For the West Holmes Knights boys track team, the 2018 Muskingum regional was all about one thing: making a statement.
The 4-by-200 team made one with an impressive showing in their race, placing third in a fast heat that was led by a talented Steubenville team. Brayden Chaney made one when he blew away the field in the 400. Finally, in the day’s final contest, the 4-by-400 team made one by roaring to victory to cap off what was a great day for West Holmes track.
Although West Holmes didn’t have a lot of athletes competing at the regional on Saturday, May 26 at Muskingum University, they carved out an impressive sixth-place finish on the heels of their district championship.
The Knights record-setting 4-by-200 relay team didn’t have a winning time, but Michael Taylor, Brady Taylor, Jonathan Kandel and Chaney did reel off a 1:29.47, good enough to lower the school mark they set earlier this season and good enough for a third-place finish that easily moved them on to the state meet.
That set the stage for Chaney to do his thing. The All-Ohioan who placed fifth in last year’s state meet in the 400 started slowly, probably causing concern or glee for the rooting interests, depending on whom was rooting.
However, anyone who has seen Chaney run this season simply sat back and waited for him to crank it up a couple of gears, which he did as he passed the 200-meter mark. Chaney went storming past six other competitors, rounded the corner for the final 100 meters and simply left everyone else in the dust. His time of 48.16 was not far off the regional record of 47.95, a time Chaney was well aware of.
“That was a personal PR for me, but I was honestly looking at that meet record the whole time,” Chaney said. “I really wanted to break that, but it was a really good run for me.”
Chaney left little doubt as he simply pulled away from everyone down the home stretch, and he once again put on a show for the crowd in displaying his incredible talent and dazzling closing speed.
Last season Chaney was thrown into the 400 late in the season and went on a rampage, closing out the year as an All-Ohioan with a fifth-place finish. Even then, however, Chaney wasn’t satisfied. This year he is looking for something bigger … much bigger.
“I don’t want fifth again or fourth or third or second,” Chaney said. “The competition at state is always good. It’s the best, but I am looking to be the best.”
Chaney said his improvement has been incredible with the experience he has gained, and he said this race was a statement that he means business.
“You can’t expect to go out and win a state title by finishing second at the regional, and blowing everybody out at the regional meet is just as important as winning it when you’re trying to set a tone,” he said.
As far as the running events, the Knights’ boys were left with one more performance, the 4-by-400 team that has been a highlight reel all season long.
The Knights’ quartet of Michael Taylor, Kandel, Travett Boughman and Chaney had run well in the qualifier, placing second behind Warren in a time of 3:26.64. That was a sensational time for the Knights, who were about to blow the lid completely off their own school record in the finals.
While Warren improved its prelim time by 0.8 seconds, the Knights put together a ridiculous run of 3:22.65, just one second off of the regional record.
“We knew we had something like that in us. We just had to put our minds to it and go out and do it,” Michael Taylor said. “We knew coming into the finals that the other team was a half-second faster than we were in qualifying, so we felt like we had to run our best to beat them.”
Michael Taylor, one of two seniors in the quartet of Knights, set the stage early with his great first leg, which put West Holmes in front. Once they got the baton to Chaney, the other senior, it was all but over as the All-Ohioan in the 400 pulled away from the field.
“During the race I don’t think any of us realized what kind of time we were posting, but when I watched Brayden cross that finish line with that big of a lead, I knew we had done something pretty special,” Michael Taylor said.
Senior Grady Hay did everything he could to join the squad heading to state. The talented pole vaulter capped off his great career by setting his PR at 13 feet, 4 inches, but in a talented pool of athletes, not even that big mark was good enough to move him on. He placed fifth, earning a podium spot, but fell one jump shy of moving on.
While Jacob Goudy nearly cleared 6 feet in the high jump on two of his three attempts, he dropped out there, but that was good enough to grab a spot on the podium, where he tied for eighth.
Meanwhile, freshman Lane Graham was gaining valuable experience in the shot, where he competed with the big boys. After PRing at the conference meet and again at districts, Graham’s best throw was 46-07.75, leaving him in 12th place.
Despite not moving on, Graham said the experience of throwing at regionals was worth it. Graham was the middle school runner-up in the shot last season, and he said those same feelings he felt at state last year came shining through again at regionals.
“I felt the same feelings I had then,” Graham said. “You come in, and you’re feeling nervous. Everyone is feeling nervous. You’ve just got to get in there and do what you know to do. I’ve learned a lot this year, thanks to coach Goudy and these upperclassmen, and this was good experience for me. I made it to regionals this year, so I guess next year it’s state.”
Michael Taylor was on the precipice of a state-qualifying long jump effort, needing to simply match his season’s best, but Taylor said he never got his steps right and cleared just 20 feet, 3 inches, which left him in 10th place.
Senior Ethan Kinsey finished his career by placing 11th in the 300-meter hurdles, running a time of 42.44.
The Lady Knights, who placed 17th out of 39 teams, found some success as well, sending two athletes on to the state level.
The first was an old familiar state competitor in senior Madison Kandel, who qualified for the big show for the third time in her illustrious career. Her toss of 37-08.5 was good enough for a fourth-place finish, allowing her to snag the final qualifying spot to advance to state.
However, her weekend ended with some disappointment in the discus. Kandel came in boasting the second longest throw in the seeding but had a sub-par day, and her best throw of 110-11 was nearly 18 feet off of her best throw, placed her sixth, giving her a podium medal, but it proved to be shy of what she needed to advance.
Freshman Katie Sprang also darted her way to state by chasing down second place in the 800 meters. She led the whole way only to get nipped at the wire, but she looked strong in placing second.
In the long jump sophomore Kaylin Martin was in the conversation to move on to state, qualifying for the finals. She ended up placing eighth and taking the final podium spot with her jump of 16-00.5.
“This feels great. I love it,” Martin said of her first appearance at regionals. “It’s very nerve-racking though. These nerves, they build up and you kind of try to tuck them away and do your best. My goal coming in was to get on the podium for my first time here, and I did that.”