COLUMBUS - Every one of the athletes that competed in this weekend's Division III State Track Meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus was told to go for the gold. For a select few on Saturday, the dream came true.
Most, however, walked away with a valuable experience both in their lives, and athletic careers.
None of the athletes from the SOC came home with gold, but several came close. Courtnie Merritt of Valley made an impression in her third trip to state. The junior reached the podium in both the long and high jumps. With a jump of 5-4, Merritt was literally one inch away from a state title.
Despite taking the silver, Merritt sounded like a seasoned pro at the state meet.
“I didn't jump very well today,” said Merritt. “It was just the normal pressure that's normally on you - at state.”
In the long jump the Lady Indian jumper leapt 16-10.25 to secure sixth place in some unfavorable conditions.
“It was nasty, rainy and miserable, but I had fun,” said Merritt. “I didn't jump my best but it was good enough to get on the podium.”
Merritt added that she was happy to see a few of her teammates also made it to state.
Valley's Aaron Crabtree and Beth Martin, both seniors, spent their Saturday across the street from the stadium at the throwing pits where Crabtree threw a personal best 163-03 to take third place in the state in the discus. It was a unique situation for Crabtree.
For most seniors competing in the discus throw on Saturday, it was the last time they would throw at Ohio State.
Crabtree, on the other hand, will have many more throws as a member of the Buckeye track team next year.
“It's pretty special to know you get to come to this place and throw many more times,” said Crabtree. “I felt relaxed and I tried to go smooth on my throw. The main thing on my mind was ‘I have nothing to lose. This is my last high school meet.'”
Crabtree also competed in the shot put and failed to place, finishing ninth.
Martin also failed to place in the discus but was happy with the chance to compete at the highest level, even if it wasn't exactly what she was shooting for.
“I think I did pretty good,” said Martin. “I think I could have done better. I wanted the school record, which was 110 so I was only a foot away at regionals.”
Martin was two feet off the record Saturday with a distance of 108.
While the highest placements of the day came from Lucasville, the Indians weren't alone at state. South Webster put two on the podium in Josh Linkous and Kayla Cook.
Linkous, who placed eighth in the Division III Boys 3200m run last year as a junior was looking to improve on his placement and did just that. Linkous finished with a time of 9:38.99, good enough for the sixth spot on the podium.
“I felt pretty good overall,” said Linkous. “I got pretty tired the last mile. I wanted to do better. Ever since I got to high school I wanted to get a first place at state. I wish I would've been faster.”
Though Linkous' high school career is over, he will continue to run cross country at Shawnee State University along with Michael Owen of Eastern Meigs who finished ninth in the event.
Also for South Webster the freshman Cook wrapped up an impressive freshman year athletically with an eighth place finish in the Division III Girls 1600m run with a time of 5:11.14. Cook was All-Ohio in cross country, led the Lady Jeeps basketball squad to the regional tourney and delivered with another medal on Saturday.
“It felt great being a freshman and going to state and making the podium,” said Cook. “I've had an awesome year.”
Cook also ran in the 3200m run and finished 10th despite dropping as low as 14th after three laps.
Cook wasn't the only local freshman running in the 1600. Wheelersburg's Sarah Ruggles finished 15th with a time of 5:28.19. Ruggles was 1.26 seconds slower than her qualifying time at regionals.
Wheelersburg and Notre Dame were the only schools with just one athlete at state for the SOC and for the Titans it was sophomore Justin Kammler. Kammler, running in his first state championship finished last in the 1600m run after being edged by a Waterford runner by .55 seconds.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com