After knocking heads with a ton of larger schools all season long, Garaway track and field coach Zach Mottice felt that his girls team had a legitimate shot at capturing a district title.
It turned out that he was one-tenth of a second away from being absolutely correct.
With the Lady Pirates knocking heads with Malvern throughout the two-day district meet at St. Clairsville, it all boiled down to the meet’s final event, the 4-by-400, where Garaway needed a second-place finish after the Hornets were pretty much locked into fifth place in that event.
While Tuscarawas Central Catholic won the 4-by-400 in 4:15.86, it was Steubenville Catholic’s time of 4:16.60 that kept the title away from Garaway. The Lady P’s team of Carly Jacobs, Mattie Walter, Haley Shutt and Sara Beachy posted a time of 4:16.70, getting edged out at the wire, and that allowed Malvern to capture the team crown with 97 points, Garaway racking up 95 to finish runner-up. That one-tenth of a second difference would have allowed Garaway to gain those precious two points to tie Malvern.
That didn’t stop Mottice from heaping praise on his team.
“The girls have gotten better through this whole process, and our 4-by-400 team actually ran a five-second PR, so it wasn’t like they struggled to the finish,” Mottice said. “They ran great. It just wasn’t quite enough to get us to second, and that is the way track is. We had a ton of really great performances all day in both the boys and the girls, but our girls are in a position to compete at the regional level, which is something we haven’t had the past several years.”
Mottice’s Lady Pirates had won five consecutive district crowns coming into this season, and the two-point loss to the Hornets gave Mottice a reason to celebrate, not just his team but Malvern’s as well.
“It took the best team Malvern has ever had in track and field to beat us,” Mottice said. “They have a chance to be in the top three in the state in Div. III. They are that good. While I would want nothing more than for our girls to win a district championship, I am thrilled for Malvern. That’s a team that doesn’t even have a track, so I feel great for that program. I simply couldn’t ask for anything else from our kids.”
The Pirates will advance 21 athletes to the regional meet, and out of that group, there are just three seniors. Garaway Senior Jocelyn Troyer continued to surge late in the season. She captured the district title in the 3200 by cranking out a 12:06.77, more than 20 full seconds ahead of the field.
“Joc ran a really nice race. She was probably 200 meters ahead much of the race,” Mottice said of his senior. “She has worked hard to put herself in a position to make it to state.”
Carly Jacobs continued to dominate the 300-meter hurdles, where she won again in 45-08 in a race in which she was not challenged. In the 100-meter hurdles, the All-Ohioan Jacobs got upended by champion Alexis Prater of Ridgewood, who fired off a winning time of 14.86, compared to Jacobs’ runner-up time of 15.23. Those two ran away from the field.
“Carly is healthy, and she has again put herself in position to finish really high in the state in both events,” Mottice said.
Helena Immel and Lauren Goehring ran well together in the 800, where they finished second and third, respectively, in 2:33.54 and 2:38.35. Caldwell’s Lauren Frye was able to sneak past Immel in a winning time of 2:32.89.
“Helena has worked really hard this season and has gotten a lot better as the season went along,” Motttice said.
The girls 4-by-800 team of Immel, Lauren Goehring, Lindsay Goehring and Miller also made an easy time of things by posting a time of 10:42.56, nearly half a minute ahead of runner-up Shadyside.
The field events were buoyed by senior Makayla Miller, who placed second in the shot with a regional-qualifying toss of 35-02, only finishing behind winner Kelsi Hulit of Malvern, who threw a 38-07. Miller tacked on a seventh-place finish in the discus at 96-04. Emma Warkall moved on to regionals in the pole vault with a third-place finish by clearing 9-00.
Sara Beachy was able to chip in a pair of points by taking seventh in the high jump. Katarina Weaver just missed scoring by placing ninth in the long jump with an effort of 13-04.
In the relays the girls roared to third in the 4-by-400, took seventh in the 4-by-100 and wrapped up eight points by claiming the runner-up spot in the 4-by-200 with Jacobs, Ashton Gerber, Maddie Walter and Beachy.
“We didn’t have a great IVC meet, so it was nice to see us respond the way we did at districts,” Mottice said. “I felt that we had a shot at another title despite being young. We exceeded our point total that we expected, and our boys did a fantastic job in earning third place too.”
On the guys side of the ledger, the Pirates placed a strong third in the 19-team field, earning 58.5 points. Buckeye Trail won with 86, followed by Steubenville Central Catholic at 68. Shenandoah took fourth at 55 while Hiland was fifth with 52. Kyle Dunn also got close to a regional berth with a sixth-place finish in the long jump, where he went 18-06.
Junior Julian Shrock continued his fine campaign with a run of 9:59.54 in the 3200, where he was able to pull away from runner-up Colin Brown of Steubenville C.C. down the stretch to win by three seconds.
“Julian has been as steady as anyone we’ve had this season,” Mottice said of the junior distance runner. “His times have him right in the mix for a top-eight finish at state.”
The Garaway boys 4-by-200 team of Andrew West, Collin Hochstetler, Ethan Miller and Connor Angel ripped to a runner-up finish and will be competing for a berth at state in the regional meet.
Sophomore Austin Miller put together a strong sixth-place finish in the discus with a throw of 123-06, missing the coveted fourth-place slot by less than 2 feet. He also placed seventh in the shot, where he chucked it 40-09.5, again less than 2 feet away from advancing.
Freshman Jaydon Miller surprised with a strong fourth-place finish by clearing 11-06 to qualify for regionals in pole vault. Matthew Beachy narrowly missed qualifying, placing fifth in the high jump. While in the 400, Hochstetler and West went seventh and eighth. Kristian Stocksdale placed sixth overall in the 3200. Daniel Mast qualified for the 16-runner finals of the 1600 but had to settle for a 10th-place finish.
“Our guys are going to get better and better over the next few years because we have an incredibly talented group coming up from middle school to join an already loaded group of young athletes at the varsity level,” Mottice said.
Among the middle school athletes to compete and excel at the OHSAA middle school state meet were Lonnie Weaver, who took second in the high jump and third in the long jump, and J.D. Young, who performed great in both the 100 and 200.
This season the OHSAA has altered its state-qualifying rules. It used to take a top-four effort to get out of regionals, but now if an athlete finished deeper than fourth but beats a qualifying time or distance from another region, they will be added into the state mix. Mottice said the new state format might allow a few more of his athletes to advance because he believes the Perry regional is as good as it gets in Div. III competition in the state.
“We think that could really come into play for us,” Mottice said. “If it’s truly about the kids, then this rule is a good one because it rewards kids who deserve to be at state.”