Joe Mankovecky of the Watterson High School boys track and field team was so anxious about the competition in the Division II state meet that he had trouble falling asleep the night before competing in the high jump.
The senior particularly was worried about competing against Wooster Triway's Mark Stair, who was seeded first in the event in the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State after winning a regional title by clearing 6 feet, 7 inches.
Stair also had won the high jump (6-6) in the Division II/III state indoor meet March 16 at the University of Akron. Mankovecky (6-4) tied Chagrin Falls' Antonio Conte for second in the meet.
"I'll admit it, I was scared of him," Mankovecky said. "When I went to bed, my heart was beating all night and I couldn't fall asleep. I couldn't think of anything but flopping in the state meet."
As it turned out, Mankovecky may have been overly concerned, as he defended his state title in the event by clearing a program-record 6-10.
Salem's Zack Wukotich placed second (6-8) and Stair ended up finishing fourth (6-6).
"Last year (clearing 6-7 at state) was kind of disappointing," said Mankovecky, who committed May 29 to compete for Cornell University. "My coaches thought (my jumps this year) were spectacular. If I could have solved a problem I was having, I could have gone 7-2. I was just doing something funky on my approach.
"That was the 27th time I've attempted 6-10 (in an outdoor meet), so I guess the 27th time was the charm. I did everything right and did everything moving. After trying (6-10) for so long, it was great to know I could make it."
Also winning a state title was junior Dominic Lombardi, who finished first in the 300-meter hurdles in a program-record 38.13 seconds, edging Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Evan Carroscia (38.16).
It was Lombardi's first state appearance.
"This is the greatest thing I've ever accomplished and I will ride the high of this moment for days," he said. "I usually come out slow, but in this race I came out harder. I passed a couple of guys to move into first coming around the curve and I held on to beat them on the straightaway."
Lombardi entered state with the 10th-fastest qualifying time of the 16 competitors but had the fastest preliminary time (38.37).
"I didn't run well at regional, but I was so far ahead of everyone in the prelims that I felt good about my chances of winning," he said. "Last year in the district prelims, I fell on the last hurdle and sprained my ankle and I didn't make it to state. I really wanted to redeem myself after that performance."
Lombardi also competed at state in the 110 hurdles, finishing seventh (14.8), and teamed with sophomore Brad Kanney and juniors Ryan Urquhart and Cody Calhoun to finish 10th in the 400 relay (43.94).
Watterson scored 22 points at state to finish seventh behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (49) as 73 teams scored.
"In this sport, your ultimate goal is to finish the season with your best performances and I'm proud that our guys were able to do that here at state," coach Matt McGowan said. "We scored 22 points and finished in the top 10 in the state as a team, and we don't even have our own track to train on.
"Joe became our boys track team's first state champ last year, and for him to beat his own team record by 1 3/4 inches to repeat is special. Dominic kept lowering our school record all year and he finished his season with his best race, which is all anyone could ask for."
In the regional meet May 30 and June 1 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton, Mankovecky won the high jump (6-6), Lombardi placed second in the 300 hurdles (39.69) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.2) and the 400 relay placed fourth (43.85).
Also at regional, senior Sam Kayuha finished 11th in the 3,200 (10:51.82), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to state.
Watterson finished eighth (28) at regional behind champion Versailles (66) as 47 teams scored.
Winning titles in the 13-team district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Westerville South were Mankovecky in the high jump (6-6), Lombardi in the 300 hurdles (38.6) and the 400 relay (43.91).
Kayuha placed second in the 3,200 (10:27.82) and Lombardi was third in the 110 hurdles (15.04), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional.
The Eagles finished fifth at district behind champion Caledonia River Valley (128) after placing fifth (74) in the CCL meet May 16 and 18 at Columbus School for Girls behind St. Charles (175), DeSales (81), Ready (79) and Hartley (77).
Lombardi won the league title in the 110 hurdles (14.6) and Mankovecky placed second in the high jump (6-4).
"We sent five guys to state, which was the most ever for our team, and they competed in four different events, which is also a record for us," McGowan said. "Track and field is all about doing your best at the end of the year and, luckily for us, we have a good group of kids who worked hard and did that for us.
"This was one of the better years ever for any Watterson boys track and field team, and we have four state qualifiers coming back to lead us next year."