The table is set for Matt Hodge.
Valley’s star sprinter, who’s set a goal earlier this season to place in two events at this year’s track finals, qualified for the boys Division III 110-meter finals on Friday by finishing second in his heat with a time of 14.65 seconds. He will race for the championship in lane seven on Saturday. About an hour later, he also qualified for the Division III 300-meter hurdle finals, running a 39.59.
Hodge ran well in the 110, starting clean and finishing the race without touching a hurdle. After falling in the same event in last year’s regional meet, it’s been a goal of his to return to the finals all season.
“It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Hodge said. “It’s good to put that behind me.”
Hodge ran into trouble early in the 300 after stuttering in front of one hurdle and nicking another. But he was able to bring his closing speed around the turn and into the final straightaway
“I just really kicked it in, pulled my head up and just really ended up doing well,” he said.
Hodge will run in lane seven in tomorrow’s final, an assignment he’s happy with.
“I like the outside lanes in the 300,” he said. “It seems like and it gives me a better mental state about what I’m doing.”
Hodge will face stiff competition from both John Lint of Columbus Academy and Chad Zallow of Warren JFK in tomorrow’s finals. Lint and Zallow finished first and second respectively in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. Lint finished with a 14.17 in the 110 and a 36.92 in the 300 (just .09 seconds off the state record pace).
Though they ran just a second off its personal best for the season, Piketon’s 4x800 relay team failed to reach the podium in the Division III finals, finishing 12th with a time of 8:16.
“Most sports you can play defense, you can’t play defense in track,” retiring Piketon coach Greg Shepherd said. “You only do what you can do, they had the offense today.”
Through the first two legs of the race, Piketon sat in second after Zach Farmer and Kane Dixon set a blazing pace. But as the race progressed, the Redstreaks began to fade. Shepherd credited the fast field to good weather conditions and late substitutions.
“You come in expecting fourth place to be 8:10, and today fourth place was eight flat,” he said. “You don’t really expect that kind of jump.”
However, Dixon and Farmer’s seasons aren’t over. Dixon will run in the 800, and Farmer will compete in the 1600 on Saturday.
Gilmour Academy (Gates Woods) (7:55.50), Maplewood and Tuscarawas Central Catholic rounded out the top three in the 4x800.
Competing in his first state championship meet, Piketon freshman Timothy Trawick placed 11 in the Division III High Jump Finals, clearing a height of 6’2.” Trawick nearly cleared 6’3” on his third attempt, but he touched the bar just enough to make it fall to the ground.
Trawick, who cleared 6’4” in the district and regional meet, seemed tenative in his jumps, stutter-stepping a bit as he went into his spring.
“I’m not disappointed at all. He’s had a great year,” Shepherd. “He’s not finished growing or developing by any means.”
An SVC and District champion, Trawick was the only freshman in the field on Friday. Brandon Adkins of Dawson-Bryant took home the crown after he cleared 6’8.”
In the Division II boys 4x200, the Portsmouth Trojans team of Terrill Lattimore, Darion Robinson, Darray Richardson and Alex Dickerson reset the school record with a time of 1:30.64. They finished 11th overall in the prelimnaries.
Though they won’t be moving on to the finals tomorrow, coach Chuck Burke was thrilled with his team’s performance.
“We just reset [the record] four times in a row,” Burke said. “It’s a credit to these guys and the work they put in.”
The four have only been running together for a little over a month. Robinson spent the majority of the season rehabbing an ACL injury he suffered during the football season, the second such surgery he’s had in two years.
“This feels great,” Robinson said. “It makes me feel motivated that I can come back from those injuries and still do the things I can do on the track.”
With the entire team being sophomores and juniors, it’s within reason that the Trojans will find themselves in Columbus at this time next year.
“I think we’re going to get that record again for sure next year,” Dickerson said.
The odds were already stacked against Chris McCallister, considering he was slotted in lane eight in the Division II boys 200-meter preliminaries. But after a slight stumble out of the blocks, McCallister couldn’t recover.
“It wasn’t my greatest run. I still ran a pretty decent time, but it was a little slower than I usually run,” he said.
McCallister finished in eighth place in his heat with a time of 22.85 seconds. Marquee Montgomery of Benedictine led all runners with a time of 21.39 seconds.
McCallister was the only runner competing for the Falcons from their SOC-champion squad.
“I wouldn’t be here without my teammates,” McCallister said. “They give me the boost I need, helping me in practice and pushing me.”
As a junior, McCallister hopes that his teammates will help continue to push him to another state appearance next year. But he know’s he’ll have to add some pounds to his slender frame.
“Lift. A lot,” McCallister said when asked what he’ll be working on in the off-season. “I want to work as hard as I did this year.”
Alex Hider can be reached at 353-3101, ext 294, or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter