COLUMBUS — It’s been a special two years for the Liberty Center boys 4x800-meter relay team and for the second straight season, it ended with an all-state podium finish at the OHSAA State Track & Field Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus on Friday.
After placing fourth in 2018, the 2019 team of seniors Jordan Keller, Weston Kundo and Nathan Meller — all of whom were on the team a season ago — along with state newcomer Connor Keller, placed second in Division III in 8:01.21. The Tigers trailed only first-place East Canton, which won in 7:56.34.
“It feels amazing to move up two spots from last year,” Jordan Keller said. “I don’t think we ran the time we were shooting for, but we definitely got a place up from where we wanted. Seeded third and place second, it was a great opportunity.”
The team rolled through the 2019 season undefeated, with not many challengers throughout. Having won so handily for much of the season, though, the team knew state would be a different challenge when it came to handoffs and exchanges.
However, it was something the Tigers were prepared for.
“It’s pretty frantic, but we knew that coming in,” Kundo said. “We had the experience from last year and I think that’s one thing different from this team from last year. Just the experience and knowing what we’re getting into. And we practiced the frantic handoffs in practice, because that’s one thing that kind of caught us off guard last year and we didn’t want that to happen again this year.”
With the race nearing its end, Meller took the handoff as the anchor leg in fifth and rocketed past three runners for the runner-up finish.
“When I got the hand off, my teammates put me in a really good position,” Meller said. “I just tried to do the best a could to pass those few guys, just for my team really. They put me in a good spot and I just wanted to pay them back the favor.”
The relay team’s special two-year run for seniors Jordan Keller, Kundo and Meller came to an end on Friday, but they’ll never forget the run it was.
“It’s pretty cool,” Meller said. “It’s really a blessing because not a whole lot of teams get to do that back-to-back like that. Not a lot of teams have that group of guys that we have, as far as good relationships. We have really good team chemistry. That really helped us, because instead of running for ourselves, we have to run for each other.”
Elsewhere in Henry County, Patrick Henry’s Trista Fintel nabbed a spot on the podium by placing third in the shot put with a personal best toss of 42 feet, 2 inches. It served as a form of redemption for Fintel, who earlier in the day had a disappointing 17th-place finish and a throw of 103-5 in the discus. PH throwing coach Matt Furko said she had the throw to win it all, but stepped out of the pit before the disc hit the ground.
“I just told her, ‘Let it burn. You know what the feeling feels like. Don’t let it happen again. Go do what you’re going to do and go stand on the podium,’” Furko said.
And that’s exactly what she did, in a big way.
“It feels amazing to get on the podium,” Fintel said. “I’m super excited and everyone was so excited. … I was so nervous (after the discus) and everyone was trying to try to comfort me. … But I knew I had to make it worthwhile for all my friends and family … so I threw the best I could and I got 42 feet and it was amazing.”
Also around the area, the Liberty Center girls 4x800 of Kate Mohler, Madison Atkinson, Sydney Miller and Constance Roell was ninth in the finals in 9:52.49.
Liberty Center’s Burgin Bachman was 12th in the 100-meter hurdle prelims in 15.65 seconds and fell short of the top nine spot needed to advance to Saturday’s finals.
The Liberty Center boys 4x200 of Parker Strauss, Zach Bowers, Kundo and Meller was 13th in 1:32.82 to fall short of finals. However, the 4x400 team of the same quartet advanced to finals with a third-place finish in 3:25.40.
Bowers was also 16th in the prelims of the 400 in 52.20.
The Liberty Center girls 4x400 of Mohler, Atkinson, Bailey Johnson and Roell was 15th in prelims in 4:14.32.
The Archbold girls 4x800 team of Gwynne Riley, Brittney Ramirez, Dakota Stamm and Kylie Sauder was third in 9:33.27.
Meanwhile the Archbold 4x200 team of Iris Pena, Sauder, Riley and Stamm was second in prelims in 1:44.84 to advance to Saturday’s finals. The Streaks’ 4x400 team of Pena, Sauder, Stamm and Riley was first in prelims in 3:59.09.
Stamm also advanced to finals in the 400 with a time of 58.00 in the prelims.
In Division II, Bryan’s Tyler Manon advanced to finals in the boys 400 with the fourth fastest time in 49.36.
Napoleon’s Kaelynn Glanz saw her season come to an end with a 16th-place finish in 16.25 in the 100 hurdles. Napoleon’s Caitlyn Good was 17th in the discus with a throw of 112 feet.