Over the past decade, the sport of track and field has experienced something of a renaissance across the country.
That fact is no different in Southeastern Ohio, where state qualifiers — and even state champions — have torn up track and field events all across the region and the state.
For the second consecutive year, Scioto County produced a state champion. This time, however, it was in the Division III realm, as Portsmouth’s Lynsey Shipley followed up Ellie Ruby’s state-winning efforts in the Division II long jump with her own title-winning mark in the 400 meter dash.
For Shipley, putting together the state-winning time of 56.28 was something that the junior says she couldn’t have done without the support of her family, friends, and coaches, which include Portsmouth girls track head coach Arthur Lard and assistant coach Pam Cartee.
“It was amazing,” Shipley said. “They are always supportive of me, and I’m glad that I have them.”
Shipley, who qualified for the Division III, Region 11 Championships in four different events — the 100, 200, and 400 meter dashes and the long jump, was simply stellar in all four events during the two-day meet in Lancaster, as the Portsmouth hand finished in the top six in each of the events that she participated in. Shipley qualified for the state meet with her meet-winning time of 57.45 in the 400 meter dash, and added on a 16 feet, eight inch jump in the long jump to qualify for the Division III State Championships with a second place showing in that event, as well.
“Long jump is really the event where I feel like I’ve made the most dramatic improvement in,” Shipley said. “I jumped 16 feet, 10 inches last year, but I’d routinely jump about 15 feet in meets last year. This year, (Arthur) Lard has worked with me a lot more, and it’s paid off. I started jumping 16 feet at the beginning of the year, and then began to clear 17 feet as I went on through the year. As far as the 400 meters are concerned, he just knows what I do, so he just lets me do that on my own. He just tells me to go out there and run my race.”
Those performances, along with two sixth-place finishes in the 100 meter dash (12.60) and the 200 meter dash (26.11) allowed the Trojans to finish 11th in the regional meet with 24 points — an amazing accomplishment considering that Shipley was the only member of the girls squad to even qualify for the Division III, Region 11 Meet.
But those performances, on their own, weren’t going to satisfy the standout track athlete for Portsmouth.
With the 2016 Division III 400 Meter Dash Champion in Micah Johnston having departed due to graduation, Shipley knew that the door was open for her to take over the reigns as the queen of the 400 meters. So that became her goal.
“In the 400 meters, I knew I could finish in the top three,” Shipley said. “Last year, I got second, and (defending state champion Micah Johnston of Toledo Christian) graduated, so I thought that there was a possibility that I could obtain first place. I was determined to win the state title. As far as long jump was concerned, I just wanted to do better, and I did that, too.”
Shipley certainly made that goal a real possibility in the 400 meters, when the junior ran a 57.50 to put herself squarely in the race amongst the state’s elite. But when Archbold sophomore Dakota Stamm ran a faster time with her mark of 57.33, the sophomore knew that she was going to have to dig deep in order to take home the ultimate prize.
“In the 400 prelims, I felt that I did good, and I was happy with my time, but I saw that Dakota (Stamm, Archbold sophomore) ran a faster time than I did (57.33 to 57.50) and I said, “OK, I really have to get it (on Saturday).” She’s a really good competitor. She really pushed me.”
But as true champions have before, Shipley found a way over the last 100 meters of the race. The junior, who proved to be neck-and-neck with Stamm for most of the distance, powered on ahead and, as a result, took home the crown with her new personal-best time of 56.28 — besting second-place Stamm by nearly five-tenths of a second.
“In those final 100 meters, I just put everything that I had into it, and not only got the state championship, but a new PR at 56.28.”
Shipley, however, nearly took home two state crowns.
After collecting a victory in the 400 meter dash, the junior nearly did the same in the long jump by clearing 17 feet, two inches on her second jump and then bumping up the mark to a monstrous 17 feet, 10 inches to solidify a third-place standing.
On the sixth and final jump of the event, Shipley tried to jump — and nearly cleared — the 18 feet, two inch mark, which would’ve given the junior two state titles in one day. Her final jump, however, was ruled foul, and as a result, Loudonville’s Emily Weber came home with first-place honors by jumping 18 feet, 1.5 inches to take home the crown.
