COLUMBUS — Leah Runkle was the first to admit she wasn’t herself.
And with good reason.
The Wadsworth sprinter had a member of her family missing Friday from Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium as she competed in three events. Runkle’s father, Scott, had been hospitalized battling leukemia and that was weighing heavily on her mind during the opening day of Division I competition at the OHSAA State Championships.
While Runkle helped the 4×800-meter relay to fifth, she fell shy of qualifying for today’s finals in the 400 and as a leg on the 4×4.
“I just have a lot on my mind,” Runkle said. “My dad, he’s been at everything and he’s been in the hospital since Sunday and I just let myself down. It’s not an excuse, but I wanted to be able to call and tell him that I made it and I didn’t do that.”
Runkle was impressive in the 4×8, making it the second year in a row that the team, which also included Courtney Palange, Madi Salem and Sarah Berger, made it onto the podium. It was fourth last June.
The speedy Runkle put together possibly the best race of her season to put the relay back into All-Ohio contention. She received the baton with the group near the back of the pack and pulled it to 12th after her first lap and fourth on her second turn.
“I just gave it my all,” she said. “I knew it could be my only chance to get a medal for my senior year.”
It was an effort that was noticed by her teammates.
“That was awesome,” Berger said of Runkle’s leg. “We were in last place and she brought us up to fourth. We just couldn’t hold it, I guess.”
Salem and Berger stayed in contention for placing, as the group finished in a school-record time of 9:14.15, which was faster than a year ago.
It was a great finish to a remarkable season.
“The competition is so good here,” Berger said. “We ran seven seconds faster than our time last year, so you have to be happy with that. We’re not happy with the place, but it’s just what we had today.
“It was tough because I know there are some anchors out here that are running 2:11s and 2:12s and I’m just not that fast. I just have to try and do what I can to stay with them.”
Runkle was an uncharacteristic 10th in the 400 preliminaries, missing advancing by one spot after clocking 59.17. She then ran with Berger, Palange and Madison Gilger on the 4×4 that was 16th in 4:05.03.
“I just wasn’t there today,” Runkle said. “We ran 10 seconds slower than we did last week and I don’t know what happened. It was a lot hotter than last year, but I guess it was just a learning experience doing three events.”
In the boys 4×8 final, Brunswick placed 15th. Tyler Laffin, Andre Bollam-Godbott, Dan Maher and Brandon Emert combined for an 8:03.67.
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