After finishing fifth in the 3200 in the Perry Div. III regional track and field meet, it appeared as though Garaway star distance runner Jocelyn Miller’s career had come to an end. The highly decorated runner who is bound for Malone University next season missed the automatic state berth by one spot.
However, the new change in rules for the OHSAA this year that allows a pair of runners to advance if their time is better than a top-four qualifier from another regional came into play when Miller’s time was better than every single one of the top-four runners at the Tiffin regional.
Having to play the waiting game left Miller in the position of the unknown, meaning she had to grind out that waiting period until all of the other regionals had reported their times. It turned out that while her time did beat some qualifying times, it was not among the top two, leaving her on the outside looking in.
“We did some looking beforehand at all of the different regional times, and we felt like this kind of a time might actually be able to get me there if I didn’t make top four here,” Miller said.
While it was disappointing, Miller, as always, chose to be optimistic as she looked back on her career as one of Garaway’s all-time greats.
“It feels really good,” Miller said of being among the elite. “I am so thankful for my experience here at Garaway. It has helped me become the person I am today, and I am excited about the next step in my career. My time here has definitely prepared me for that next step.”
Miller did enjoy the opportunity to once again stand tall on the podium and add to her impressive collection of medals.
In the pole vault, Emma Warkall had high hopes of setting a PR and advancing to state, but she fell just shy of that outcome, instead having to settle for a spot on the podium.
“It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for today. That’s for sure, but I am still very thankful to be on the podium at regionals,” Warkall said. “There were a lot of us tied to go to fourth place, so I know I was close, but just finally getting here and being able to compete was a thrill for me since I had not had really good district performances coming into this year. This makes me even more excited to get to the next level and to work hard for next year.”
Just like last year, Carly Jacobs qualified for state with a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles and then roared to victory in the 300-meter hurdles. That came as no surprise to anyone.
The girls 4-by-800 team of Helena Immel, Lauren Goehring, Lindsey Goehring and Jocelyn Miller ended up taking 12th place while the 4-by-200 team of Jacobs, Ashton Gerber, Mattie Walter and Sara Beachy fell into the dreaded spot of ninth, one place away from a podium finish. The quartet of Jacobs, Walter, Haley Shutt and Sara Beachy turned in a 4:25.21 to take 13th in the 4-by-400 relay while Immel and Lauren Goehring placed 12th and 13th in the 800.
The boys 4-by-200 team of Colin Hochstetler, Andrew West, Ethan Miller and Connar Angel placed 15th. Garaway’s 4-by-400 team of Hochstetler, West, Angel and Dillon Thomas added a 13th-place finish. All but Hochstetler will return for next season.
Garaway head coach Zach Mottice said his team’s effort at regionals was not what they had dreamed of, but his youthful group performed admirably, and he will take the results. He will bid adieu to a quartet of talented seniors who saw their last action in sprinter Haley Shutt, thrower Makayla Miller, and distance runners Lindsay Goehring and Jocelyn Miller, who all ended their careers with regional efforts.
“I thought all of those seniors gave their all, and they have all been exemplary leaders throughout their careers here,” Mottice said. “Jocelyn leaves here as one of our most decorated distance runners in both boys and girls, and all of them are great examples of being quality kids and quality leaders. We will miss them all a lot. All of them have exhibited a real work ethic.”
Mottice thought that junior Julian Shrock had a nice chance to advance in the 3200, but the sub-10-minute runner seemed to struggle a bit with the heat and finished in 10:19, good enough to grab the eighth and final spot on the podium.
“Julian has had a lot of success in cross country, and he has really prepared hard for this moment,” Mottice said moments before the regional starting gun for the 3200. “The race and this moment isn’t too big for him, and he has been another one of our kids who has developed into a great leader because of the impressive people he had to learn from in his earlier years.”
Mottice said the entire program was on the upswing with a number of middle school eighth-graders set to join the ranks alongside some already talented varsity competitors who will return next season.
“We brought 21 kids to regionals, and that is a lot of kids to bring to this level,” Mottice said. “We didn’t advance as many as we had hoped, but the future is very bright, and the more kids we can get to this level, it plants the seed for the future.”