By ANDY WOLF
COLUMBUS — Zaresha Neal is usually the one to be nervous.
But she had worked too hard to get to where she was.
And where she was, she had never been before.
The Findlay High senior honed it in mentally to reach the awards stand twice in both throwing events, including a runner-up finish in the girls discus, at the OHSAA Division I state track and field meet at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Stadium.
She ended her day by taking fifth in the shot put.
“I just didn’t get nervous,” Neal said. “I was like ‘Thank you God’ for sure because it humbled me. I just want to be humbled in all that I do.”
Staying hydrated became an ultimate goal of the day, as well as trying to set new personal records (PRs).
Those PRs didn’t come but Neal had no shame in her best marks of the day.
In the discus, she unleashed a 155-0 on her very first throw which stood as the second-best mark entering finals.
Her first throw of finals was 157-10 and moved her temporarily into first place, ahead of defending champion and Anthony Wayne’s Madison Pollard.
But Neal threw 132-11 on her next toss and Pollard chucked the winning throw of 159-0 on her fifth attempt.
With one final throw to go, Neal got off a high-arcer that went only 151-1.
“When I went out for discus I was just going out there to do my best and try to put my best foot forward,” Neal said. “When I was throwing, I was like ‘okay, I’m just going to do technique, pray that God gets me through this.”
Pollard, who will throw at Indiana University next year, also won the shot put (48-111/2) by more than two feet.
She and Neal had grown to be close over the years, competing regularly at the same meets.
“We have no bad blood at all,” Neal said of Pollard. “We love competing with each other. We actually have a little handshake we do so it’s really cool we have that relationship.”
Neal got her best shot put mark of 43-4 on her final attempt.
It didn’t affect her placement, but did mark her third throw over 40 feet.
She had one of 42-41/2 to get into the finals in fifth and improved with 43-21/4 on her second throw of the finals.
Of the top eight finishers, seven had their best mark on their fifth or sixth attempt.
“I was getting exhausted with the heat,” Neal said. “The heat had taken a hold of me but then I just prayed about it and I wanted to pull out more and try to give it my all.”
The two finishes put an end on a high school journey of self-discovery and improvement for Neal.
Having never topped 130 feet in the discus prior to her senior year, she did so in every outing as a senior and even had the No. 2 mark in Ohio at 164-5 entering the state meet.
“It’s just awesome to see what God has really helped me with, helped me get through a lot,” Neal said. “I most definitely have put in the work, the time, the dedication to it. I didn’t cut corners. I always stayed at practice maybe 10 minutes longer just to continuously improve to myself and become better and better and better. Hopefully in college I’ll get to nationals and throw my best.”
Neal will throw at Bowling Green State University next year.
“I’m most looking forward to improving myself, becoming a better thrower,” Neal said. “Not only that, throwing has really strengthened my relationship with God by far. It’s just awesome to see how he’s working in me. It’s just awesome to see what the future holds.”
State Track: Findlay’s Neal second in Division I girls discus
By ANDY WOLF