Still, Shipley’s spirits weren’t dampened.
“I was so excited about how I did in the long jump,” Shipley said. “To jump up from sixth last year to third place this year, and jump over 17 feet on the second and fourth attempts, was thrilling to me.”
With her junior year in the books, the area standout now will officially hold a name that is recognized by many across the state.
But like many true champions before her, Shipley isn’t backing down. Her goal — which is to place among the top three finishers in Division III in the 100, 200, 400, and the long jump — is a real possibility, and is one that could lift Portsmouth to a state title in girls track.
“I hope to go to state in all four events (the 100, 200, 400, and long jump) and place in the top three in all four of them.”
FAMILY AFFAIR: KING PLACES SIXTH IN HIGH JUMP
For most state qualifiers, just making it to state is a special accomplishment in and of itself.
However, Clay standout Cameron King not only qualified for state, but did so with his Dad, Arnold, coaching him. The senior standout — who earned Division IV Co-Southeast District Player of the Year honors in basketball — certainly made his father proud with his sixth-place finish amongst all comers in the Division III high jump, which just adds to the list of what the esteemed athlete has accomplished over the years.
“It meant a lot to me (to place in the top eight at state),” King said. “I’ve been competing in track since my eighth-grade year, and I’ve always worked hard to become the best athlete that I can be. Every kid’s dream is to go to state, so I was lucky that I had the opportunity to go and place. It was a lot of fun.”
For most athletes who play under their fathers, learning under the direction of their elder can be tough. However, King actually believes that the experience was beneficial for their relationship — both inside and outside of the track lines.
“It helps with our overall relationship,” King said. “We do bash heads sometimes, but I know what he wants and expects from me, and in the end, it always ends up working out. With your father as the track coach, it doesn’t end after meets. Every day and night, we’re always working on what I can do better and how I can improve.”
After averaging 18.1 points per contest, eclipsing the 1,000-point mark, and leading Clay to its first Division IV District Championship and Division IV Regional Final appearance since 1969, King continued that success directly into track, where the 5-10 standout jumped six feet, four inches in the Division III Southeast District Meet and six feet, three inches in the Division III, Region 11 Championships to finish second in both events en route to advancing to state competition. On both occasions, only Timothy Trawick — the eventual state champion in the Division III high jump — bested King’s marks.
“I was lucky to have a really good year,” King said. “With basketball, there’s the list of awards and accomplishments that we all obtained, both as individuals and as a team, and then, to top that all off with ending my senior year by making it to the state track meet, it was just an incredible opportunity and feeling. I really enjoyed it.”
There, King got to spend quality time with his mentor and one of his loved ones by spending the night up in Columbus with his father. The next day, King proceeded to set an excellent standard for Clay athletes to follow by clearing six feet, three inches in the state meet to tie Kirtland’s Max Janas for sixth place in the high jump.
“We went up the day before (on June 1) and spent the night at the hotel,” King said. “It was a great time and such an amazing experience to have with my track coach and my father. It was really an amazing feeling, and it was really overwhelming when we finished it up (on June 2). I was so glad that I could experience that moment with my Dad.”
As special as the accomplishment was, the multi-sport standout made it moreso by completing his jump through simple eye coordination, as opposed to measuring his jumps by steps like many high jumpers do.
“I did it with my eyes,” King said. “For me to do it without using steps was really something special. It actually made things easier because I didn’t have to worry about the steps, so I could just focus on be consistent.”
With his senior season in the books, King, along with fellow multi-sport standouts Cole Gilliland, Nate Hinze, and Brody Riffe, all leave behind a legacy that will make them four of the most acclaimed student-athletes in the school’s history — a pretty special accomplishment for the Class of 2017 to have ownership of.
“All my teammates in basketball and track became really close friends,” King said. “I consider them all family. They know that I have their backs and I know that they have my back. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to have such tight bonds with my teammates.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7