The West Holmes Lady Knights may be few, but they were quite mighty when staring down a bunch of teams much larger than they are at the Div. II West Holmes district track and field meet at West Holmes Stadium on Thursday, May 16 and Saturday, May 18.
West Holmes finished sixth out of 12 teams. While Tusky Valley ran to victory with 127.5 points to outdistance Indian Valley (113), Minerva (98.5), River View (94.5) and Lisbon Beaver (53.5), West Holmes’ nine athletes put together a solid day in minimum events, churning out 48 points to sneak past Claymont, Sandy Valley, Harrison Central, Richmond Edison, East Liverpool and Coshocton.
“When you bring in as few girls as we have and they do what they did today, it is just fabulous,” head coach Ty Harris said. “They did a great job all weekend long.”
The highlight of the day came in the 4-by-400 relay, where West Holmes may not have come into the weekend as the favorite but left as district champions.
The quartet of Kaylin Martin, Hannah Rohr, Brogan Steimel and Katie Sprang shocked some people by becoming the top qualifier on Thursday, but even Harris wondered if teams had held back some key components in qualifying.
That was answered Saturday when they not only repeated that winning time of 4:21, but also blew it out of the water with a winning time of 4:14.
“That’s a stunning time,” Harris said. “They ran great. They’ve just been getting better and better as the year goes on.”
Martin set the stage by giving West Holmes the early lead.
“That’s big because I feel like it gives us all more confidence,” Martin said of her nice edge through 400 meters.
Rohr got a big challenge from River View’s Alaina Seiler, who looked poised to go past her down the backstretch on lap two. Rohr was having none of that, however.
“I was just trying to get through it,” Rohr said with a laugh. “I saw Brogan and thought, ‘Let’s go.’”
She handed the baton to Steimel, who also got a challenge from Aliya Stevens of River View. Just like Rohr, she too withstood the challenge and let Sprang do what she does best. Sprang had to fend off a talented runner in River View’s Alicia Lonsinger, who drew to within a step around the final turn.
“I came in this year really excited about running this race and improving my time,” Steimel said. “It’s exciting to run a 4:14 because that means we are getting better at the right time of the year.”
Of Sprang, assistant coach Michael Ewing said, “Katie would probably chew somebody’s face off before she let them pass her.” It didn’t go to that length, but when Lonsinger looked ready to pounce, Sprang found another gear over the final 75 meters and pulled away to win in 4:14.91 to the Black Bears’ runner-up time of 4:15.44.
“At this level it is all about survive and advance, but I like winning,” Sprang said. “We are coming together, and we had some girls in the middle cut off huge time.”
The Tusky Valley girls set the stage for a winning weekend in the 4-by-800, where Hannah Wyler, Kat Geiser, Hannah Hostetler and Madi DeBos roared to victory.
In the 100-meter hurdles Tusky Valley got a third-place finish from Ashley Kinsey while Indian Valley’s Madylin McDaniel took second. River View’s Kelsey Hartsock claimed the 100-meter title, followed closely by Martin, whose time of 13.06 was two-tenths of a second behind Hartsock.
In the 4-by-200 River View took top honors while West Holmes’ team of Martin, Rohr, Megan Mellor and Maiah Geib finished sixth.
To no one’s surprise, DeBos won the 1600 meters in 5:10.11 while her teammate Hostetler placed third. The Trojans kept up their winning ways in the 4-by-100 relay, where they placed first ahead of Minerva and Claymont.
Lonsinger was edged out in the 400 meters, where she tore to second place in 1:00.38, behind only Minerva’s Kukunis, who won in 59.75. Ashley Kinsey of Tusky Valley and Indian Valley’s McDaniel ended up second and third in the 300-meter hurdles.
Two fierce competitors squared off in the 800 meters, where All-Ohio DeBos and Sprang went toe-to-toe. Sprang, who continues to hone her best event, having run it sparingly this year due to injury, kept pace throughout but had to settle for second in 2:22.46 compared to DeBos’ winning time of 2:22.00.
River View’s Kelsey Hartsock was able to fend off a stiff challenge from Indian Valley’s Kitanna Rakeshaw in the 200 meters while TV went one-two in the 3200 meters with DeBos and Williams.
Martin earned West Holmes good points in the long jump, where she placed second with a jump of 16-06.5, which was 2 inches behind Indian Valley’s Kitanna Rakeshaw.
Indian Valley twins Kitanna and Kiara Rakeshaw swept the high jump with Kitanna Rakeshaw clearing 5-04. TV’s Hailey Maloon was third.
The Lady Knights found another athlete to find a regional berth in pole vaulter Macey Gilstrap, who placed fourth at 7-06. Elley McDaniel of Indian Valley won the event by misses by clearing 10-06, the same height as River View’s Hartsock.
Ashton Warner of Indian Valley claimed the top spot in the shot with a throw of 43-05.25 with teammate Emily Love placing third at 35-01. Love and teammate Kelci Martin went two-three in the discus with Love firing off a 119-02 and Martin chucking a 113-09.
“We changed some things around early in the year and went to a little different training style, and it paid off,” Harris said of his team. “We have had terrific team camaraderie, especially on the girls’ side. I told the kids this has been my most enjoyable group to coach.”