What started out as weekend of high hopes for the Hiland Hawks track team at the Div. III district meet at Newcomerstown was quickly dashed in large part due to a pair of injuries that left two of their top runners on the sideline.
Both Isaiah Yoder and Matt Troyer had high hopes of moving on to the regional meet, but leg injuries left both of them wondering what might have been.
Yoder was consistently near the front of the pack when Hiland went to invitationals, running around 11.30 in the 100 and 23.30 in the 200, times that would have easily moved him into the regionals.
Troyer’s time in the 400 at the Chippewa Invite not long before the districts was a sparkling 51.2, a time that would have won the 400.
“Both of their times were well above what would have moved them on, and they would have been competing for titles,” Hiland coach Mark Fowler said of the two seniors.
Not only did they have to bow out of those two events, both are integral parts of the 4×200 and 4×400 teams, both of which had high hopes of moving on to regionals but didn’t.
“Not having them in those races took a huge toll,” Fowler said. “We probably lost 35 to 40 points by not having them run, and if they compete, we are probably competing for fourth place.”
But rather than dwell on what might have been, Fowler chose to rejoice in the Hawks who were moving on to the next level.
First was high jumper Declan Howell, who cleared 5-08 and went into a jump-off with Barnesville’s Justin Lucas. Lucas eventually won, but the second-place finish for Howell moved him on to regionals on a day in which he didn’t even perform at his best.
“That’s two regional appearances in a row for Declan (a sophomore), so it was exciting to see him move on again,” Fowler said. “He was far from his best. He can clear 6-01, and that is what it is going to take for him to move on, but he understands what he has to do, and having been there before is going to help him.”
Howell also came within one inch of moving on in the long jump. His effort of 18-05.75 left him in fifth place, just off the qualifying effort of 18-07.00 from Jeremy Hall of Shenandoah.
Howell will have the advantage of working with two-time state qualifier Collin Blochlinger, who has come on board to help mentor Howell.
Another near miss went to sophomore Brayden Gray, whose PR time of 43.28 in the 300-meter hurdles left him in fifth place. Gray was nipped at the finish line by Barnesville’s Tannor Burkhart’s 42.65.
“Finishing fifth as a sophomore is a great effort for Brayden,” Fowler said. “He is just starting to figure that race out, and I don’t think he realizes yet just how good he can be. He is really just touching the tip of the iceberg.”
Another disappointment for the Hawks belonged to senior Hunter Yoder, whose time of 4:48 coming into the 1600 was right on the cutting edge of a regional berth. However, Yoder ran a 4:56.13, placing him 10th in the race. A time of 4:49.09 got out.
Over on the girls side of the meet, Hiland’s 4×400 team of Isabelle Fowler, Brooke Miller, Nikki Yoder and Melissa Hostetler celebrated a chance to run again at regionals. Their time of 4:24.75 was three seconds under their PR for the year, and they were not far out of second place.
Coach Fowler said the group is consistently improving every time out.
“Two weeks ago their fastest time of the season was 4:38,” coach Fowler said. “Then at the IVC they dropped to 4:33, and in qualifying Tuesday at districts, they ran a 4:28. Now a 4:24, their goal is a 4:16, and they firmly believe that each one of them can still run a 1:04, which would put them right at the edge of qualifying for state. There is a lot of growth and belief in what they are doing right now, so I am not putting anything past them.”
Fowler added that what makes this foursome better is that they aren’t pushed by personal times, but rather they run harder because they want to do well for their teammates.
“They run better for the team than they do for themselves,” coach Fowler said. “They are very unselfish, and it is all about the team for them. They don’t want to let their teammates down, and that is what pushes them.”