While Hiland’s numbers may not be huge, the track and field athletes they do have performed admirably in churning out a fifth-place team effort in the field of 20 teams on the boys’ side. The Lady Hawks, who have just five athletes, managed to total up 17 points to finish 12th among the 20 teams.
The boys’ point total began as always with last year’s state-qualifier Brayden Gray. The speedy senior reeled off a winning time of 40.99 in the 300-meter hurdles to easily earn gold, then turned around and squared off with River’s Cooper Brown in the 200 meters, where Brown won in 23.16 and Gray had to settle for second in 23.47. Brown would go on to set an Eastern District record in the 400 when he bolted to a terrific time of 49.82.
“That River kid is for real,” Hiland head coach Mark Fowler said. “I think Brayden just came out too fast and ran out of gas against him.”
While Gray’s great finishes were expected, perhaps one of the more surprising finishes came in the 4-by-100 relay, where the foursome of Micah Kuhns, Declan Howell, Genaro Gomez and Gray reeled off a winning time of 45.8, as the Hawks were able to sneak past Garaway down the home stretch to win by 27-hundredths of a second.
This one wasn’t as much that the Hawks won as compared to how they won. In qualifying, the Hawks ran a 47.25, which wouldn’t have qualified them for regionals. Instead, they turned it on big time to race to victory.
“We had a stop-and-grab hand-off in the prelims between Declan and Genaro in which Genaro physically had to stop because they missed the first hand-off attempt,” Fowler said. “I told the guys if we make that hand-off we have a chance to win it. Brayden went flying by at least three guys, and we had it locked up with about 30 meters to go.”
Howell, who was all over the place in qualifying for regionals in three different events, soared to a jump of 20-04 in the long jump, which was good enough to take second behind Shenandoah’s Shakur Payton, who went 20-09.5. Howell kept pace with Buckeye Trail’s Tyler King for a while, but after Howell bowed out after clearing 6-02, King proved he was the king by jumping a meet-record 6-06.
Tyler Kuhns earned a point for the Hawks when he placed eighth in the 800. The 4-by-200 team of Gomez, Ryan, Micah Kuhns and Gray finished sixth, not quite making it to regionals but adding three points to Hiland’s total.
Aaron Chupp placed sixth in the pole vault for the Hawks with a clearing jump of 11-06. Hiland’s 4-by-400 team of Faybryn Ryan, Kyle Miller, Nathaniel Yoder and Tyler Kuhns just missed qualifying for the final by placing 10th.
The Lady Hawks saw one of their members qualify for regionals.
Nikki Yoder qualified for the finals of the 400 meters in 1:04.99, then improved on that time by running a 1:03.26, which placed her third in the finals. That time would have qualified her for the finals in last year’s regional tilt.
“Nikki had a horrible time a week earlier at the IVC meet because she hurt her back and really struggled,” Fowler said. “This was redemption for her. She ran a great race, and even when she was done, she came up into the bleachers and told me that she knows she can get better in places. She’s just such a competitor.”
Fowler said his five girls had a fantastic meet overall, where they posted low times in almost every single event they ran.
Brooke Miller reached the finals in the 100 meters, where she ripped off a time of 13.78, improving her qualifying spot of seventh by one to finish sixth. She then turned around and narrowly missed qualifying for the 200-meter finals, where she ended up ninth in 29.21, seventh-hundredths of a second out of eighth.
“Brooke had a sensational day,” Fowler said. “She came into the 100 ranked 12th, qualified eighth, then finished sixth. That is showing up and performing. Our 4-by-200 team improved by three seconds.”
The team of Brooke Miller, Sophia Miller, Hailey Miller and Yoder just missed a regional berth when they ran a 1:55.15 in the 4-by-200 finals to finish fifth. That was 0.17 seconds from securing the fourth and final regional spot.
“The girls were really disappointed getting that close, but I told them it was something to be proud of and that they shouldn’t miss the moment,” Fowler said.
Brooke Miller, Marissa Somers, Hailey Miller and Yoder also placed fifth in the 4-by-100 relay, finishing in 55.14, one second away from qualifying for regionals.
“This was probably one of the most enjoyable meets I’ve coached in 10 years,” Fowler said of his team’s effort. “We competed hard, and it felt like they rose to the moment and the challenge. They seem to know when they need to be at their best, which is exciting for a coach to experience.”