Taylor Smith was advised by her doctor to stop competing in the high jump for the Canal Winchester High School girls track and field team after dislocating her left kneecap shortly before the start of the season.
The senior and Ohio University recruit was glad she ignored that advice after clearing a program-record 5 feet, 8 inches to win the event in the Division I regional meet held May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North and earn a return trip to the state meet.
The top four finishers in each regional event qualified for the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"I definitely feel very grateful that I've been given a second chance to compete this season because my doctor didn't want me to high jump anymore, and when I decided I was going to give it a shot, she wanted me to wear a brace on my knee," Smith said. "I was in a lot of pain when I was injured, but fortunately I got better in time to compete in the (postseason) as a senior, and I'm making the most of this opportunity."
Smith didn't clear 5-4 until her third and final attempt, but she was the only one of the 16 competitors in the event to clear 5-5. After securing first place, she chose to attempt 5-8 for the first time and cleared it on her third attempt, breaking the program record of 5-7 1/2, set by Lisa Ravn in 2001.
"My goal was just to win. But after I won, I wanted to go for the school record," Smith said. "I kind of shocked myself because I haven't had as much confidence ever since I injured my knee. When I went over the bar, it was the craziest moment ever. I was freaking out because I was so happy to finally get our school record."
Last year in her first state appearance, Smith placed third by clearing 5-6.
"I'd love to get first at state because that's been my dream since my freshman year," she said. "I need to make sure my steps are good (on my approach), because when I do that well, the rest falls into place for me."
Also qualifying for state were junior Joscelyn Powell in the 100-meter hurdles and junior Gretchen Rosch in the pole vault.
Powell won the 100 hurdles in 14.43 seconds despite a left ankle injury that forced her to withdraw from the 300 hurdles, 100 and 200 in the district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby.
"My doctor wanted me to stop running this year, but I can't because I love it too much," she said. "I picked one race and decided to give it my best shot.
"I was scared when it started raining (at regional May 31), but I was able to run a really good time considering I haven't been able to train much this season."
Last year at state, Powell placed fourth in the 100 hurdles in a program-record 14.33.
"I wish I could have done all four events, but I feel more fresh now that I'm just running one race," she said. "I'm hoping to break 14 seconds at state, and if I can do that, I think I'll have a chance to win."
Rosch finished fourth in the pole vault (11-0) to qualify for state for the first time.
"Gretchen's having an outstanding season and she's been very consistent," coach John Bender said.
Also competing at regional were Smith in the long jump (seventh, 16-4 1/2), Megan Tamasovich in the high jump (11th, 5-0), Chloe Palmer in the 1,600 (10th, 5:39.75), Joelle Zuberi in the 3,200 (11th, 11:52.4) and Rebecca Lusignolo in the discus (16th, 74-2).
Canal Winchester scored 27.5 points at regional to finish 10th behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) as 39 teams scored.
The Indians finished fourth (68) in the 16-team district 2 meet behind Gahanna (141.5), Big Walnut (88.5) and Thomas Worthington (70.5).
Smith (high jump, 5-4) and Rosch (pole vault, 11-0) won district titles and Powell (100 hurdles, 14.97) and Tamasovich (high jump, 5-1) both placed second. Finishing fourth were Palmer in the 1,600 (5:24.89), Smith in the long jump (16-6 1/2), Zuberi in the 3,200 (11:39.48) and Lusignolo in the discus (101-7).
The top four finishers in each district event advanced to regional.
Powell representing boys team at state
Jermil Powell was the only member of the boys track and field team to qualify for the Division I state meet.
The junior advanced to state for the first time by placing fourth at regional in the high jump in a season-best 6-6.
"I partially tore my (right) hamstring on May 14 and there was some doubt in my mind that I could do something like this," he said. "But I just found it in me to jump 6-6 when I needed to to make state."
Powell is eager to make his state debut.
"I'm just going to rest and then go out there and compete," he said. "My personal-best is 6-8 (in an indoor meet) and I'm hoping I can at least get another 6-6 or better at state."
Also competing at regional was sophomore Trae Johnson, who finished 13th in the 110 hurdles (15.85).
Canal Winchester finished 29th (5) behind champion Pickerington North (99) as 39 teams scored.
Powell (high jump, 6-3) and Johnson (110 hurdles, 15.23) both placed second in the 15-team district 2 meet, as the Indians finished fifth (34.5) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (140).
"Trae ran phenomenal at district," coach Kurtis Robinson said. "There was a strong headwind at regional and everyone ran a half-second slower there."