Six of the seven Suburbanite-area athletes heading to the state track and field meet will compete on the girls’ side, led by defending Division I state pole vault champion Morgan Estes of Green and Lake Center Christian throws specialist Jenae Linville.
GREEN Score this one for the ladies.
Six of the seven Suburbanite-area athletes heading to the state track and field meet will compete on the girls’ side, led by defending Division I state pole vault champion Morgan Estes of Green and Lake Center Christian throws specialist Jenae Linville. Both head to Columbus as top contenders for a state title.
Linville will be the lone LCCS athlete at the meet, while Estes will be joined by teammates Erika Rector (800 meters) and Emily Hooker (400 meters). Lake will junior discus thrower Alexandria Gower and senior long jumper Jaylyn Vance to Columbus.
SEEKING A REPEAT
Last weekend, Estes was likely the unhappiest regional champion in the Ohio. She won the pole vault at the Austintown Division I meet, but topped out at 12 feet, short of her school record leap of 12-9.5. The win was by four inches Nicole Waibel of Cuyahoga Falls, but earning a chance to defend her state championship wasn’t enough for Estes.
“I was thinking I have to step it up because I can’t have another bad weekend like that (at states),” she said.
Her goal, having already set the school and Suburban League records, is to break the state record for all divisions. To do that, she will need a jump of 13-2. It’s a height she has cleared in practice, but not in competition.
Estes is the fifth Green girls pole vaulter to reach the state meet in the past nine years and at least one has gotten to Columbus every year during that span. She has a few superstitions to get ready for the trip, including sleeping in her own bed and drive down with her parents on Saturday. A stop at Subway is also on the agenda and when she arrives at Jesse Owens Stadium, a large contingent of family and friends will be in attendance.
“The atmosphere is great and I always have a bunch of family there to cheer for me, so I definitely hear them above everything else,” she said.
The Kent State recruit knows a second state title would vault her into elite company both at Green and in state history. Just don’t expect her to spend too much time soaking it all in and enjoying the ride until she’s hit her goal.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy it once all the other girls are out,” Estes said with a smile.
The day before leaving for the state meet, Rector ran for a different – and tastier – prize than a gold medal. For her final workout of the season, she had been promised a smoothie by her coach. She and Hooker received their reward at the end of a 15-minute run. An ice-cold smoothie was her reward for a season of hard work in an event that before this year, she had never run.
Page 2 of 4 - A few months later, she’s unbeaten in the 800 and won the regional meet with a time of 2:13.35. Both are accomplishments she couldn’t have imagined before the season started.
“I would have thought they were crazy,” she said of her response if someone had told her before the season what she would accomplish. “I never would have believed that. The first week I did distance training, I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ But I’ve surprised myself a lot.”
She credits her coaches with helping her get acclimated to the 800. Running a longer distance turned out to be beneficial because it netted her first spot at the state meet as an individual. She has qualified before as part of a relay team and last year, she and Hooker were involved in a mishandled hand-off that cost the Bulldogs’ 4x400 relay team a chance to place.
“Emily ran the second leg and I ran the third leg and we were handing off and dropped the baton in the final, so I think we’re both definitely ready to prove ourselves again. It’s nice to have another chance at it,” Rector added.
A state championship would be a great finish to her senior season, but Rector admits she can’t even imagine what it would be like and has no idea how she would react. She does know what she needs to do in order to have a chance at a championship: “Just stick to the plan and stick to the training I’ve been doing all season long.”
OUT FOR REDEMPTION
Hooker recorded the second-fastest time in the 400 at the regional meet, but knows there will be more pressure on her competing as an individual at the state meet. Like Rector, she is looking forward to the opportunity to atone for last year’s relay miscue.
“Last time we dropped it and we were all crying and we got ninth place, so this year is a chance to redeem ourselves,” Hooker said.The junior sprinter is excited about competing against the fastest runners in Ohio and with many in the field separated by tenths of a second, the competition will fierce.
