COLUMBUS – Mechanicsburg qualified all of its preliminary competitors into Saturday’s finals at the Division III state track and field championships on Friday, even if some margins were a bit narrow.
In the 4×200 relay, Dustin Knapp, Bryce Waring, David Harvey and Jared Butcher squeaked into the finals with a 9th place finish in 1:32.24, which was a personal best for the squad.
“It says a lot for the team. Just because we’re a small school, that doesn’t mean we can’t compete with the bigger schools. We worked our butts off,” Waring said. “It shows that we have heart.”
That heart was evident the rest of the day, as Butcher qualified 9th in the 400, Waring qualified 9th in the 200 and Knapp stuck around to see it all.
“I’m going to go out there and support my teammates,” Knapp said.
In the 400, Butcher beat out Stephen Stott of Mogadore by one-hundredth of a second to claim the last spot in the finals with a run of 51.28. That pace was far off his goal of breaking 50 seconds, which would have landed him in the top four. Jerome Buckner of Columbus Academy won the prelims with a 49.90.
“I started off slow. I had a really good kick, but I need to start faster so my OK kick will stay up there with them. Tomorrow I’ll have a lot more of a break. I’ve got to go day by day,” Butcher said.
In the 200-meter dash, Waring set a new personal best, one week after doing so to win the regional. He ran the course in a time of 22.51, claiming the last spot in the finals.
“I’ve got to get my mind right. I’m obviously going to be really excited,” Waring said. “The nerves are kicking in. They’re going to kick in tomorrow. Gotta do the best you can to keep them low, keep them calm and go out and do the best you can.”
Harvey also competed as an individual, claiming 7th in the high jump finals (6-03) and 11th in the long jump finals (20-01.75).
“The competition was really tight. Everything was a lot closer than my past experiences,” Harvey said. “I honestly felt really good today. Things just didn’t happen like I wanted them to.”
The West Liberty-Salem girls competed in the 4×400, but the team of Janie Kopus, Leah Cole, Taylor Lauck and Caylee Karg didn’t qualify for the finals. They finished 12th in a time of 4:07.12.
It was a great year for the tight-knit Tigers. They even interviewed as a team, in between gasping recovery breaths.
“It’s overwhelming,” Lauck said, trying to catch her breath.
“It’s a really big honor,” Kopus added. “I know it’s great to be here, but it is overwhelming, like she said.”
“When you come down that final stretch and you hear everyone cheering, it’s like ‘there are a lot more people here than I’m used to,’” Karg said.
“Our main goal – when we started the season Coach (Ann Vogel) had these goal sheets to write out – and we all put ‘STATE,’” Cole said. “But we didn’t really specify, so we were happy that we got here.”
The championships continue Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The M’burg 4×200 relay gets things started for Champaign County at 9:55 a.m.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.