The Suburbanite
  • Green, Lake, LCCS athletes deliver at state track meet

  • Despite erratic weather, five Suburbanite-area athletes delivered consistent performances to place in the top six in their respective events at the state track and field championships at Jesse Owens Stadium on the Ohio State University campus.

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  • Despite erratic weather, five Suburbanite-area athletes delivered consistent performances to place in the top six in their respective events at the state track and field championships at Jesse Owens Stadium on the Ohio State University campus.
    Green senior pole vaulter Morgan Estes capped her dominant season with a record-breaking leap of 13-0.25 to remain unbeaten and defend the title she won as a junior last season.
    "The whole way down (during her vault) I was celebrating before I even hit the mat and once I hit the mat, I ran over and hugged my coach," Estes said. "It was awesome."
    With Estes leading the way, the Bulldogs placed seventh in the Division I standings, earning 19 points. For the Kent State recruit, the celebration began unofficially as she cleared 12-6 after all of the other competitors had fouled out. However, there was still the Division I record to chase and that feat came moments later. Estes ultimately came up short at 13-3 in an effort to break the overall state record for all divisions, but she wasn't about to let that detail curtail her excitement.
    "I am really happy. I know it wasn't the overall record I wanted to get, but it was the Division I meet and state record, so I'll take it," Estes said with a laugh.
    After the pole vault concluded, the Bulldogs' remaining two competitors took center stage in the finals of the 400 and 800, respectively. Junior Emily Hooker qualified third for the finals of the 400 with a time of 55.94 and entered the finals with a chance at claiming her first state title.
    Prior to her semifinal heat, Hooker was so nervous that she literally became sick to her stomach. Competing successfully with the best in the state helped calm her nerves heading into the finals.
    Karrington Winters of New Albany proved to be too much for the field in the finals, cutting more than two seconds off her qualifying time and running a 53.59.
    Hooker crossed the finish line third, establishing a new personal best in the process with a time of 55.19.
    "I'm happy with my time because it was my personal best for the season and the state meet is a great place to do that," Hooker said.
    Her podium appearance came despite competing with a torn abdominal muscle all season long. The injury didn't cause any serious pain while running, but her doctors did limit how much training she was able to do.
    Senior Erika Rector took to the track moments after Hooker finished and tried to extend her unbeaten streak in the 800. She entered the meet without a loss on her record in her first season running the event and had the fifth-best qualifying time.
    Her time of 2:13.38 was good enough for sixth place.
    Page 2 of 4 - She admitted the losing in the 800 for the first time at the state meet was "bittersweet," but was glad to be able to compete against the best competition in her final high school meet.
    "I was just so focused on getting on the podium that I didn't even think about it being my last meet, but afterwards I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I feel like I'm graduating right now,'" Rector said.
    Rector has decided to attend Malone and continue her track career for the Pioneers.
    Both Hooker and Rector were caught off guard by their team placing seventh overall despite having just three competitors.
    "I had no idea that three people on a team could make such an impact," Rector admitted. "That was the most exciting part after we got our medals and got off the podium. There was this whole new excitement for us."
    To celebrate their success at the state meet, the duo went to the Cheesecake Factory at Polaris Mall in Columbus for Snicker's and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cheesecake. It was a sweet end to a memorable season that went better than either expected.
    Lake Center Christian throws specialist Jenae Linville was right there. With three throwers left in the Division III discus final, she was in the lead and zeroing in on the first state championship in any sport in school history. Her throw of 142-0 in her second attempt stood as the mark to beat and with the last spot in the throwing rotation, she was in a solid position - or so it seemed.
    Posting a strong throw early also allowed Linville to settle in and she and her father Wally, who is also her coach, were able to focus more on technique and strategy as a result. The lead held up through the early rounds and Linville appeared to be headed for the top spot on the podium.
    Three throws from the end of the event, Becca Leppelmeier of McComb stepped into the cage and let fly with a good throw that clearly had the distance to rival Linville's top toss. When the distance was announced, 144-7, Leppelmeier vaulted into first place and left Linville with one shot to reclaim the lead.
    "It was a lot of pressure, but I just had to take a deep breath and do what I always do. I just let one fly and it was my best one of the day, but it was just a foot and a half short," Linville added.
    In her final attempt, Linville reminded herself to stay calm and dug deep for one final burst of strength. She uncorked her best throw of the day, but it wasn't enough. The discus struck the turf at 142-9, 22 inches shy of Leppelmeier's mark.
    Page 3 of 4 - Linville finished second and despite the disappointment of coming up just short of gold, throwing well allowed her to exorcise the demons of her past two trips to Columbus, when she battled injuries and nerves and failed to reach the podium.
    "I do feel that way, yeah," Linville said when asked if she had indeed shaken those demons off. "It was a relief to finally get some good ones in at state."
    Ironically, Linville and Leppelmeier will have plenty of time to relive their duel in Columbus because not only will the pair be teammates at Grand Valley State beginning this fall, they will also be roommates.
    "It'll be fun because I think of the saying, 'Iron sharpens iron,' so hopefully it will be like that. We're going to be roommates next year too and she's a really nice girl and works really hard, so I wouldn't want to lose to anyone else," Linville concluded.
    She also placed 10th in the shot put one hour after finishing the discus.
    Like Rector and Hooker, Linville also made a Cheesecake Factory run to celebrate after the meet.
    As she exits high school and heads off to college, Linville hopes her success will inspire other LCCS athletes, such as the boys 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams, which reached the regional meet this year. The past four years and the adversity she has faced inside the cage have taught her lessons about perseverance and determination that she hopes to carry with her to college and beyond as she majors in chemistry and seeks a career in drug research.
    Asked if she expects to face more doubters at the college level because of her height and size disadvantage in throwing events, Linville smiled and said with a laugh, "Hopefully."
    Lake senior Jaylyn Vance broke through the regional meet barrier this year after missing out by half an inch or less in each of the past two seasons. Once she reached Columbus, she looked like a seasoned veteran who had been there before. Vance, competing in the Division I long jump, cashed in her chance to reach the podium with a fifth-place finish.
    Much like her track career over the past three years, Vance saved the best for last as she leapt 17-6 in her sixth and final attempt. She finished three inches behind Raven Porter of Cleveland Heights for fourth. Olivia Small of Big Walnut won the event with a jump of 19-8.75.
    The other Lake competitor at the meet, junior discus thrower Alexandria Gower, found the going tough at the state meet and was unable to hit her normal distances. Her best throw of 114-4 was good enough for 15th as Katelyn Daniels of Olentangy Orange won with a throw of 161-7, bettering the field by more than 13 feet.
    Page 4 of 4 - Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB

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