All season long the West Holmes Knights boys 4-by-200 relay track team has been running great, finishing strong and making its case why they belonged at the OHSAA Div. II state track and field meet in Columbus.
All season they have said they can compete with the state’s best in Div. II.
On Friday, June 1 they got their chance to back up those bold statements, and by the skin of their teeth they were able to qualify for the finals by claiming the eighth spot in the nine-team finals. Then the next day they went out and backed it up again by standing tall on the podium in fourth place.
In the Muskingum regionals, the Knights’ quartet of Michael Taylor, Brady Taylor, Jonathan Kandel and Brayden Chaney reeled off a school-record time of 1:29.47, which only got them to third place behind Steubenville and Sheridan.
In their state prelim, the group ran a 1:29.99 to snag the eighth qualifying spot while Steubenville and Sheridan claimed the third- and fourth-best times, respectively.
It seemed as though the Knights were realizing just how good the competition gets at state.
Then the Knights got down to business in the finals, firing off a time of 1:29.65 to place fourth overall behind champion CVCA (1:28.51), Dunbar and Hartley.
West Holmes had swept past both Sheridan, which placed seventh, and Steubenville, which finished out of the medal count in ninth.
It was a dramatic finish for a team that many may have overlooked in the finals, but it was a fitting way to wrap up what has been a record-setting campaign for the four Knights’ sprinters.
One major difference for the Knights’ improvement was Michael Taylor’s start to the race in the prelims.
“My blocks flipped on me, and that was why we got fourth in our heat,” Michael Taylor said.
With the competition growing more fierce at every stage, the Knights realized they had their work cut out for them at state and would have to be on top of their game.
“Everybody is top dog here so you have to run as fast as you can,” Brady Taylor said. “This is a big adrenaline rush.”
The younger Taylor brother said he was proud to be one of very few West Holmes freshmen to make it to state, but he said he didn’t care about that as much as he did about what it meant for his teammates.
“It’s nice, but getting on the podium means a lot more to me than anything else,” Brady Taylor said.
Kandel said the hand-offs for the Knights were a big part of their push to fourth place, noting that it appeared as though everyone made their hand-offs to perfection.
Running in front of the massive crowd amidst all of the fanfare made Kandel feel as fast as he has ever been.
“It felt amazing; it felt like I was gliding,” Kandel said. “All that was going through my mind was giving it all I’ve got. I saw a kid in front of me, and I thought I could get him. We all ran really well today, and I’m thrilled with the results.”
For the freshman Taylor, the chance to run with his senior brother Michael and two seasoned and talented runners in Kandel and Chaney made for the best possible way for him to break into the varsity track world. Little did he know that his initial venture into varsity track would end with him standing on the podium at state as an All-Ohioan.
“Running with your bigger brother makes you push a lot harder,” Brady Taylor said. “It is nice to be able to share this experience with him because it is his first time here as well, and what a thrill to stand on the podium with him and Brayden and Jon at state. Those guys have all helped me out a lot along the way, all the way through this season.”
For his part, Kandel has been talking all season about how this 4-by-200 team had what it took to perform with the big boys at state. On this Saturday he and his teammates proved that point once and for all.
“This has been an amazing ride,” Kandel said. “Brayden continually told us all year long that we could do this. He has been like another coach to us, and he said before we ran that this was our day to just go out and do it.”
The chance to show what they could do almost didn’t even arrive. In districts Kandel dropped the baton in the hand-off from Brady Taylor in the prelims and had to track it down as runners sped by. However, with the talent this team possesses, the Knights still qualified for the finals there and went on to win a district title.
“We’ve all had big dreams, and today they came true,” Kandel said. “I have said all year we could run at state, but I don’t think I even imagined we’d get fourth here. This is amazing.”