LAKE TWP. Getting to the state track and field championships is a feat in and of itself.
Only 16 athletes or relay teams make the meet in each event for Ohio’s three divisions of high school track and even if the meet itself doesn’t play out the way an athlete or their coach may have hoped, being one of the last 16 standing still matters.
The Lake boys track team sent a pair of relay teams to the Division I state meet and while neither reached the podium, head coach Matt Pinion said the members of both teams enjoyed the overall experience.
"It was a lot of fun … always great get down there," Pinion said. "All of the hard work the guys put in during the preseason and during the season paid off and they were rewarded by doing well in the district and regional meets and making it to the state meet."
The 4x400 and 4x200 relay teams won district titles and both secure places at the state meet with top-four finishes at the regional level.
The two relays were comprised of a total of seven athletes, with some, including senior Joey Drinkwater and junior Tye Hunt, running on both relays. At the state meet, neither relay was able to replicate its previous success as the 4x400 team ran the 14th fastest qualifying time in 3:24.45 and the 4x200 was disqualified, leaving both off the podium.
Those results were tough on the entire group, Pinion noted, but especially on the seniors.
"The seniors were definitely disappointed with how the 4x200 played out, but you’re disappointed and you have to be able to move on," Pinion said. "We had two juniors and a sophomore run and they got a taste of the success and what it takes to get there, so that can motivate them to get back next year."
As with most every team that sends athletes to Columbus, the Blue Streaks made sure they enjoyed not just the fun, competitive atmosphere at the meet itself, but also the different activities, events and opportunities that surround the meet.
"You just have a good time … spending time together, going out to eat in the evening, the kids getting to stay in a hotel, all of that," Pinion said. "We went to the walk through Thursday night and the kids got to talk to other athletes they know from teams in our area that made it down there, and you had music playing … just being in Jesse Owens Stadium is pretty cool and being on campus is pretty cool."
Even though neither relay reached the podium by finishing in the top eight, Pinion said that seeing the athletes who did and their joy over their accomplishments was still a good part of the meet. For Lake, the meet itself was largely about trying to approach each race the same way as its runners had every prior race this season and to stay in their normal pre-race routine.
It’s a way to try to mitigate the pressure brought on by running in a high-stakes environment with plenty of tough competition on hand.
Now that the dust has settled from the season and the team’s seniors have run their final race and graduated, the coaching staff is looking for the returning state qualifiers and the rest of the roster to dig in for a productive offseason, whether they play another sport in the fall and winter or are a one-sport athlete eyeing the next season of track and field.
This season’s success should provide "a blueprint to follow during the offseason," Pinion added, laying out a roadmap for those who would make the trek to Columbus in seasons ahead.
DODD, PARKS COMPETE
Green senior Alex Dodd placed 12th in Division I in the pole vault, clearing the opening height of 13’6" but missing on each of his three attempts once the bar was raised to 14 feet. Dodd, who won the regional meet one week earlier, finished one spot ahead of Federal League rival Max Critchfield of Jackson.
Springfield senior Aric Parks was 12th in the preliminaries of the 110 hurdles for Division II, running a time of 15.12 that left him .27 seconds away from the top eight and a spot in the finals.
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