PIQUA – It’s been a long time coming for Van Wert senior Megan Braun.
Last season, Braun just missed qualifying for the state track-and-field meet in the long jump, when she placed fifth at the Division II regional meet. The top four placers in each event at regionals advance to the state meet.
At Saturday’s finals of the Division II regional meet at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium, Braun not only qualified for the state meet, but she won the long jump (18 feet, 2 ½ inches), finished second in the 400 meters (57.79 seconds), and was the anchor on the 1,600-meter relay (Cassidy Meyers, Julia Springer, Caylee Phillips) that placed fourth (4:02.97).
Braun’s stellar performance Saturday helped lead the Van Wert girls’ team to a second-place finish. Bellefontaine won the girls’ team title, defeating Van Wert 54-44. Versailles was a close third with 43 points.
On the boys’ side, Dayton Dunbar (81) won the team title, while Versailles (64) finished second. Elida (24) had the best local performance, finishing ninth out of the 47 teams that were represented.
In her specialty, the long jump, Braun saved her best performance for last. Her nearest competitor, Toledo Central Catholic’s Simone Green, jumped 16-10 ¾.
“It was a long time coming,” Braun said. “The last three years I haven’t made it, and I finally got it this year. I’m ecstatic.”
Braun is hoping to take it to another level when she competes at the state meet Friday and Saturday at Ohio State.
“I want to beat my PR, which is an 18-5,” she said. “So, that’s obviously my goal. But, to get No. 1 would be a dream come true.”
In the 400, Braun took it out hard early, but was passed by Greenon’s Delaney Benedict down the stretch. Benedict’s winning time was 57.56.
“My coaches said there was a girl running about 55, 56 (seconds), and told me to let her run her race and just stay behind her,” Braun said with a smile. “But, I wasn’t going to do that. So, I took the lead and I thought I had her. I really wanted it (the win), but it wasn’t for today. So, next week we’re going to work for it. I’m so excited.”
The last event of the day, the 1,600 relay, was an event Van Wert thought it had a chance.
When Braun crossed the finish line in the 1,600 relay, it appeared that Van Wert would finish fifth. However, the officials disqualified Toledo Central Catholic’s tandem, which gave Van Wert a fourth-place finish.
“We were fifth when we came in (across the finish line),” Braun said. “Then our coaches said that we have the fifth fastest time in all the regions (right after the finish). So, we would have made it either way, because Ohio State (Jesse Owens Track) has nine lanes. But we found out about the DQ and moved into fourth. So, we’re very pleased with a PR, school record and now headed to state. I wanted teammates to go with me. I didn’t want to be the only one.”
Individuals and relays can also qualify for the state meet if they have the fifth-best performance throughout all the regions in the state.
Van Wert girls’ coach Nate Hoverman knew his 1,600 relay had a chance.
“Those girls worked so hard. We said 4:03 was the magic number. They ran 4:02.9. I’m so happy for them – not only for that relay, but for our girls’ team being runner-up in the region. I don’t think we’ve ever done that before. These girls won our first league title since 1976 (this season). We’re runner-up in the region, and now we’re going to compete in the state meet. We’re elated right now.”
On the boys’ side, Elida’s duo of senior Xavier Gilkey and sophomore KeShawn Spivey have been a one-two punch all season in the hurdle events.
All spring, Gilkey has led the way and Spivey has closely followed.
Saturday’s finals looked a little different, but the results were the same.
After hitting a hurdle in Thursday’s semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles and eventually being disqualified, Gilkey’s dream of a state title in the 110 hurdles was gone. Spivey, his teammate and close friend, was forced to compete alone in Saturday’s 110 finals. Gilkey bounced back Thursday, however; and clocked the fastest time in the semifinals of the 300 hurdles.
On Saturday, Spivey finished fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.89) and punched his first-ever ticket to the state meet. Gilkey responded in strong fashion, finishing second in the 300 hurdles (38.81), clocking his second-consecutive school-record time in that event, and also earning his first-ever state berth. Gilkey broke the school record on both Thursday and Saturday.
“I fell in the 110s (on Thursday),” Gilkey said. “I knew I just had to bounce back. It was disappointing, because I was seeded to go to state in that, too. That didn’t happen, so I had to do what I could in the 300s.
“It feels great (qualifying in the 300 hurdles). It’s like the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s a major accomplishment to me; and it feels wonderful.”
Gilkey said Spivey is more than just a teammate. At the beginning of the season, Gilkey nicknamed himself “Lightning” and Spivey, “Thunder.”
“I think it’s more than a friendship,” Gilkey said. “He’s like my little brother. It’s more than just track to me. It’s like family to me. I’m proud of him. It feels good that we’re both going.”
Added Spivey, “We’re like best friends, and we wanted to share the experience of going to state together.”
Elida’s 400 relay (Dravyn Jones, Cole Harmon, Nazareus Wright, Noah Paris) finished third Saturday in 43.71.
In Saturday’s finals of the girls’ 800, Celina senior Lauren Jackson led from start to finish, en route to a winning time of 2:16.99.
“The first lap was really fast,” the Bowling Green State University-bound Jackson said. “I knew I was supposed to go out at a little slower pace, but I felt good. I didn’t want to slow down. I was scared that if I slowed down that my legs would not be able to kick in.”
Kenton senior Lauren Johnson won the discus Saturday, with a toss of 135-7.
“I was in second until the last throw,” Johnson said. “So, I felt really nervous. My last throw was my best and also a school record.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.