ST. MARYS — There’s an old adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”.
Coming into Friday’s finals of the Western Buckeye League Championships at St. Marys, it did not seem like there was a clear-cut winner.
On the boys’ side, Van Wert, Celina and Elida recorded valuable points in Wednesday’s field events.
The same went for the girls, as Celina, Shawnee and Van Wert were virtually in a log jam.
Friday night in the boys’ competition, Van Wert had the stronger finish as the Cougars notched the WBL track-and-field title, defeating second-place Defiance 115-96. Elida finished third (82), while Shawnee (73) and Celina (43) rounded out the top five squads in the 10-team field.
On the girls’ side, Defiance pulled away on the track Friday, en route to the WBL crown. Defiance ended the two-day meet with 93 points, while Shawnee finished second with 77. Elida was a close third (73), while Celina (58) and Ottawa-Glandorf (50) rounded out the top five teams.
“It was a team effort,” longtime Van Wert boys coach Mark Collins said. “This is probably the best overall team that we’ve ever had. We scored in the field events. We have sprinters. We have distance runners. It all came together for us as a team this year.”
Van Wert started off on a strong note Wednesday night as Austin Clay won the shot put with a mark of 58 feet 7 ¾ inches.
“My lowest (toss) was a high 56 (feet). Then my best was a 58-7. I had a few throws at around 57,” Clay said. “I’m just trying to be up there in all my throws. It’s a good time to do it, going into districts and regionals. Being really consistent is the key right now.”
Clay is a two-time state-qualifier in Division II.
Celina’s Seth Huston finished second in the shot put Wednesday (48-5).
Friday night, Clay won the discus with a mark of 154-4 ½.
“We scored double in the shot and the discus,” Collins said. “We scored double in the long jump and we won the high jump. It was a very good performance.”
On the track Friday, Van Wert’s Jacob Hart won the 200 (22.49), finished second in the 100 (11.12) and was the anchor of the winning 800-meter relay (Ethan
Brown, Blake Henry, Nathan Jackson; 1:32.54). He also was the anchor of the 400 relay that placed third.
Elida (Dravyn Jones, Cameron Fetter, Nazareus Wright and Arzaiah Little) won the 400 relay in 44.01.
Blake Henry also helped Van Wert’s cause Friday by winning the high jump (6-3).
Van Wert wrapped up the meet Friday with a hard-fought victory over Elida in the 1,600 relay. Van Wert (Connor Pratt, Blake Henry, Nathan Jackson, Ethan Brown) won in 3:32.92. Elida (Derek Brockert, Arzaiah Little, Dravyn Jones, Jayden Pullen) crossed the finish line in 3:32.95.
In Friday’s finals of the boys 110-meter hurdles, Elida’s KeShawn Spivey won the showdown against Defiance’s Connor Williams. Spivey clocked a time of 14.93, while Williams finished in 15.14.
“It felt like it was a really good race,” Spivey said. “I didn’t PR, but I think I hit all the hurdles really smooth and he (Williams) really pushed me hard.”
Spivey, who won the Division II/III indoor state title this past winter in the 60-meter hurdles and was a state-qualifier last spring in the 110 hurdles, said having Williams in the lane next to him, really helped.
“That’s what really made me push my strides even longer and go even faster,” Spivey said.
On Wednesday, Spivey finished second in the long jump. On Friday night, Spivey placed sixth in the high jump (5-8).
In the 300 hurdles, Shawnee’s Trever Miller won in 39.89. Williams finished second (41.38), while Defiance’s Josh Horvath (42.01) and Spivey (42.11) rounded out the top four placers.
On Friday, a few of the area’s top boy sprinters went head-to-head in the finals of the 100-meter dash; and the race lived up to its billing.
Shawnee’s Christian Ford got the win (11.03), edging out Van Wert’s Jacob Hart (11.12) and Elida’s Dravyn Jones (11.20) at the finish line.
In the girls’ 100, Elida’s Kylie Lewis won in 12.74. Defiance’s Kaitlyn Parrish was second (13.06). Shawnee’s Claire Huff (13.11) and Elida’s Epifany Johnson (13.36) were not far behind.
Elida’s Cienna Kuhn won the pole vault on Friday with a height of 10-4.
Bath’s Caitlyn Renner won the 300 hurdles (47.26).
The Defiance boys dominated Friday’s distance events. Mhalicki Bronson won the 800 (2:00.61), 1,600 (4:31.53) and the 3,200 (9:58).
On Wednesday. Bronson was the anchor of the winning 3,200 relay for Defiance.
“The goal was for me to pull Cooper Morton (second, 10:05), my teammate, who was behind me,” Bronson said. “We wanted to gain as many points as possible. So, I went out there, got us set up for a good lead and made sure we had a good finish.”
Wednesday night, Van Wert’s Kirsten Clay, Austin Clay’s sister, broke the WBL meet record in the discus, with a mark of 136 feet. The previous league record was 131-2.
“My second throw was 134. … I wasn’t really pleased with that,” Clay said. “Then, my last throw was 136. I broke the record, but I wasn’t pleased with the distance. But I was glad I got the 136. It (breaking the record) took a lot off of me and I was able to relax.”
Clay’s teammate, Jill Gemmer, placed third in the discus (123-8). Ottawa-Glandorf’s Grace Hoffman finished second (125-11) on Wednesday.
Friday night, Clay won the shot put (40-5), while Gemmer placed second (39-4 1/4).
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.