East Canton senior Josh Conrad could start a hardware store with all of the hardware he has accumulated over the past three seasons at the Div. III state track meet in Columbus.
It started his sophomore year in 2016 when he was a member of the East Canton 4-by-400 team that took silver, after having placed second in the 800.
Then came last year when his team dominated, won a state title and he collected four more medals, again finishing second in the 800 while the Hornets won the 4-by-800 relay and the 4-by-400 relay. He also placed fifth in the high jump.
In this year’s Div. II state track and field meet, Conrad capped off his stellar career in style, garnering five more medals including a second straight team title, and now with all of the hardware he has collected, Conrad’s list of accomplishments is quite impressive.
For a young man headed to Walsh University to compete next season, one could almost say that Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus is his home away from home.
Conrad kicked off the festivities at this year’s state meet by joining teammates Colt Hemphill, Demetrius Snellenberger and Kyeem Newell-Owens on the second tier of the podium for the 4-by-800 relay.
The Hornets rolled to second place behind champion Worthington Christian by running a 7:54.49 to WC’s 7:50.92.
Conrad then cleared 6-06 in the high jump on day one to secure fourth place there. He then turned his attention to the 800, a race in which he has finished runner-up in successive years. He was fairly bent on making sure that didn’t happen again this year.
Conrad poured it on as he rounded the final turn and traversed the final 100 meters by pulling away from the field at an alarming rate. He crossed the finish line in 1:52.99, well ahead of runner-up Kyle Smith of Worthington Christian, who ran a 1:55.68.
The one gold that had eluded Conrad, the one thing he wanted more than anything else, was finally his.
“I was nervous all day coming in because I knew this was going to be my last race as an individual at East Canton, and I wanted it to be a great one,” Conrad said of the 800. “I’ve gotten second two years in a row, and I didn’t want that to be my legacy. I wanted to take home the gold, and I am really proud to do so because there are a great bunch of runners in this race.”
The placement gods did not do Conrad any favors by putting him in lane nine, the outside lane with huge turns on the giant track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. However, once Conrad settled in, he got into a nice rhythm and went to work.
Conrad said he was forced to break a little earlier than he wanted to, but no way was he going to let the lead pack slip away.
“The guys wanted to go, and they were breaking, and I was always taught to cover the break and come home hard down the stretch, and that is exactly what I did.”
When Conrad crossed the line with nobody in front of him, he pointed his left hand at the big board at the finish line that tells the story of the finishing order, then raised his arms skyward in jubilation and relief that the one race that he really wanted the most was now his.
That left only the 4-by-400 relay, the grand finale at each division’s state meet. By the time East Canton got to the 4-by-400, the Hornets had already locked up the team title. They were now running for just pride, but there was no way Conrad was going to let down his teammates who had given so much this season and in the race’s first three laps. One-by-one Hemphill, Newell-Owens and Nathaniel Suntheimer had handed off the baton and given their leader a leg up as he ran the final 400 meters of his illustrious career.
No way was the senior going to let his teammates down. He tore around the track, and he fended off Worthington Christian to secure the victory.
“I am so proud of this team. I am almost speechless,” Conrad said after the champs defended their turf in Div. III.
East Canton head coach Tom Loy called Conrad the straw that stirs the drink for the Hornets. Conrad said he really tries to get to know all of his teammates, especially investing himself in connecting with all of the members of the relays in which he is involved.
“I’m kind of like the big brother to all of these guys,” Conrad said. “As seniors, Mitch Mitchell, Joel Berger and I have the responsibility to lead. I have the experience, but at the end of the day, coach Loy is the best coach out there. He is the engine of the whole machine, and we are so happy to have him.”