Boys Track & Field
Pioneers' Napper excels in state meet
The introduction of four wheelchair events into high school track and field this year brought questions that often accompany new ventures.
But the Division I state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State couldn't have gone more according to form for senior Travis Napper of the Olentangy Orange boys team.
Napper finished where he was seeded in three of the four events. He placed third in the shot put (16 feet, 11 3/4 inches), sixth in both the 400 meters (1 minute, 22.29 seconds) and 800 (3:05.72) and seventh in the 100 (22.05). He exceeded his expectations in the 400, in which he was ranked seventh among eight qualifiers.
"I tried to get my best in everything, of course, but (the) shot (put) has always been my cup of tea," said Napper, whose best throw came on the last of his three attempts. "My goal was just to get third or better. All it was today was the technique and the work I've put in all season."
Entering state, Napper's best throw in the shot put was 14-3 1/2, which he achieved April 30 in a dual meet against Mount Vernon. His other previous bests coming in were 23.21 in the 100, 1:30.77 in the 400 and 3:24.5 in the 800.
There were six state competitors in the shot put and 800 and 10 in the 100.
"Travis set personal records in everything he did, and that's exactly what we were aiming for," Pioneers coach Buck Weaver said. "We had so many questions surrounding the whole sport. Coming here, at this point being the culmination, everyone has had their questions answered and it's kind of nice to be around other people that had the exact same questions. Just to see them step up in this situation, it's definitely an atmosphere conducive to doing very well."
Other local athletes competing at state were Liberty junior Andrew Johnston, who placed eighth in the 3,200 (9:19.16); Olentangy's 1,600 relay, which placed ninth (3:20.91); Liberty senior Zach VanGundy, who finished 13th in the 1,600 (4:18.14); and Orange senior Triston Richardson, who was 14th in the pole vault (13-6).
Olentangy also had its 400 relay at state. The relay advanced to the final after placing ninth (47.57) in the preliminaries, but the Braves dropped the baton between the third and fourth legs and did not finish the race.
Both of Olentangy's relays at state were comprised of seniors Ramal Iverson, Colin McShane and Dan Wruble and junior Jeff Clark. After the final in the 400 relay, Braves coach Brad Komenda gave the boys a pep talk in an effort to help them be mentally prepared for the 1,600 final.
"They ran the three-fastest times in school history in the (400 relay) and set a (Olentangy school) district (record) in the (400 relay) at regional (42.86)," Komenda said. "They've run tough all year, and they were definitely peaking at the right time. They were flying around the turn when the drop happened. But as we told them, stuff like that is just part of life."
As was the case in the Division I state cross country meet last fall, Johnston watched Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton dominate the 3,200. Wharton, a Stanford University signee who won the cross country title in 15:09, won the 3,200 in 8:56.61, finishing almost four seconds ahead of runner-up Nick Elswick of Chardon (9:00.43).
Johnston finished ninth (9:31.12) in the 3,200 at state last year and finished 35th (15:57.9) at state in cross country last fall.
"I really wanted to improve to finish in the top eight," he said. "I'm happy because this was my career-best time so far. I just wanted to enjoy this experience because not many people can say they ran here among the best athletes in the state."
After clearing 13-6 in the pole vault, Richardson was unable to clear 14-0 in three attempts. Aaron Owens of Middleburg Heights Midpark won the title in 16-0.
"I was just so pumped up, so excited to be here and I couldn't figure out my poles," said Richardson, an Eastern Michigan University signee. "My big pole became too small and I couldn't swing up like I really wanted to, but it was a good year. I was able to get my (personal record) of 15-3, so I was expecting to be able to perform up to that level (at state)."
Because wheelchair events were not scored, Johnston's performance in the 3,200 provided the only point for Liberty, which tied Cincinnati Anderson, Cincinnati Princeton, Clayton Northmont, Grafton Midview and Marysville for 57th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (62) as 62 teams scored.
Olentangy and Orange did not score.