Just before last year's Division III state meet, the Worthington Christian High School boys track and field team went back to the lineup in the 3,200-meter relay that had won the championship in 2017.
Having an all-senior lineup of Jake Bertelsen, Jordan Jackson, Kyle Smith and Luke Smith produced a second consecutive title, with Taylor Vallangeon being the odd man out after running on the relay at regional.
Now a senior, Vallangeon has served as the anchor on the relay this season, and the results have been better than what he and the Warriors expected.
On May 22 in the regional meet at Fairfield Union, the 3,200 relay of junior Ben Place, sophomore Noah St. John, junior David Rettstatt and Vallangeon placed fourth in 8 minutes, 25.32 seconds to qualify for the state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
"It was unexpected," Vallangeon said. "This year, it's been harder to get everything together than it was last year. Last year, we had a great (relay). We have two guys (this year) that have never run an 800 before this season. We honestly didn't expect to get out of district with our (3,200 relay). We (ran a season-best time) at district and (at regional)."
Vallangeon finished 11th in the 3,200 (9:45.22) at state last year and will make his second consecutive appearance in that event after capturing the regional title in 9:43.88 on May 24.
His performances helped the Warriors score 39 points to place fourth behind champion Mount Gilead (89) as 36 teams scored.
Vallangeon's regional time in the 3,200 was a season-best by nearly 15 seconds.
"Those guys (in the 3,200 relay) have worked hard all year," coach Mark Mousa said. "They dropped 10 seconds from their season-best time because everybody raced their leg, and that's what gets you through to state. You have to race the competition. The motto is fourth is first because fourth place moves you on.
"Taylor is primed. A lot of the athletes have been tapering. (The regional was) probably the first run (he has felt) a little bit fresh. We tapered him for the state meet."
Also advancing to state were the 400 relay of seniors Jake Nowak and Michael King and juniors Montell Edwards and Dillon Fulks (second, 44.48), junior Jake Thompson in the long jump (third, 20 feet, 1 1/2 inches) and Edwards in the 100 (fifth, 11.35).
The top four finishers in each regional event automatically qualified for state. In addition, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on time, height or distance statewide.
Thompson, who also finished seventh in the high jump (5-10), posted his state-qualifying distance in the long jump on his third attempt.
"I'm really excited," Thompson said. "I'm really happy because during districts I put it all together and put out a 21 and I'm hoping to increase that at state and hopefully get into the top eight. I got (20-10 at district), but I'm just going to keep working on it. At the beginning of the year, I was getting in the mid-19s and I was striding off the board and not really jumping, but at district, I kind of put it all together and used the form that I had and did what I know I can do. I just need to keep my speed down the runway and jump as high as I can."
Also at regional, Edwards placed fifth in the 200 (23.49) and King finished 13th in the 100 (11.78).
Hall, 400 relay reach state for girls
The girls team will be represented at state by junior Ashley Hall in the 200 and the 400 relay of Hall, sophomore Oyinda Oladejo-Lawal and freshmen Sarah Chong and Grace Hall.
Hall won the regional title in the 200 (25.99) and the 400 relay placed third (50.92).
"A lot of our kids have been (running personal-best times)," Mousa said. "Our boys and girls (400 relays) are looking great."
Also competing at regional were the 1,600 relay of Audrey Mousa, Caroline Mousa, Ashley Hall and Isabelle Gilham (fifth, 4:12.39), Sydney Diedrich in the 800 (12th, 2:31.72), Grace Hall in the 100 (12th, 13.34), the 3,200 relay of Maddie Skidmore, Andrea Hess, Joy Pitzer and Maddie Patrick (14th, 11:17.41) and Patrick in the 3,200 (15th, 13:16.84).
The Warriors scored 20 points to finish 11th behind champion Peebles (71) as 40 teams scored.