It seems like all season long the Smithville Smithies boys track team has been chasing what in the end was an elusive goal.
For the second straight year the Smithies took second to East Canton at the Div. III district meet. They then finished one spot behind them at regionals again for the second time. Finally, for the second straight season Smithville took runner-up honors at the state meet.
For a team that can’t seem to even win a district crown, taking second at state the past two seasons speaks volumes.
But no matter how much Smithville wanted to beat East Canton at state on Saturday, June 2, the Smithies became Hornets fans for a brief moment.
By the time the final race of the Div. III state meet came around, the title had been decided. East Canton was going to win, the Hornets boasting an insurmountable lead, ahead of the second-place Smithies by 14 points.
Lurking behind Smithville was Worthington Christian, 10 points back. All three teams had entries in the 4-by-400 relay. From a team perspective the Hornets didn’t need a win. However, they wanted one. With nine teams in the finals, Smithville only needed an eighth-place finish to secure second place by themselves. Worthington Christian needed a win coupled with a ninth-place finish to tie for the runner-up trophy.
Smithville’s quartet of Lucas Clark, Trent Shane, Kaleb Tilton and Cole Smith gave a valiant effort, but both Clark and Smith were in two grueling events earlier in the day and were spent. The Smithies quickly fell out of contention and finished ninth.
East Canton’s team jumped out to a lead, but right on their tail was Worthington Christian.
For the briefest of moments, the Smithville team turned into Hornets fans as they pulled for an East Canton victory that would give them runner-up honors alone. The Hornets proved why they are two-time state champions as East Canton senior leader Josh Conrad sprinted to victory, allowing Smithville to stand alone atop the podium to accept the 2018 Div. III runner-up trophy for the second straight season.
“Yeah, we were East Canton fans at that point despite battling them all day long,” head coach Kirstie Mahas said. “It was kind of a weird time, but fortunately things broke our way when we needed it to.”
While it wasn’t exactly what they wanted, Smithville’s athletes stood on the podium as a team at the end of the Div. III meet and let the applause of the crowd hover over them.
“We are really excited,” Mahas said. “We have been battling East Canton the whole way through this year and last, and it has been great competition. We gave everything we had today, and we can’t complain. We left it all out here, and we gave a great effort.”
While the Smithies didn’t bring home the ultimate prize, Mahas said the team was excited about taking home a second straight Div. III runner-up trophy, and it was a testament to the effort the team has put forth this year. The two state runner-up efforts have put Smithville on the map in terms of track and field, and Mahas couldn’t be more proud of her athletes.
“It’s hard to wrap your mind around it,” Mahas said of the accomplishment. “It all happened so fast, but it was exciting to watch these guys perform and be a part of something this special. We know that we will lose some very key seniors who have set the bar really high, but the hope is that this carries over and creates a real excitement in the track program that will go on for a long time.”
Smithville definitely earned its runner-up spot. Senior Cole Smith won both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles while fellow seniors Lucas Clark and Justin McKeal placed second and third in the 1600. The group of Tipple, Shane, Kaufman and Smith also took seventh in the finals.
“Our team is like a family, and we have a lot of fun, but when it comes time to compete, we lock it down and focus on what we have to do,” Smith said. “We’ve been through thick and thin together, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”