COLUMBUS — The goal for Highland sophomore Carlee Rhoads was simple Saturday at the Division I state track and field championships.
Little did Rhoads know her goal of finishing second in the 3,200-meter run would be accomplished in the same time she ran to win the Amherst Regional a week ago.
“I was hoping for a little bit faster (time), but I mean, I didn’t get slower,” Rhoads said with a laugh. “It was awesome because my goal was actually to be second.”
Rhoads accomplished that with a time identical to the hundredths of a second, as she clocked 10:49.42 to finish behind champion Aundrea Busse of Springboro (10:43.30).
While it’s where Rhoads envisioned herself on the podium, the race was not at all as she expected.
A mile in, Busse, Rhoads and projected champion Annie Heffernan of Cincinnati St. Ursula were in a pack in front of the other 13
With less than a lap remaining, however, that all changed when Heffernan, who won the 1,600 earlier in the day, started to lose steam in the final 100 meters, leaving the door open for Rhoads to finish behind Busse, who had pulled away a lap before.
“I thought Annie was going to be way out there, and it was kind of like a weird mind game having her so close to me the whole time,” Rhoads said. “By the last lap, seeing her die off like that in the last 100, I was so surprised. It definitely gave me more motivation to push to the finish.”
Rhoads wasn’t the only athlete from a Medina County school to place, as six other individuals and a relay team earned All-Ohio accolades.
Highland’s 4×100-meter relay ended its record-breaking season with a sixth-place showing, as Sam Duale, Colleen Hoynes, Emma Grantier and Sarah Carpenter combined to finish in 48.72.
Despite the time falling short of the chool-record 48.18 set in the prelims Friday, the feeling of standing on the podium was pretty good.
“It’s a really big deal for all us because we’ve trained really hard and worked hard for this and we improved our times with every meet,” Grantier said. “That was no different here. We tried our best and we did our best, so we’re all very proud.”
Duale added: “It was a good race. I mean, we got sixth in the state, so that means a lot.”
For Carpenter, the lone senior on the team, the race was just another memory from an impressive final season.
“It’s been incredible and I wouldn’t ask for a different group of girls,” she said. “We’ve had so much fun together and we work hard together, always supportive … so I couldn’t ask for anything else. We have a special bond.”
Speaking of seniors, Wadsworth’s Hunter Williams went from being the final runner to qualify for the 200 final to taking sixth in a season-low 21.70.
The rest of the county’s placers came in the field, as four Medina athletes had impressive days.
After failing to place in the shot put earlier in the day, senior Mike Hierholzer made up for it with a fifth-place finish in the discus.
Hierholzer’s first toss of the afternoon of 160 feet, 4 inches was good enough to get him into the finals, but the All-Gazette selection cemented his top-five finish in his final attempt of the flight, twirling the disc 166-7.
The day, however, didn’t end the way the Eastern Michigan recruit wanted, as he fouled all three of his attempts in finals action.
“I just couldn’t get my footing right. I kept tripping over my feet and I threw and I fouled them all,” said Hierholzer, who was 10th in the shot put. “It’s a good feeling to know that your fifth in the state, but working this hard and being fifth in the state is kind of bittersweet.
“It was definitely my goal just to be here, but once I got here, I wanted to be the best that I could and I really didn’t.”
Fellow Bees Kyle Hutchinson and Andrew Stenger each got off to fast starts in the pole vault and high jump, respectively, before taking sixth.
A two-time state placer, Hutchinson cleared 14-0 and 14-6 on his first tries before switching poles and hitting his final mark of 14-10 on the second attempt. His three tries at 15-2 were tough, however, as the senior couldn’t get his plant down.
“I was doing really well and clearing everything on the first attempt, but once it got to 15-2 my body starting giving out,” Hutchinson said. “I couldn’t get it on the poles that I was on and was getting stuck straight up in the air. I’ve never experienced that before. I was just running out of gas and losing it.
Stenger was impressive, leaping 6-0, 6-2 and 6-4 without a miss. He went on to nail 6-6 on the second try and just nicked the bar on the way down of his second attempt at 6-7.
“I’m satisfied. My goal, to begin with, was to make top eight and I was sixth, so I can’t complain about that,” he said. “When I got that 6-6 jump, that felt great. I didn’t touch the bar and I was fairly far over it. I feel like I had 6-7, but it was just one of those days.”
The final area placer in the field was Medina freshman Carolyn Wilder, who took eighth in the discus.
Wilder’s best throw came on the second attempt in her flight, when she uncorked 124-11.
While it was short of her personal best set a week ago when she won at regionals with 138-4, it was a good experience.
“It was definitely nerves, but you can’t always hit that PR, so I went out there with a positive attitude and wanted to do my best,” she said. “It feels good (to place). It just will help for the years to come to have this experience. I wish I did better, but can’t help it now.”
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