As an appetizer to today’s main course, a pair of local athletes — Buckeye Valley’s Austin Hilt and Big Walnut’s Luke Atkeson — competed during the first day of the OHSAA State Track and Field Championships Friday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Atkeson, competing in a preliminary heat of the Division I 110 hurdles, made the most of his opportunity, crossing the line in 14.57 seconds — the fifth-fastest time in the prelims, good enough to earn him a spot in today’s final.
“It was a personal best for him,” Big Walnut coach Eric Myers said. “And I’ll tell you, he picked a great day to run the race of his life. We’re pretty excited about it. We want to have someone get to the podium and he only needs to beat one guy to make that happen.”
Hilt, meanwhile, a sophomore competing at the state showcase for the first time, finished 14th in the Division II pole vault, clearing 12-06 on his second attempt to get his day off to a solid start before failing to clear 13-00. It wasn’t the title-winning effort Hilt was looking for, but certainly wasn’t a bad way to wrap up the season, either. Bellevue’s Matt Rowland won the event by clearing 14-09.
With one day down, the second promises to be even more thrilling, with nine athletes (eight in D-I and one in D-II) joining Atkeson in a quest for state supremacy.
A trio of Olentangy area athletes will battle for what could turn into five trips to the podium as Olentangy’s Adaora Anunike and Orange’s Katelyn Daniels will each compete in the D-I discus and shot put events. The duo, entering with regional marks in the 120-foot range in the discus and 40-foot neighborhood in the shot put, will have to bring their best tosses to the table as they’ll be up against the likes of Austintown-Fitch senior Ali Tolich, who enters the championship with a mark of 149-05 in the discus, and Lorain’s Shaniqua Ogle, who had a heave of 45-08 ¾ in the shot put.
Liberty’s Grant Cartwright will compete in the boys’ discus, entering with a regional mark of 145-02. To bring a state title back to Powell, he’ll have to eclipse the likes of Centerville senior Michael Bennett, who had a throw of 193-03 in the last round.
Three more will put their talents to the test in the jumping events, including a pair of Big Walnut leapers — Olivia Small and Tyler Fifer.
Small, just a freshman, enters with a regional mark of 17-08 ½ in the long jump. To give you an idea of the type of talent she’ll be up against, the top seed, Middleburg Heights’ Kaila Barber, enters with a mark of 19-08 ¾.
Fifer, a senior, enters the high jump with a regional mark of 6-04. The top competitor, Massillon Washington’s Devin Smith, cleared 7-0 at his regional.
Olentangy’s Josh Perry, competing in the long jump for the second straight season at the showcase, rounds out the threesome. He soared 21-08 ½ at the regional meet. His competition, meanwhile, includes Springfield’s Josh Bass, who Perry beat en route to grabbing runner-up honors last year, but enters with a mark of 24-05 ¼ this time around.
Then there are Liberty’s Uhle brothers, who will look to take the top two spots in the pole vault for the second straight season. Chris, who will also compete in the 800-meter run, won the title last season as a junior, clearing a stadium record 16-09 — a mark that was a state record until his brother, Joey, beat it earlier this season, clearing 17-0 in district action.
As good as the two are, though, neither won last week’s regional — a distinction reserved for Gahanna’s Jacob Blankenship, who will look to improve upon his 16-00 regional mark and make Chris and Joey work for the top spots they took with relative ease last year.
Buckeye Valley’s Kayla Heineike, meanwhile, will be the only D-II athlete in action today, competing in the pole vault for the second straight season. She enters with a regional mark of 10-09.