The state track meet is my favorite event of the year, and not just because I was able to visit my nieces and nephews on the way to Columbus and check off “Get pooped on by a chinchilla” from my Bucket List, or because I was able to eat pasta with a plastic cup from my hotel room (forgot to get a fork) or because I get to eat complimentary media hot dogs that remind me of this exchange from The Simpsons:
Homer: “Aw, how come he gets meat and we don’t?”
Marge: “You wouldn’t want what he’s eating. It’s mostly just snouts and entrails.”
Homer: “Mmmm ... snouts.”
No, it’s because I get to experience moments like the one in Saturday’s Division III girls 3200-meter run.
With about 50 meters left in her last lap, Arlington sophomore Arden McMath hit the wall, collapsing on the track. Just behind her, West Liberty junior Meghan Vogel (who had won the 1600 about an hour earlier) saw what happened, lifted her up off the track and basically carried her across the finish line (with a couple stumbles along the way) as everyone in the stands stood up and cheered.
McMath finished 14th, Vogel was 15th. Neither was disqualified.
“In all my years of attending the meet, I have never witnessed such an act of sportsmanship and compassion,” former Lordstown coach Frank Rahde told me. “That was definitely the highlight of the meet for me.”
Here are some others.
Five favorite athletes to watch
Struthers senior Kodie Fennell, who ran a near-suicidal pace through the first 600 meters of the 800 before falling back to third. I love athletes that aren’t afraid to go for it. Girard senior Jamel McClendon, who looks shorter than the hurdles he’s jumping over and somehow managed to finish sixth in the state anyway. McDonald sophomore Bobby Johnson, who usually runs his final laps looking like someone who just got shot — but always finishes. Springfield senior Stephen Lyons, who finally got his elusive shot put title and who smiles as much as any male athlete I’ve ever covered. And Fitch senior high jumper Jay Jakovina, who didn’t compete at the state meet but, darn it, I’m not going to let a bad regional meet keep him off this list.
Five favorite athletes to interview
Maplewood junior Wyatt Hartman and Lakeview senior Lauren Schattinger, who are far more gracious and well-spoken than they have any business being after finishing with silver medals in events they were really, really hoping to win. Schattinger will graduate as Hall of Famer in this category and Hartman is on his way. Brookfield junior Tori Thompson, who dedicated her regional meet to her basketball coach’s daughter, who is battling leukemia. Badger sophomore Jennilyn Krumpe, who looks like she shouldn’t be able to win a 400 state title on a scooter and, after she did, gave the kind of interview that makes up for 100 “We were just trying to control the line of scrimmage and avoid turnovers” quotes I’ll get this fall. And East senior Valentino Sewell, who finished fourth in Division I in the 110 hurdles and spoke like someone who would have been happy just to make the district finals.
Struthers senior Charles Corn, who also gets my vote for the best high school mustache I’ve ever seen. Seriously, he could be on the History Channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys.” I think you could braid it.
Canfield girls coach Pat Pavlansky, who wimped out of a mustache-growing contest with Fitch coaches T.J. Koniowsky and Seth Steiner, blaming it on needing to be in his daughter’s prom pictures. (As if anyone looks at the father in those pictures.)
“Our coaches manned up and grew the mustaches,” said Koniowsky.
Five quotes I loved the most
From Youngstown Christian coach Ron Voitus, on practicing without a track: “People sometimes ask the kids how we practice and they tell them we run the streets. I’m not sure that’s such a good saying for a Christian school.”
Salem throwing coach Jean Neapolitan, on her reaction to junior Anthony Shivers essentially winning the Division II discus title on his first throw: “They said I squealed. I don’t think that’s accurate. I think it was someone else.”
Krumpe, giving her stream-of-consciousness reaction to winning the 400: “I had to ask the ladies [at the finish line]. I was like, ‘What place did I get?’ And she’s like, ‘Honey, the tent’s over there.’ So I asked them, ‘Do you know what place I got?’ and when they told me, I was like, ‘What?’ It was ... I don’t even ... it was weird. It’s taken a long time to adjust.”
Liberty senior Marquis Williamson, after losing to Poland’s 4x400 relay at the regional meet: “We’re gonna get them at state. We know that for sure.”
(They did, finishing fifth to Poland’s ninth.)
And, finally, Lyons on his chances heading into the state meet: “I don’t want to be cocky, but I don’t want to not be cocky. I’m ready to throw some bombs.”
Joe Scalzo covers track for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.