Last year, Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field coach Jon Agriesti set out to create the most elite distance meet in the state.
The Darby Distance Twilight Invitational proved to be so competitive that Agriesti had trouble convincing other coaches to bring their entire distance corps back to run in this year's event, which will be held 5:30 p.m. Friday at Darby.
Last year, Dublin Coffman (45) won the girls meet ahead of runner-up West Chester Lakota West (34), Central Crossing (22) and Darby (21). Lakota West (26) won the boys meet ahead of Coffman (18), Darby (18) and Pickerington North (16).
After graduating several talented distance runners, Central Crossing, Coffman, Lakota West and Pickerington North aren't even scheduled to compete in the meet this year.
"The times were so fast here last year that a lot of coaches are shying away from bringing all of their kids because they feel like it's too competitive for the average kids on their team," Agriesti said. "We have spots for all of their kids, but unfortunately, a lot of coaches are bringing only two or three of their top kids, the ones they feel will be most competitive. We don't have as many entries as we had last year, but we've got a lot of quality runners coming and we're expecting a lot more to sign up right before the deadline."
The invitational will feature eight races -- 800 meters, 1,600, 3,200, 5,000, 3,200 relay, 6,400 relay, distance medley relay and freshman 1,600.
"This is such a unique event," Agriesti said. "Nobody else in the state of Ohio runs a meet like this. The closest high school that runs a comparable meet is York High School near Chicago. Most track and field meets highlight the sprinters. This is for the distance runners, to give them the headline for a change. We added the 5-K race this year because we want to give kids the opportunity to qualify to the 5-K national meet before they go off to college."
Schools expected to attend are Beavercreek, Chillicothe Unioto, Fairfield Christian, Cincinnati Turpin, Copley, Dayton Christian, Delta, Davidson, Lockport (Ill.) West, Middleburg Heights Midpark, Reynoldsburg, Rocky River Magnificat, Salem, Strongsville, Sylvania Southview, Toledo St. John's, Troy and Westland.
Dayton Christian features senior twin brothers John and Walter Luttrell. Walter won the Division III state cross country meet last fall in 15 minutes, 34.09 seconds, ahead of his brother (15:34.36).
At the Division I state indoor track and field meet March 15 at Akron, Copley's Chris Fallon won the 1,600 (4:18.36) ahead of third-place Daryl Murphy (4:28.74) of Reynoldsburg and fifth-place Jay Mckenna (4:29.99) of Darby. Davidson's Yoshi Shimizu was third in the 3,200 (9:36.75).
In the Division II-III state indoor track and field meet, Delta's J.D. Wilcox won the 1,600 (4:24.79) and Unioto's Galen Dills won the 3,200 (9:37.96).
"The competition will force everyone to run faster times," Agriesti said. "Joe Jackson is going to run the 5-K for us and Jay Mckenna should finish the 1,600 in 4:30 or faster. Denton Thompson should do well in the 1,600 and Matt Hopke should do well in the 3,200 for us. Anthony Boyd and Yoshi Shimizu should do well in some events for Davidson, and Davidson will put together some competitive relays, too."
The Magnificat girls cross country team was second (120) in the Division I state meet last fall behind Brecksville-Broadview Heights (115).
Darby senior Erika Alpeter was second in the 3,200 (11:28.3) at the Division I state indoor track and field meet and fifth (18:21.29) in the state cross country meet last fall.
At the Division I state indoor track and field meet, Magnificat's Madeline Chambers was third (5:12.96) in the 1,600.
"This is a big deal for us because really good distance runners are coming from all over and it's our home meet," Alpeter said. "I'll probably run the 6,400 relay, 1,600 and 800. Our 3,200 relay (Kelsey Seymour, Linley Mescher, Alpeter, Shannon Kelleher) has been pretty solid, but I don't know who is going to run which events for us yet. We always plan on doing well and getting personal records, so hopefully that will happen."
The meet will have a much different atmosphere than a typical meet, with music played during and between the races and an announcer giving commentary.
"Football and basketball do a lot more to promote their events and make them fun to watch, so we're trying to do the same for track now," Agriesti said. "The kids love hearing music while they run around the track and some of them are already requesting songs for this meet. The music and announcing makes the event more fun to watch for the fans, and unlike some meets that drag on for hours, we'll be done in a few hours so people won't be bored."
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Darby and Davidson boys and girls track and field teams:
*April 15 -- Boys: Defeated Lancaster 78-59; Girls: Def. Lancaster 70-67
Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished first (64) in 20-team Dublin Coffman Track and Field Classic ahead of runner-up Brunswick (63). Winners were Tim Carrier in the shot put (52-2 1/2), Jordan Rispress in the 110 hurdles (15.31) and the 800 relay (1:32.6); Girls: Finished first (106.5) in 19-team field ahead of runner-up Pickerington Central (85). Winners were Shanee' Jackson in the long jump (17-4 1/2), Erika Alpeter in the 800 (2:23.57) and the distance medley relay (12:59.4).
*Last Tuesday -- Competed against Gahanna
Friday -- Home Darby Distance Twilight Invitational
Saturday -- At Piqua Invitational
*Tuesday -- Home vs. Westland
*April 15 -- Boys: Lost to Reynoldsburg 86-73; Girls: Lost to Reynoldsburg 77-74
Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished fifth (49) in Coffman Track and Field Classic. Winners were Anthony Boyd in the 1,600 (4:28.11), the distance medley relay (10:36.24) and Yoshi Shimizu in the 3,200 (9:44.16); Girls: Finished 10th (34) in Coffman Track and Field Classic. Winners were Tori Brink in the 3,200 (11:33.16) and 1,600 (5:10.72) and the 3,200 relay (9:57.34).
*Last Tuesday -- Competed against Coffman
Friday -- At Darby Distance Twilight Invitational; At Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South
*Tuesday -- At Westerville North