By ANDY WOLF
COLUMBUS — The first state meet is always the hardest.
No area athletes reached the podium or made today’s finals in the running events at the Division III state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Yet none of the three individuals who competed on Friday are seniors and will have another crack at placing in the top eight next year.
Vanlue sophomore Bethany Smith narrowly missed the 400 finals with the 10th-fastest time in preliminaries at 59.52. Hopewell-Loudon junior Bailey Jameson was 14th in the long jump (16-¼), and Old Fort sophomore Jenna Clouse was 15th in the 300 hurdles (48.49).
Runners with the top two times in both heats, plus those with the next five fastest overall times made today’s finals.
Fort Loramie’s Kennedi Gephart took the ninth spot (59.20) in the 400 by a slim margin over Smith.
“I still tried to give it my all,” Smith said, noting that she was fighting the heat and a cold. “I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t finish in the top two, but you know I’ve got two years ahead of me to work for it.”
She is Vanlue’s only girl state competitor since Tina Luzader was sixth in the 800 in 1981.
Smith said the cold had her nose stuffed up, making it a little harder for her to breathe.
Times across the field of 16 runners were slower than last week, as only four runners bested their regional-seed marks.
While Smith did crack one minute for the second time in her career, she didn’t reach her goal of making the finals or being in the top two of her heat.
“I tried giving it my all,” Smith said. “It felt like I pushed myself, but there’s always that notch that you can go faster. I think I can still (have) gone faster, but I can’t change anything now.
The atmosphere was a lot for Smith to take in.
“It’s very overwhelming, how these people are watching you and having so many fans supporting you — super overwhelming toward me, but it’s actually really great to see everyone supporting everyone.”
Smith has a busy summer ahead of her.
Along with perfecting her craft in the 400, she’ll be hitting the open gyms for basketball and has volleyball coming up in the fall.
“I have more of a feel of what I need to do in the 400,” Smith said. “I’m definitely wanting training done to help get my times down better and know exactly how to time clock in my head, not just off other competitors.”
Meanwhile, Jameson admitted having her senior year remaining makes her feel a little better about not making the finals.
“Now I’ve got the feeling of it,” Jameson said. “I can come back next year even better.”
Jumping in the second flight, she fouled on her first attempt and went 15-11¼ on her next.
“I think I just got too excited on that one,” Jameson said of her first jump. “Once I readjusted, I think I just had to go for it.”
She needed to eclipse 16-9 just to make the finals, something she’d done only once prior while taking second at regionals at 16-9¼.
Though she only got 16-¼, it marked the fourth straight meet in which she’d reached the 16-foot mark after having never done better than 15-8 before.
“The biggest thing is just to go for it,” Jameson said. “You have nothing to lose.
With the school closing, St. Wendelin will have its last athletic competition today in Division III. Senior Sophia Volpe will run in the 1,600 and 3,200, and classmate Nick DeHaven will race in the 1,600.
State Track: Tough day for state meet rookies
By ANDY WOLF