If the pressure to perform in an advance-or-go-home scenario isn’t hard enough, having to do it in sweltering summer conditions makes it much more difficult. The Orrville High School girls track and field team stayed mentally and physically cool under pressure during both days of the OHSAA Div. II Lexington regional championship as they ran, threw, jumped and vaulted their way to earn the team title and successfully defend last year’s winning effort. Orrville finished with 70 points in the team standings, easily outdistancing runner-up and county rival Norwayne (48 points). Galion (39), Jonathon Alder (36), Huron (34) and Ontario (34) rounded out the top-five teams in scoring out of 37 teams that participated.
ESPN’s late, great Stuart Scott would likely describe the Orrville girls track and field team as being as cool as the other side of the pillow. The majority of the Lady Riders who had qualified for the Lexington regional were able to position themselves into a top-four spot on the podium and earn a chance to compete for glory at this week’s state championship meet in Columbus.
Orrville’s depth was on display. Out of all the events the Lady Riders participated in, none of them captured an individual crown in their respective performances, but as a team they collectively racked up the points and were led by senior Alex Eby. Eby had a hot, humid day to bounce back and forth between the pole vault and the track, but she came away with two runner-up performances in the pole vault (11-8) and 100-meter hurdles (14.53).
The 4-by-200 relay team of sophomore Sedona Goodard, freshman Daysia Hargrave, junior Ashley Stiffler and senior Alexis Tillison advanced to the state semi-finals after placing second in the region with a time of 1:44.54, just a hair behind Columbus School for Girls (1:44.15) and just ahead of Norwayne (1:44.62). Goodard continued to drop time in the 400-meter dash and seems to be peaking at the right time of the season. Just a week ago in the district final, Goodard ran a 1:02.18. She posted a 1:00.81 in the regional prelim and placed second in the regional final after gutting out a 58.68.
Maya Hamsher will make a repeat appearance in Columbus. Orrville’s version of Mighty Mouse on the track finished third in the 800-meter run (2:19.58) and will get another shot at reaching the state podium.
Hargrave, just a freshman, showed no fear in tackling one of the hardest events on the track: the 300-meter hurdles. She also continues to drop time as she hurdled her way to a fourth-place finish and qualified for the state meet. Her 46.75 was two and a half seconds faster than her time in the district final. Norwayne’s Rachel Schmidt won the event after posting a 45.25.
Senior Mikayla Carpenter’s best throw of the day in the shot (38-9) was holding up in second place until Perkins’ Jordan Coleman (38-9.75) bumped her into third on the last throw of finals, but Carpenter still earned a trip to Columbus. Junior Karlie Lax captured fourth place in the pole vault (11-0) and left plenty in the pit for another run at having a successful state meet.
Rounding out the day for the Lady Riders, Orrville’s 4-by-400 relay team of Goodard, Maya Hamsher, Hargrave and junior Chloe Johnson placed fourth (4:04.84) to advance to the state championships.
Other events where the Lady Riders scored points toward the regional championship included the 4-by-800 relay team of Maya Hamsher, sophomore Sierra Hamsher, junior Alyssa Plumley and Goodard, which finished in a heartbreaking fifth place (9:49.46) after a controversial non-call just before the finish line where it appeared that Orrville was rubbed out of lane one and forced a few steps into the infield. However, it was determined the contact was not intentional as none of the officials on site raised any yellow flags indicating an infraction.
Stiffler just barely missed qualifying for state in the long jump, by just an inch, as she landed in fifth place after sailing to 16-6.75 in the regional finals. After qualifying in the shot put, Carpenter came up just short of making it to state in two events after placing seventh in the discus throw (116-6). Orrville’s 4-by-100 relay (sophomore Hailey Copeland, Hargrave, Stiffler and Tillison) finished their regional final in eighth place (50.89).
Other Lady Riders who participated in the regional meet gained some great experience and perspective on what it will take to make a repeat trip next season. Junior Ashley Kinnaird made the most of her first trip to the regional meet by placing 11th in the 3200-meter run (12:29.14), where she dropped a whopping 19 seconds from her district time the previous week (12:48.23). Sophomore Chloe Preston cleared 4-8 in the high jump, finishing in a tie for 14th place. Preston’s personal best just two weeks ago was 4-8 (before clearing 4-10 at districts). Considering the opening bar in the high jump at regionals was 4-8, Chloe did a nice job of entering the competition at a challenging height and calming her nerves enough to clear it.
The Red Riders will be back at it on Friday, June 1 for the first day of the 2018 OHSAA Div. II track and field state championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of the Ohio State University. Half the field event finals will take place on Friday in addition to the semi-finals on the track. The other half of field event finals and finals on the track will take place on Saturday, June 2. Click here for more information and a complete schedule of the state meet.
The following student-athletes have advanced to the state track and field championships:
Mikayla Carpenter (junior) shot put
Alex Eby (senior) 100-meter hurdles and pole vault
Sedona Goodard (sophomore) 4-by-200 relay, 400-meter dash and 4-by-400 relay
Maya Hamsher (sophomore) 800-meter run and 4-by-400 relay
Daysia Hargrave (freshman) 4-by-200 relay, 300-meter hurdles and 4-by-400 relay
Chloe Johnson (junior) 4-by-400 relay
Karlie Lax (junior) pole vault
Ashley Stiffler (junior) 4-by-200 relay
Alexis Tillison (senior) 4-by-200 relay