By Brian Dzenis
Running out of chances to make an impact at Valley Christian, Jamynk Jackson reluctantly joined the track team.
The senior football and basketball player did well enough to make state in four events, but there always was somebody in the way: Wellsville’s Justin Wright.
In district, regional and Friday’s preliminary races of the 100 and 200, the Tigers sophomore got the better of him. But Jackson had worked too hard to see Wright’s orange jersey from behind one more time.
“Every practice I’ve been working hard to get my times right. At regionals, [Wright] beat me by a split second and that made me angry and I just came out,” Jackson said. “There was no talking, just running.”
In Jackson’s first and last appearance in the state tournament, he finally overtook Wright on Saturday for a Division III state title in the 200.
Not bad for somebody that had to be prodded into joining the team by his basketball coach, Dolph Carroll.
“I really don’t like running. We run all the time in football practice,” Jackson said. “I didn’t like it at all.”
Jackson also served as the second leg in the winning 4x200 relay team in Columbus, joining teammates Brandon Paige, Lohron Brown and Terrance White at the top of the podium for Valley Christian’s first state title. That same foursome took second in the 4x100 relay, which made them Valley Christian’s first state runners-up in school history.
“Honestly, we would have settled for silver, but our handoffs were wonderful,” Jackson said. “With that 4x100, I don’t know. The handoffs were perfect, but [Gilmour Academy’s Dylan Henry] just outran our anchor.”
Valley Christian’s first state title had a inauspicious start. With the gun sounded to start the 4x200, Eagles freshman Paige spent nearly a second still in the blocks as his competitors took off.
“I was just nervous,” Paige said. “Once we got going, we were good.”
East’s girls 4x100 and 4x200 relays rallied for second-place finishes. In the 4x200, a less-than smooth handoff put the Golden Bears in last place, but the crew of Laniya Lewis, DeShante Allen, Kyndia Matlock and Jahniya Bowers mounted an impressive comeback, with Bowers closing out the race.
“I’m good at catching. I knew we were back and my team was depending on me,” Bowers said. “It was time for me to run and show out.”
Bowers, Allen, Matlock and Johnae Coleman teamed up for the 4x100. With just Coleman graduating this spring, the outlook is positive.
“This was our first time qualifying and we were runners-up,” Allen said. “Next year, I think we’ve got this.”
Howland’s Vincent Mauri also had a runner-up finish in the 3200. His time of 9:04.59 was roughly two and a half-seconds behind first-place Matt Scrape of Pickerington Central.
“It was really intense. I never really felt a race like it. That first lap was the fastest I’ve ever gone out on and I just felt like one of the slowest,” Mauri said. “Just knowing that there is so many fast people out there and to have somebody who just ran a [4:04.96] in the mile next to you is just astounding.”
McDonald’s 4x400 relay squad of Abbie Matig, Bella Wolford, Jessica Stamp and Malina Mitchell legged out a runner-up finish. The Blue Devils were just 0.19 seconds back of first-place Covington.
McDonald’s time of 3:56.90 is a school record, breaking the record set by the 2016 state-title winning relay. Matig and Mitchell were part of that winning team. The latter closes out a high school career with a cross country and track state title to her name. She dealt with a broken leg and two stress fracture injuries in four years while earning a full ride to run for West Virginia.
“I feel like I did everything I could to make my mark at McDonald. I have the school record in the mile and part of the 4x400,” said Mitchell, who also took fifth in the 1600 on Saturday. “It’s sad, but the feeling hasn’t hit me yet. I think when I go home and take [my uniform] off for the last time, it’s going to be emotional.”