By Joe Scalzo
At the center of the state, at the center of the track, at the center of the podium, Warren Harding senior DeAver Williamson took the Division I championship trophy on Saturday evening and held it aloft for all to see.
His Raiders are the center of Ohio’s track and field universe.
Thanks to two individual state titles from the Michigan football recruit, Harding won its first state track title in history with a 47-44 victory over Trotwood Madison at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“To do this, and to run with this group of guys, it means a lot,” said Williamson. “I can’t put this into words.”
Williamson repeated as the 100-meter dash state champion and added a 200 title out of Lane 8 to help Harding win the crown on what was probably only a B-plus performance from the Raiders this weekend.
“This was my goal when I took over this program,” said Harding track coach Charles Penny, who was hired in 2004. “With the athletes we have in our city and the support from our community and the toughness of our kids, I knew we had a great mixture.
“We have everything you need to have in a track program.”
The Raiders did it with depth, earning points from five different individuals and a relay. Senior Andrew Zitnik, who ran for Hubbard last year, placed fourth in the 100 and 200 and joined Williamson on the third-place 4x200 relay.
Senior Aaron Wilson was fourth in the shot put, senior Marteze Roper was fifth in the 800 and senior Marvin Logan was seventh in the 300 hurdles, providing much-needed points on a day when they all mattered.
“The guys we had today, they’re the best our school has to offer,” said Penny. “They’re all Division I scholarship athletes and they’re all seniors.”
After Williamson and Zitnik finished the 200 — Harding’s final event — only two events remained: the 3200 and the 4x400 relay. By then, Penny had added up the points and he knew the result. He caught Williamson’s attention near the medal stand, waived his arms and mouthed, “It’s a lock.”
Harding had finished second three times in its history, most recently in 1967. The team title is the school’s first since winning the Division I football crown in 1990.
“I was just emotional all day,” Penny said. “We knew we had a shot and the whole day, I just told them to focus on themselves and no one else.
“They stayed the course and let other teams worry about us, instead of us worrying about other teams.”
All season, Harding has adopted the phrase, “It’s all about the W.” When Williamson crossed the finish line in the 100, he held up both hands in the shape of a “W.”
A “W” usually stands for a win. For the Raiders, it stands for Warren.
On Saturday, they brought those two together and brought the championship home.