By TED RADICK
COLUMBUS — Ninth is not the spot to be at the OHSAA Division III girls state track and field championships.
At the end of a race, it’s the first spot off the podium and all-Ohio honors that come with finishing in the top eight. At the beginning of the sprint races and relays, it means the worst lane assignment.
Mohawk’s Destiny Oler, Columbus Grove’s Rylee Sybert and Pandora-Gilboa’s 400-meter relay team didn’t let the number nine get to them in the running finals Saturday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium.
The P-G quartet of Korri Basinger, Kelsey Basinger, Alexa Maag and Alaina Basinger entered the 400 relay final starting from lane nine after Friday’s preliminaries. The Rockets responded with a season-best time of 50.97 to claim sixth place.
“Our goal was to get eighth at least, to get on the podium, that’s all we really wanted,” Korri Basinger said. “Sixth place means a lot, it really does.”
After running a 51.30 Friday, the P-G foursome fixed a problem.
“We had a rocky handoff yesterday, so we had to fix that,” Kelsey Basinger said. “It worked out, it was a perfect handoff today and all our handoffs were great. We just made that one tweak and we moved up three spots.”
“It was nice to have everything work out in our favor,” Maag said. “Coming from such a small school, it was surprising for us to be on the podium and I thought that was really awesome.”
As anchor Alaina Basinger took the baton, she realized a podium spot was in reach.
“I saw that the other girls were in about the same position, so I thought ‘It’s time to go, it’s time to take it to the end and finish it,'” she said. “We wound up getting our best time.”
Oler was ninth in the 800 last year as a sophomore. She improved to seventh this year and got on the podium in 2:16.75, a personal record.
“Oh yeah, it was waaaay better,” she said. “I’ve been training the whole season, I’ve been training harder to get to where I needed to be with these girls.
“After we ran (Friday’s) 4×8, I noticed that I went out a little too fast for what my body can handle. I talked to my coach, and said maybe if I stayed back a little bit the first lap I would maybe be good for the second lap. We tried that, and it looks like it worked pretty well.
Oler said the competition helped pull her along and let her break out into the sub-2:17s after a running battle with herself.
“The adrenaline, it’s crazy being here,” she said. “It’s nuts, I like it.
“I got tired of it, running my times. At the beginning of the year I’d run at (2:)23, and then an 18. I was like, OK, we need to change this up a little, I’m not doing something right. The past three years I haven’t gotten my time down. This is really good for me.
Oler wants no less than the top spot in 2018.
“I’m going to try even more,” she said. “I’m going to run more and see if I can get first next year. That’s my main goal for my senior year. Just to get it all.”
Columbus Grove sophomore Rylee Sybert also came out of Lane 9 after Friday’s 200 prelims. She knocked more than a tenth of a second off her PR to place sixth in 25.79.
“I knew if I could just pass one person … I told coach I have nothing to lose but I have a lot to gain,” Sybert said. “I just really wanted to get on the podium this year, and I’m just so thankful that I did.”
Grove’s 800 relay didn’t make Saturday’s finals, but Sybert was encouraged at her chances for the open 200 after that race.
“I ran one of my fastest times ever in my split of the 4×2 yesterday, and I said ‘OK, I can do this, I can go faster in the 200,'” she said. “I wanted to PR and have a good placement. I am really exited to see what the years have to come. I just can’t wait to get stronger and faster and see if I can make it to the top one day.”
St. Wendelin senior Sophia Volpe didn’t have to worry about nines. Volpe started her day with a personal best 5:04.63 to place sixth in the 1,600, then took second in the 3,200 in 10:57.03.
Running out of Lane 1, Volpe got blocked at the start and was dead last coming on to the first back straight. She soon recovered and ran to the lead in the second lap.
“I was expecting that to happen just because I was in Lane 1,” she said. “What I did was, everyone tells you ‘don’t run in Lane 2.’ So if I ran in Lane 2, no one else was going to be there. I knew if I ran there at least for one turn I could start to get around and get ahead.
“The 1,600 I was pretty happy, I was really grateful. Then, I was like get some water, sit down, stretch and get ready for the 3,200.”
Volpe ran right to the front of the pack at the start of the 3,200. She slipped at one point to fourth, gained a spot entering the bell lap and legged down Peebles’ Jenny Seas to finish second.
“I just kind of went,” Volpe said. “I tried to dig deep. My dad always tells me to hone in one person.”
Volpe, who was joined at state by Nick DeHaven in the boys 1,600, was the final athlete to compete for St. Wendelin. The high school will close after today’s commencement.
“It’s kind of crazy, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she said.
Ottoville’s 1,600 relay quartet, eighth a year ago, placed third in 4:02.42. Madison Knodell, Lindsay Schweller, Alicia Honigford and Brooke Mangas improved on their sixth qualifying seed entering the race.
“We knew we had to get out fast with a team like Anna, get a good lead because their fourth leg is amazing,” Knodell said. “We were trying to get out fast and give Brooke a little cushion.”
Mangas, a two-time high jump champion and state record holder in the event at 5-10, placed sixth in that event Friday and ended her prep career on the podium with the relay.
We got eighth last year, so we wanted to kind of step it up and do better than last year,” she said. “Getting third was just the icing on the cake of my season. It was awesome.”
Anna won the 1,600 and, with it, the girls team championship with 38 points. Minster was fifth in the 1,600 relay and second in the team race with 36 points, followed by Mansfield St. Peter’s (30). St. Peter’s junior Alysse Wade won the 100 intermediate hurdles (14.46), the 100 (12.09) and the 200 (24.75).
McComb, behind Molly Leppelmeier’s sweep of Friday’s throwing finals, placed sixth with 20 points. Area teams finishing in the top 50 included St. Wendelin (tied for 17th, 11 points); Ottoville (tied for 24th, 9 points); Riverdale (tied for 27th, 8 points) and Leipsic (33rd, 7 points).
GIRLS DIVISION III AREA FINISHES
800 –14, Kelly Doepker (Kalida) 2:21.98.
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