Senior Taylor Vallangeon of the Worthington Christian High School boys track and field team was intent on not being intimidated by the chatter he heard before competing in the 3,200 meters in the Division III state meet June 1 at Ohio State.
"I heard there were multiple people planning to run (9 minutes, 30 seconds)," Vallangeon said. "I didn't feel too horrible until the last couple laps when it really started to pick up."
Vallangeon, whose previous personal-best in the event was 9:45, stayed with 2018 state cross country champion Noah Fisher of Ayersville throughout the race, and the two battled Mapleton's Drew Roberts for the title.
Vallangeon ended up placing third (9:29.77) behind Roberts (9:25.74) and Fisher (9:29.48), but broke a program record that had stood for 33 years.
His six points allowed Worthington Christian to tie for 30th behind champion East Canton (42) as 78 teams scored.
"I knew Noah from cross country, so I was sticking with him," said Vallangeon, who finished 11th at state last season in 9:45.22 and has committed to compete in track and cross country for Olivet Nazarene. "I wanted to just beat my time. The plan was to get the school record, but whether I got it or not I was going to be fine just running here. The hard part's getting here. When I got (close to the finish line), I couldn't see (the scoreboard) very well, but I was super happy to get (the program record)."
Vallangeon also ran on the 13th-place 3,200 relay (8:19.36) with juniors Ben Place and David Rettstatt and sophomore Noah St. John.
The 400 relay of seniors Michael King and Jacob Nowak and juniors Dillon Fulks and Montell Edwards also finished 13th (44.66).
"We ran well," King said. "The biggest thing was that at the beginning of the season, none of us thought we'd be able to make it, but we worked as a team and that was the biggest part."
King has committed to play football for Indiana Wesleyan and Nowak will play basketball for Southeastern College in Florida.
"We didn't run our fastest, but it was just fun being (at state)," Nowak said. "We had a lot of injuries and at the beginning of the season we didn't have a good (400 relay), so we just kind of put the pieces together at the end and made a pretty good squad."
Also competing at state were junior Jake Thompson in the long jump (12th, 20 feet, 11 1/2 inches) and Edwards in the 100 (16th, 11.56).
Others eligible to return include juniors Alex Harrison (hurdles, high jump), Cole Rettstatt (throws), Isaac Seabra (throws) and Ethan Stimpson (long jump) and sophomore Ty Seabra (long jump).
"We're young and we were running new (relays) this year, especially with our boys," coach Mark Mousa said. "With what we lost last year, people were looking around saying, 'How does Worthington Christian finish this high?' It's hard work."
Girls team also ends season at state
The girls team had two entrants in the Division III state meet but did not score.
Junior Ashley Hall missed advancing to the final in the 200 by .01 of a second, finishing 10th in 26.18.
Hall also ran on the 15th-place 400 relay (51.02) with sophomore Oyinda Oladejo-Lawal and freshmen Sarah Chong and Grace Hall.
"I was a little nervous, but I just kind of embraced it," Grace Hall said. "My sister tried to calm us down. It's fun. I'm glad I got to be (at state). I thought I'd have to train more before I did anything and that maybe next year (I'd be a key contributor), but it's been really exciting."
Nearly all of the Warriors' top competitors are eligible to return, including Grace Hall, who also was a regional qualifier in the 100.
Other expected returnees who competed at regional are freshman Sydney Diedrich (800), junior Maddie Patrick (3,200), Ashley Hall, junior Isabelle Gilham and freshman Audrey Mousa (1,600 relay) and Patrick, juniors Joy Pitzer and Maddie Skidmore and sophomore Andrea Hess (3,200 relay).
The biggest loss to graduation will be senior Caroline Mousa, who competed on the 1,600 relay at regional. Diedrich ran on the 1,600 relay instead of Gilham during the regional preliminary.
Others eligible to return include juniors Jaclyn Hamilton (throws) and Morgan Hoffman (shot put) and freshman Jaeda Tagoe (hurdles).
"I couldn't be more proud of our relays," coach Mousa said. "They want to keep the tradition going, work hard and perform well."