PICKERINGTON — Landen Smith and Josh Shope, simply put, went all out — and went the distance — for the Mohawks on Saturday.
That’s because the senior standouts Smith and Shope, the top two distance runners for the Northwest boys, cemented officially their legacies in their final high school races as part of the state track and field meet— as they both placed in the top four and earned all-Ohio honors one last time as part of their respective runs.
On the heels of their historic Division II state runner-up 4x800m relay run from Friday, Smith repeated as a state runner-up on Saturday —only this time on an individual basis in the 1,600m run, and by a razor-thin oh-so-close to a state championship three one-hundredths of a second.
Shope, meanwhile, muscled his way all the way to a fourth-place performance in the 800m run, as both Mohawks made all-Ohio honors for the second and final time in 2021.
The duo tag-teamed with senior Gabe Morrell and junior Mason Breech in that Friday 4×800 — as Woodridge put together a fiery 1:53 anchor leg to rally and claim the state title in 7:52.40.
As a result, and speaking of ‘21, the Mohawks hit for that many points as a team —placing sixth overall out of 78 squads which scored 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.
Indeed, inside sunsoaked but jammed-to-capacity Pickerington North High School’s stadium, Smith and Shope —the Region 7 champions in their respective races —withstood the heat and humidity from the blazing sun above, and blazed a trail for future Mohawks in years to come.
Smith, spent completely from Friday’s two laps in his anchor-leg run of the 4x800m relay which warp-sped the track and shattered the school record in that event in 7:54.12, successfully recharged and regrouped —and crafted a superb four-minute and 19-second state runner-up mile.
The only individual ahead of him — junior Drennan Akins of Cuyahoga Falls CVCA in 4:19.72.
Smith’s time to the hundredths of a second: 4:19.75.
Yeah, it was a photo finish for sure.
“I don’t think it gets much tougher than what Landen went through. He executed the perfect race, but unfortunately he fell one step short. Moments like that will define his career,” said Northwest’s outgoing assistant coach Adam Schroeder, who worked exclusively with the distance runners. “Hopefully, he remembers it and uses it as motivation to have a great college career.”
He actually enjoyed an incredible high school career first —as the Shawnee State University-prized signee will go down as arguably the most decorated runner in Scioto County history.
Smith, Shope and Morrell also advanced twice (2018 and 2019) together in the 4x800m to the outdoor state meet, as their sophomore seasons saw that trio —along with Chase McClay —capture seventh-place and all-Ohio accolades in 8:04.
Smith was also a two-time all-Ohioan in cross country —placing 11th at that state championship meet as a junior, before moving up to crossing the line in sixth place in Division II as a senior.
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.
Shope broke that mark with a two-lap dash of 1:56.62 —trailing only third-place Andrew Biggs of Poland Seminary (1:56.12), runner-up Ricky Marsico of Girard (1:55.36), and state champion Zayd Elkurd of Woodridge (1:55.23).
Hence, less than two full seconds separated Shope from standing atop the Pickerington North medals stand.
“Josh was so happy to get on the podium, and the fourth-best in the state is a testament to how good he has been all year,” said Schroeder.
Like Shope for the Mohawks, Elkurd ran a leg of Woodridge’s winning 4x800m relay unit.
And speaking of tandems, Smith and Shope will arguably go down as the best 1-2 senior-class running punch in the history of Northwest High School.
“Those two are special kids and it’s pretty unreal to have two kids on one team that are that good. That group has changed the game forever at Northwest, and they will go down as two of the best to ever run,” said Schroeder. “I don’t know what the future holds, but it will be almost impossible to find better athletes, teammates, students and young men than Landen Smith and Josh Shope.”
Breech also qualified for the 800m run, and finished 18th in 2:07.01.
Smith, following the one-mile, scratched from the two-mile run —which covers eight laps and 3,200m and which Smith finished fourth in at the regional.
A complete list of results from the Division II state meet can be found at www.baumspage.com.
Besides Smith, Shope and the Marietta College-bound Morrell, Schroeder steps down — and moves away — back to his hometown area in Shelby.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved