It isn’t rare to see teammates running the 3200 in a regional event.
However, when one of those teammates is the older senior sister of the younger junior runner, then the moment becomes that much more rare and more meaningful.
And when Garaway senior Rachel Wentworth joined her sister Ariel at the start of the 3200 at the Div. III Navarre regional Friday, May 27, it was truly an accomplishment.
And even though the two were lined up on exact opposite starting points, with Ariel hugging the inside lane one and Rachel located in lane eight, it wasn’t long before the two settled in together, helping to spur each other on and inspire one another, just as they have done so many times before.
Only this time, it was for a spot at state, and this time, they made their dream comes true as they finished second and third, both grabbing one of the four coveted spots to qualify for the state meet.
The pair had already captured a spot at state with their teammates Claudia Miller and Jocelyn Miller in the 4×800, when Ariel came storming back in a wild finish.
This one meant a lot to both runners, however, since the state tournament will mark their final foray into the world of running together in high school.
It was actually somewhat touching to watch the pair run together down the backstretch of lap five, when Rachel pulled even with Ariel in a small pack of four lead runners who had pulled away.
Eventually, Ariel was able to hang around Athena Welsh of St. Thomas Aquinas. The defending state champion blistered the meet record in 11:05.02, but the younger Wentworth was the lone runner to break away with her from the pack of four. However, Welsh’s big kick helped her move away from Ariel on the final lap, the junior settling in at second in 11:15.78, well under her top time for the year. Meanwhile, Rachel was battling Holly Miller of Canton Central Catholic, and she eventually outpaced the Crusader for third place, coming home in 11:20.54, a time off of her winning pace of 11:11 last season, but one still more than good enough to move her on.
“I am so excited, because this will be the first year that I get to go to state,” said Ariel Wentworth. “I already qualified to go to state with my best friends on our 4×800 team, and now this is my single best friend. With her being a senior, I have spent the whole season worrying about how many chances I’ll have to be beside her on the starting line, and I am excited to have one more chance to do that.”
The number of times they have been able to run together this season has been limited because of an injury Ariel suffered in the preseason. Since then, the multiple All-Ohioan has been working hard to return to form, and she admitted that she isn’t quite where she wants to be. However, the thrill of returning to state and being able to do so with her sister running with her is something she will cherish as a highlight in her career.
Her experience at state could well be invaluable to her younger sister as she helps walk her through the spotlight event all athletes try to get to.
“I try to share as much (about the state experience) as I can,” said Rachel. “Probably so much that she gets tired of it. “She’ll say, ‘You don’t know everything,’ and I don’t know everything.” Rachel then added with a fun little barb at her sister, “but I got her this far, so I must be doing something right.”
Ah, the joy of joking with your younger sibling.
But the truth is these two sisters value their relationship immensely, and seeing the other reach the pinnacle of the sport is as satisfying as making it themselves. Getting to run together on that stage will be a true highlight to both of their careers.
“It’s such an inspiration,” said Rachel of running together. “The past two years I have made it to state, but it is a much bigger deal to make it there with her, and that was our goal both years. So, this is literally a dream come true.”
Last year, there was a moment when Ariel felt she might push through and qualify. That didn’t happen, but the vastly improved talent wasn’t going to let hat happen this time around. This time, she was going to stand on the podium at regionals, accept her medal and move on to the next phase, the final phase, with her sister by her side.
In 2015, Ariel came oh-so-close to making the dream happen, but her effor4t left her just outside of the qualifying window in fifth place. That wasn’t about to happen this year.
“It was incredible when I realized I finally did it,” said Ariel. “Last year it didn’t quite happen, and this year I was running the entire time scared that someone was going to come up and take it away from me. So it was really incredible to realize that it had finally happened, and our dream came true.”
The dream really had come true, and now the Wentworths will take their sister act to Columbus, where they have set the stage to run one final time, together, side by side in the culmination of Rachel’s sensational and Ariel’s blossoming careers.