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Monday, May 28, 2007

Ohio High School Championships - DIII Preview

There is no elite post-collegiate inviational in Ohio, and the major college scene is a train wreck. But high school track's popularity is deep and wide, and the best of it will be this weekend at Ohio State. It's nothing like it was back in Ohio Stadium (the Jesse Owens Stadium is a bit lacking) but it's still the best state meet in this part of the country.

Why? Organization and tradition. Two days, three divisions, a tight schedule. For a superfan it's an orgy of the sport while the casual viewer gets an entire meet (24 final running events) in two hours and fifteen minutes.

Over the remainder of the week I'll be putting up previews and stats and so forth. General info can be found at the OHSAA website and Gary Baumgartner's page.

Division III

The smallest of Ohio's divisions; some schools are downright tiny. (There are multiple high schools with enrollments of less than twenty students.)

The team competition will likely be between a couple of two-man squads and the stars of the meet. Columbus Grove (a rural town in the northwest, nowhere near Columbus) brings thrower Cory Meulman (57' 9" / 188' 4") and hurdler-vaulter Heath Nickles (39.6 / 15' 7"). Yellow Springs (a small town near Dayton best known as the residence of Dave Chappelle) brings Samuel Borchers, the defending USA Junior 1500m champ (4:10 / 1:52, both D-III state records), 2-miler Evan Firestone (9:33) and a 4x800 relay team (7:51, D-III state record). Muelman and Nickles could threaten state meet records, while Borchers & co. will almost certainly walk away with three meet records. But those don't score extra points. Columbus Grove will be done scoring after the 300m hurdles, leaving the penultimate event, the 3200, as the deciding race.

Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills (a ritzy Cleveland suburb) appears considerably better than the rest of the field. Distance runners Betta Simko (2:15 / 5:02) and Melanie Frank (2:15) plus a couple of relay teams (3:59, 9:31) will be tough to top. The top athletes to watch are Barnesville's Stephanie Morgan (4:54 / 11:11) and my personal pick for Ohio's Athlete of the Year regardless of division, Woodmore's Emily Pendleton (45' 8" / 183' 3") It's been 17 years since an Ohioan set a national high school record and 49 years since it's been done at the state meet; it's never been done by a girl from the Buckeye state. But Pendleton's best mark is just 5 feet and one inch from Suzy Powell's national record...

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