Ty Banks, Joshua Allen, Andrew Morgan and Arjun Jha had been dreaming of, and working toward, winning a Division I 3,200-meter relay title long before June 2 at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“The four of us have been together since middle school and we’ve been thinking about winning a state championship since ninth grade,” Morgan said. “This has been an everyday work in progress, and it all paid off.”
Jha, the only junior among three seniors on the unit, took the baton in third place and roped in Louisville in the final 50 meters to win with a time of 7 minutes, 39.86 seconds. Louisville finished 1.28 seconds back.
“My teammates put forth an incredible effort to put me in a position to bring it home,” said Jha, a premiere miler. “We got ninth here last year and we’ve been counting down the days since then to came back and win this.”
Morgan ran a gritty third leg, pulling the Cardinals from fifth to third and shaving a 50-meter deficit off the leaders.
“There are a lot of really good 800 runners, and respectable teams in this race, but we really believed if we put Arjun in position, he could make up the ground,” Morgan said.
Somewhat more surprising was the Division II 3,200-relay title taken home by the Worthington Christian all-junior quartet of Kyle Smith, Luke Smith, Jake Bertelsen and anchor Jordan Jackson.
Jackson, who had only run 800 meters twice, put down the hammer in the final lap, passing three runners and winning in 7:50.65. The Warriors turned the tables on Lexington (7:51.09), which had nipped them by .06 of a second for the regional title six days earlier.
“I tried running this relay once early in the season before coach (Rod Zody) put me on the anchor last week,” said Jackson, normally a 200/400 specialist. “Frankly, it was a nightmare for me to run this far. It’s such a tough distance because there’s too much thinking involved. The idea was to let the other teams do the work and pace me and use my speed at the end.”
Bertelsen said he and his teammates gained confidence in looking at the meet program and seeing that they had the second fastest qualifying time.
“We kind of came in feeling like an underdog,” Bertelsen said. “This team just came together like a week ago. We were trying to decide whether the (1,600 relay) or (3,200 relay) was our best option.”
The only other area champion on the first day of the state meet was Northmor junior Demetrius Johnson in the Division III long jump (22 feet, 10 1/4 inches). Johnson, who grew up in Columbus, won as a freshman but dropped to 13th a year ago.
“Unlike last year, I’ve been jumping pretty consistent all year and this was my reward,” Johnson said.
Placing second in the long jump was Grandview senior Jordan Beight (22-2 1/2). Beight, who plans to take up the decathlon at Cornell University, qualified in four individual events.
“I don’t really reflect too much on my performances until the meet is over,” Beight said. “I really have to keep my head clear and focused.”
The other big story came in the preliminaries when Dublin Coffman junior Abby Steiner tied the all-divisions state record in the Division I 100 with a time of 11.59 seconds. Brookhaven’s Khalilah Carpenter set the mark 17 years ago.
Steiner broke her own stadium record in the process. With a 23.71 time in the 200, she came up just .06 of a second shy of the 10-year record held by Aareon Payne of Cleveland Heights Beaumont.
Hard-luck second-place performances were turned in by Gahanna’s girls 3,200 relay and Worthington Christian high jumper Bridgette Rettstatt.
Mason (8:56.62) edged Gahanna (8:56.73) for the victory in Division I. The previous state record was 9:00.82 by Centerville in 2015.
Sophomore Madison Martinez took the baton in third and ran a sensational anchor long, but was unable to outlean Mason’s Ellie Brush at the tape. Gahanna was defending champion in the event.
“It’s a little frustrating not to be able to defend, but I know we all tried our best and we still got a school record and beat the old state record, so that’s some consolation,” Martinez said.
Rettstatt tied her career best by clearing 5-8 but lost the Division III title to Emma Daugherty of Maumee Valley Christian, who cleared 5-9. Rettstatt’s only misses of the competition came at 5-9.
“I was definitely feeling it today,” said Rettstatt, who will play basketball and high jump at Liberty University. “I can’t complain at all. I was fourth as a sophomore, third last year and second this year.”
Freshman Lyssi Snouffer of Delaware Christian, who beat Rettstatt at the district and regional meets, took third (5-7).
“I knew Bridgette was a senior and a tough competitor and she’d bring it today,” Snouffer said. “Considering my best jump was 5-0 last year, I’m really happy with how I performed today.”