COLUMBUS GROVE — The Northwest Conference Meet is a two-day affair.
However, after Thursday – the first day of the NWC Meet — the Columbus Grove boys track-and-field team had already taken control.
At Saturday’s finals of the running events, the Columbus Grove boys team put the exclamation point on the conference title race, while its counterparts managed to pull away toward the end to record a sweep of the NWC.
The Columbus Grove boys team ran away from second-place Bluffton, as it outscored the Pirates 217.5 – 123.5 to record its third consecutive NWC team title. Allen East finished third (80), while Lincolnview (76) and Spencerville (54) rounded out the top five squads in the nine-team field at Clymer Stadium.
On the girls side, Columbus Grove defeated second-place Spencerville 163 – 141 to nab its seventh consecutive NWC crown. Paulding finished third (74), while Ada (60) and Bluffton (59) rounded out the top five teams.
The first day of the two-day conference meet for the Columbus Grove boys team was pretty impressive. The Bulldogs scored 85.5 points on the first day, which included all the field events and the 3,200-meter relay. All the field events were completed Thursday.
Then on Saturday, the Columbus Grove boys squad ran away from the competition on the track, en route to the dominating victory.
“We got off to such a good start on Thursday. … We were really pleased,” longtime Columbus Grove boys head coach Chris Grothaus said. “Field events are one of our strengths. Our big thing was, with the good start, was to come out today and stay focused on getting better.”
On Thursday, the Columbus Grove boys team scored major points.
The Columbus Grove 3,200 relay (Caleb Stechschulte, Caleb Morman, Trent Koch and Carson Closson) clocked a winning time of 8:15.70.
Columbus Grove senior Gabe Clement won the pole vault with a clearance of 14 feet.
Columbus Grove sophomore A. J. Schafer won the shot put with a mark of 48-3 ¾.
“I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t get that 50 (-foot throw) in, but there’s always room for improvement,” Schafer said.
Schafer is prepping for a possible long run in the postseason tournament.
“I think this year, I want to get down to state,” Schafer said.
Columbus Grove went one/two in the boys discus on Thursday.
Ethan Halker won the discus with a toss of 172-5, while teammate Lawson Maag nabbed second with a mark of 161-1.
There were no letdowns by Columbus Grove on the track Saturday.
“We saw some good things,” Grothaus said. “We experimented a little bit. We put Gabe (Clement) in the open 400. It’s the first time he has done that. We put together a 4-by-4 (1,600-meter relay), with some guys running off there. We had a couple guys who did really well with that. Carson (Closson) ran really well in the open 800. But it’s hard to run a 1:58 and get beat in the open 800. … That’s kind of crazy, but that was encouraging to see what he (Closson) did.”
Clement, who will be competing in track and field next year at the University of Findlay, finished second Saturday in the 400 (52.28 seconds). Bluffton’s Jonathan Schriner edged out Clement with a winning time of 51.51.
In the 800, Closson ran a personal-best, but had to settle for second place as Bluffton’s Simon Derstine tied the NWC record with a personal-best of 1:57.70. Closson crossed the finish line in 1:58.05, which was a personal best for him.
“I was hoping he (Closson) would have taken it out a little faster, so I didn’t have to lead,” Derstine said. “But it’s OK. … I just had to push myself through that one. Once I get out there, I just go hard.”
Columbus Grove’s Jon Banal took first in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles Saturday. Banal clocked a winning time of 16.16 in the 110 hurdles, and 41.70 in the 300 hurdles.
Banal was pleased with Saturday’s performance. However, the senior hurdler said there is room for improvement.
“I want my times to be down a little bit more. But I know with better competition (in the postseason tournament), I will keep getting faster,” Banal said.
Grothaus said he is pleased with his team’s focus.
“It was a very productive day for us,” Grothaus said. “We weren’t really focused on the scores, but we stressed the performances; and they performed. They just didn’t go through the motions. They see the big picture. The tournament (Division III district at Findlay) starts next week. We want to make some noise. We have to keep getting better. That’s our goal – to keep getting better. I think we’ve done that every meet. We haven’t lost yet. But it’s more of, ‘Are we getting better?’”
The Columbus Grove girls squad also got out to a strong start Thursday, as it scored 70 points.
In the girls 3,200 relay Thursday, it was a photo finish.
Columbus Grove (Erin Downing, Sabrina Henige, Lauren Benroth, Morgan Deffenbaugh) just nipped Spencerville (Nadia Ricker, Kirsten Wurst, Kirsten Voice, Lillee Stewart) for the win. Grove’s winning time was 10:36.43, while Spencerville clocked a time of 10:36.44.
Columbus Grove’s Kennedy Flores won shot put (39-2) and discus (125-9) Thursday. Flores, a senior, will be competing at Ashland University next school year.
“We had a 25-point lead coming out of Thursday,” longtime Columbus Grove girls head coach Tim Staley said. “Kennedy Flores has been getting better and better in the shot put and discus. And it was a very nice job by Faith Anderson to take second in both of those (shot put and discus). So, that was a big deal. We put together a good 4-by-8 (3,200 relay) on that day. We thought we had a chance; and we were able to get a win there. Then today, there were a lot of girls that stepped up.”
On Saturday, Columbus Grove kept its foot on the pedal.
Columbus Grove’s Lauren Benroth won the 400 (1:02.19). Brynn Fortman won the 300 hurdles (47.91). Erin Downing scored 24 points for Columbus Grove as she finished second in the 1,600 (5:28.41), second in the 800 (2:28.53) and second in the 3,200 (13:02.37).
Lincolnview senior Madison Langdon led her team.
On Thursday, Langdon was part of the 3,200 relay that finished fourth (10:56.54). Then on Saturday, Langdon won the 1,600 (5:23.34) and 3,200 (12:16.67). Langdon will compete at the college level in track and cross country next school year at Purdue Fort Wayne.
“I did the 4-by-8 (3,200 relay) on Thursday, and our (relay) team actually took off over a minute,” Langdon said. “Then today, I did the mile (1,600) and two-mile (3,200). I got a 10-second PR in the mile – which was six seconds away from our (school) record. I never thought I would be close to that. In the two-mile, I just went out there and kept working through it. I ran about 12:17. It wasn’t my best, but it was still good to get out there and work hard.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.