Not often does an athlete get the opportunity to go to the state track and field meet in Columbus and experience the joy of standing on the podium to gaze out over the monstrous crowd and soak in the applause as a medal is hung around his or her neck.
A precious few get to experience it twice.
For Tusky Valley’s Madi DeBos, that opportunity came not once, not twice, not three times, but four times at the Div. II state meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at the 44th annual girls meet.
DeBos could barely contain her emotions as she talked about the experience of a lifetime, one she could well get a shot at next year as she prepares for her senior campaign.
“Four podiums, that is beyond my wildest dreams. I can’t even begin to know how to put it into words,” DeBos said. “It has been an amazing weekend. I didn’t have my best day at regionals, so I was a bit worried coming into state, but once I got here, I let that all go and just focused on doing my best.”
DeBos had set the lofty goal of reaching the podium in all four of her events coming into state. She knew that would be a tall task, but she achieved the first when her 4-by-800 relay team of Gaiser, Hostetler, Lloyd and herself, serving as anchor, flew to sixth place.
A gifted distance runner, DeBos’ biggest challenge may have been in the pole vault, where 11 vaulters had gone as high or higher than she had at regionals.
By 10-06, seven of the 16 competitors had been eliminated, leaving nine to fight for the eight All-Ohio spots.
DeBos had come in at 10-00 and made that jump effortlessly, as did Jace Mitchem of Shawnee. However, while DeBos opted to jump at 10-06, Mitchem passed. DeBos cleared that height on her first attempt, surviving to advance to 11-00, as did the rest of the field. While seven other competitors cleared 11-00, DeBos and Mitchem traded misses until each had missed all three. However, because DeBos chose to jump at 10-06 and had successfully cleared it without a miss, she grabbed the eighth and final spot on misses.
It was two down, two to go for the Trojans junior. Next came the 1600, where she watched as winner Annie Zimmer (4:53.98) and runner-up Ella Gilson (4:59.82) pulled away from the pack. She hung around with a pack of six other runners but eventually pushed them aside to place third in 5:05.08.
Now she was three-for-three with one of her best events, the 3200, standing between her and her dream scenario.
Again she didn’t panic as champion Anna Foster of Sheridan (10:34.34) pushed out to a big lead and set the state meet record by six seconds. Runner-up Peri Bockrath of Kettering Alter kept pace and finished in 10:37.36, a time that also eclipsed the old record. However, DeBos was able to recognize that she couldn’t run that race and settled in behind Beachwood’s Leah Roter. For seven laps she ran perched on the right shoulder of Roter. When the final lap came, DeBos kicked it up a notch, pulled away and cruised home in 11:11.18, five seconds ahead of the pursuing pack.
It was four attempts and four successes for DeBos, who only now could let herself relax and soak in the accolades that come with the multi-podium effort.
“I just still can’t even believe it,” said DeBos, who regardless of her performances wore that ever-present smile throughout the weekend.
DeBos kind of plugged along her first two seasons and didn’t really come into prominence until the state cross country meet this past year, where she carved out a fourth-place finish in 18:29.8, behind both Zimmer and Roter, who went one-two, and right ahead of Bockrath. Her previous effort at state in 2017 saw her place 11th in the 3200.
That seemed to ignite a coming-of-age for DeBos, who has been on a monster tear ever since.
“My track season last year wasn’t the greatest, but my cross season this year I really came on, and that got me super-excited,” DeBos said. “That set a fire under me to get going, and it carried over into the track season, and now this. It’s been an incredible ride.”
What she does for an encore performance in her senior season is yet to be seen, but for 2018, four trips to the podium will be more than enough to push her to higher heights.