SCIOTO COUNTY — On any given day, and in any given event, it can indeed be any individual or team’s time to shine.
This weekend, on Friday and Saturday to be exact, some Scioto County track and field standouts have that opportunity —at long last it seems like —on the statewide stage.
That’s because four Northwest Mohawk men, three Wheelersburg Lady Pirates, two Valley boys throwers, and Northwest girls star Haidyn Wamsley will make up the 10-person county contingent to this season’s state track and field meet —which is set for Friday and Saturday and unfortunately not at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Indeed, because of the previous uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus threat, the spectacular OSU-based facility is not hosting the state meet for the second consecutive June — as the Ohio High School Athletic Association unfortunately cancelled the 2020 spring sports seasons.
The alternative playing out is three host state sites, including the Division II meet at Pickerington North and the Division III meet at Westerville North.
Northwest and Wheelersburg will compete in Division II while Valley’s throwing duo — senior Ryan Benjamin in the shot put AND discus throw and sophomore Justin Moore in the shot — are part of Division III.
But if you poll these Scioto County student-athletes, they are ecstatic about competing at a state meet —which was denied them exactly a year ago.
Indeed, their hard work will not go to waste.
“I am really excited about this opportunity, and it shows that all my hard work to get to this point pays off,” said Benjamin. “Last year, not having a season was a bummer. But I came back this year, worked hard on both events, feel like progressed in both events, and I am seeing the rewards for my hard work.”
Benjamin was the Region 11 runner-up and the Southeast District Division III champion in the shot put, as his personal record is 55 feet and seven and one-quarter inches, which he established in winning the district title.
He is chasing after Aaron Crabtree’s Valley High School shot put record, which has stood since 2007 — and at 56 feet and one inch.
In the discus, his PR is 152 feet and four inches, as he finished fourth in the regional meet — and thus double qualified for the state.
The top four in each event at the regional meet move on to the state meet, as the top eight in each event at the regional meet earn team points.
The top eight in each event at the state not only earn team points, but secure a place on the awards podium — plus take home all-Ohio accolades.
His teammate Moore, whose shot put PR is 53-5 and who threw 53 feet and four and one-half inches to place third at the regional, is also looking forward to the experience —on Friday and for the next two years.
“It means a lot to make the state. I’ve worked hard all year and almost every day with my throwing coach Rusty Smith. It’s been fun throwing with Ryan all season, and I can’t believe the state meet is here and it’s all over on Friday,” he said. “I want to go up there and PR and have fun and do my best to make it to the podium.”
Benjamin and Moore will throw in Friday’s first flight at 10 a.m., as the shot put —and Benjamin’s discus on Saturday at 10 a.m. —will consist of three preliminary throws, with the top nine individuals from the preliminaries returning for three more throws in the finals.
The top throw of six for each competitor is the one which counts towards his or her final standing.
The same holds true in the jumping events, as Wamsley —the 2019 Division II runner-up who cleared five feet and six inches that day —returns to the state in the girls high jump.
Wamsley, with a jump of 5-7 and 1-4 earlier this season, is the Northwest record-holder in the event.
Wamsley, along with Wheelersburg senior Maddie Gill, goes in the high jump on Friday at 10 a.m. —as the highest height cleared at any of the four regional meets was 5-6.
At the Region 7 meet at Southeastern, Wamsley and Gill both cleared 5-2 —as Wamsley was fourth and Gill fifth, as Gill gained a state spot thanks to the OHSAA’s creation of at-large selections for state events.
That’s how Wamsley and Odessa Smith of Morgan made the state in the girls long jump —as Smith was fifth and Wamsley sixth at Southeastern, having leapt 16 feet and three inches and 16 feet and two inches respectively.
But just like the high jump, it’s how one performs on any given day.
Wamsley, the Southeast District champion in the long jump, hit a 17-4 to capture the district title —as the top regional jump in all of Division II girls was 17-3 and 1-4.
The girls long jump takes place at Pickerington North on Saturday at 10 a.m., as Wamsley will be there for two days —starting on Friday in the high jump and then running the semifinals of the 100m hurdles with Wheelersburg’s Lauren Jolly.
The 100m hurdles is set for 2:30 p.m., as Jolly joins Gill and fellow Lady Pirate senior Justus Steward in competing on Friday.
Steward throws in the girls discus at 10 a.m. —the same time Wamsley and Gill go in the high jump.
Should Wamsley and/or Jolly advance to the 100m hurdles finals, they will come back in that event for the finals race at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“Our three seniors are excited to have the opportunity to compete on the highest level this weekend,” said Wheelersburg girls track and field head coach Tom Kaskey. “All three have worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity, and I know they will put forth their best effort.”
The actual opening running event on Friday is the 4x800m relay —which is set for 2:15 p.m. for the boys.
That begins a run on Northwest’s distance runners, which will include Landen Smith in the 1,600m and 3,200m runs — and Josh Shope and Mason Breech in the 800m run.
Smith (2:40 p.m. for 1,600m and 3:50 p.m. for 3,200m), Shope (3:35 p.m. for 800m) and Breech (3:35 p.m. for 800m) all run individually on Saturday, as seniors Smith and Shope were regional champions in the 1,600m and 800m runs respectively.
Smith actually had the sixth-fastest mile time (4:25.94) of the 18 individual qualifiers, while Shope also had the sixth-fastest time (1:57.67) of his 18-man 800m field.
But before Saturday’s races, the anchor leg Smith, Shope, the junior Breech and senior Gabe Morrell make up the Region 7 champion 4x800m unit.
That foursome runs its final race together on Friday at 2:15 p.m., and enters with the fourth-fastest regional time in a blazing eight minutes and two seconds.
The Mohawks, no doubt, are among the few favorites for the state championship in that event.
For departing Northwest assistant coach Adam Schroeder, who directs the distance runners and who coached the boys cross country program to back-to-back state meet appearances, he said to expect some podium performers from these four Mohawks.
“I was impressed that they (4x800m relay team) have the right mindset for state. They didn’t celebrate the (regional) win much, they went to work the next day because they know they have a chance to win state and that has been a big goal all year. If he (Smith) runs a smart race and reacts well to everyone’s move, I don’t think anyone can run a last 400m like him. He has a real chance to pull out a win in the mile. State will be a huge challenge as he (Shope) goes against the best, but he has the speed and endurance to put himself in the race. If he executes his race he can podium and maybe get pretty high on the podium,” said the coach. “Since their (Mohawks) freshmen year, we have met every Saturday morning to run a long run in the woods. When they had Driver’s Education, they met me at school at 5 in the morning to run before school. They have changed their lives to revolve around running, because they know that if you want to compete at the highest level, you have to have a commitment that most people will never truly understand.”
And, on any given day, and in this case on Friday and Saturday, it’s time for Scioto County’s 10 state track and field meet qualifiers to shine.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved