In the 1970s, the group, Three Dog Night, sang a song bemoaning the lonely as they crooned “one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever find.”
In the state track and field meet, one is the greatest number while the loneliest number in the finals of any given event is nine.
Schoolhouse Rock even had a song detailing “Naughty Number Nine.”
Nine is the number of athletes who compete in the finals at state while eight is the maximum number who attain All-Ohio honors.
For three Holmes County athletes, the agony of that lonely number of nine was experienced in an all-too-real fashion.
Hiland high jumper Declan Howell, West Holmes high jumper Jacob Goudy and Lady Knight Kaylin Martin all placed ninth and were left on the outside looking in.
For Howell, the lone senior in the group, he was able to keep it all in perspective. Having cleared 6-04 this season, he faced that height to get on the podium at state, and despite three solid attempts, all three clipped the bar enough to knock it off the standards.
“I was excited coming into state, and obviously it is tough getting ninth and missing podium,” Howell said. “But it was fun. I wanted to get to state and make podium, but the big goal was getting here.”
Howell was battling an illness the past two days before the event, but he wasn’t going to use that as an excuse. Then he had to wait to watch as the final two jumpers went. If either had missed, he would have been on the podium, and each had struggled at 6-02. However, they both came through with big final jumps to move on, sending Howell into the dreaded nine-spot.
“That was tough to watch, knowing I was in their hands and not my own,” Howell said.
Goudy bowed out at the same height in very similar circumstances, all three of his jumps looking extremely sound, all three of them barely knocking the bar off the standards.
“I really thought I was going to get it,” Goudy said of the leaps at 6-04. “It hurts to finish ninth, but it is huge for me to be here as a junior to gain that kind of experience of jumping at this level. I know exactly what I need to do to take my game to the next level. I think next year my goal will be placing in the top three and to continue to climb in height.”
“All three attempts at 6-04 were right there,” high jump coach Jen Stutzman said. “Every jump was a matter of something little. But Jacob got better and better as the season progressed, and he was right there. He has nothing to hang his head about. This is only going to make him work all that much harder, and he can be right back here next year competing for a podium spot.”
Having jumped 17 feet this year and knowing it would take around that to reach the podium, Martin felt her chances to get into the finals were over when she went just 16-01.5. However, that distance helped her ease into the ninth and final spot in the finals, where she had to come through with a jump of at least 16-08.5 to move up one spot.
She struggled on her first jump, then fouled on her final two and never found the distance she needed.
“It’s disappointing because I know I have better in me, but it was a really good experience to be here as a junior to see what it takes to compete down here,” Martin said. “The competitors here are ridiculously good. This finish definitely inspired me to improve and get to the podium next year.”
Martin said most of the girls jumping at state had gone 17 feet or more, so she was definitely shocked to make the finals with her jump of just over 16 feet. She said a number of the girls were struggling, and perhaps nerves were playing a part.
She added that both of her jumps in which she fouled felt like solid jumps. Whether they would have been good enough to move her on to the podium, well, she said they will never know.
That left her to struggle with the pain of being so close to her goal that she could practically smell and taste it.
“Hopefully this eats at me for the rest of the day and then I’ll get over it,” Martin said. “I am very competitive, and this will definitely inspire me to get better and give myself a chance again next year.”