She is also cognizant of what a state championship would mean in terms of matching the feats of Estes and past Green standouts like three-time Olympic steeplechase runner Mark Croghan.
“It would be really cool, like how Mark Croghan and them did it in 1986 and it would be cool because there’s three of us going down, just like there was then,” Hooker said. “It (winning a title) would be crazy because Mark Croghan went to the Olympics. To be put in the same category as them would be really cool.”
Head coach Maedene Pfouts pointed out the significance of Hooker and Rector reaching the state meet together.
Page 3 of 4 - “This is the first year we’ve had both a 400 and 800 girl make it,” Pfouts said. “But these ladies not only made it to state; they have the potential to be in the top eight.”
ONE FINAL CHANCE
Two disappointing trips to the state meet have left Jenae Linville with a different perspective. After failing to place in her first trip in 2011 as a sophomore, she battled a knee injury last season and did not reach the podium despite entering the meet with one of the best qualifying distances.
As she readies for her final try at a state discus title, Jenae Linville is motivated to capitalize on the opportunity.
“There is pressure because I know it’s my last shot, but it also is nice knowing that I’ll be able to throw the next four years at Grand Valley, too,” Jenae Linville said, referring to her commitment to Grand Valley State.
Her father and coach, Wally Linville, believes the mental lessons learned from the past two years have put his daughter in a better place psychologically.
“She’s learned to tune everything else out and that she can’t play defense in the discus,” Wally Linville said. “In the past, if another girl had a good throw, she thought, ‘I have to compete with that and do better,’ but she knows now that if she throws her best, she’ll win.”
Jenae Linville is also more relaxed because she feels that doesn’t have anything left to prove, having posted some of the best throws in the state in the past two seasons.
She has attended many clinics and sought advice from other successful throwers and believes those words of advice will be enough to put her atop the podium and ahead of defending state champion Taylor Baker of Bainbridge Paint Valley as long as she follows and executes her plan.
A group of friends will make the trip to the meet to cheer her on and contribute to what Jenae Linville calls “a great atmosphere” around the cage.
She will also compete in the shot put and after a second-place finish at the Navarre Division III regional, a spot on the podium in the event would only add to a memorable weekend.
Reaching the state meet seemed the furthest goal imaginable for Gower after last season, when she failed to qualify for the discus finals at the district meet. She entered this year chasing both the school record and an improved result in her best event.
“I wanted to do better than last year and I really worked hard for it,” Gower said. “That was definitely a goal, just improving and going farther in the postseason.”
Her disappointment from the way last season ended drove her throughout this year. In preparing for the state meet, she is attempting to focus on the fact that despite the larger crowd and higher stakes, the physical features of the cage and throwing area are the same as every other meet.
Page 4 of 4 - “It’s just the top performers is the only difference and I shouldn’t go in any different,” Gower added.
She and Vance decided to travel to Columbus on Thursday to tour the stadium and get a feel for the venue. Gower takes pride in representing Lake on the big stage and being part of the third straight year when the team has advanced multiple competitors to the state meet.
A MATTER OF INCHES
One-quarter of an inch a year doesn’t seem like very far, but two 1/4-inch increases have taken Vance from the last girl out in the long jump at the regional meet to a state qualifier. She missed on advancing by 1/2 inch in her sophomore year, was 1/4 inch away last season and broke through this year, finishing third at the Austintown regional meet.
“I was like, ‘This year, please can I be no inches (away) and just make it,’” Vance said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking. I didn’t want to be that close anymore, I wanted to get there.”
Like Gower, she used her past disappointments to motivate herself in training. Both of them say they are happy to have one another to lean on.
“I wanted to be better than I was last year and it’s good to have a teammate with me,” Vance said.
Lake coach Matt Pinion has pointed out to both Gower and Vance that they need focus only on their own efforts and not let the goings-on around them alter how they act.
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