COLUMBUS — The Wadsworth boys track team didn’t need a bus to transport athletes to the Division I state meet over the weekend.
The Grizzlies’ impact, however, was bigger than the van they used to get to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
With just five athletes, Wadsworth capped the season with a fifth-place finish by reaching the podium in each event it qualified for.
“We didn’t qualify too many guys, but everyone that was here put in an amazing effort,” senior Gabe Szalay said. “It shows that we may not be the best team in the state, but we’re going to compete with them and give them a run for their money.”
Indeed they did, as the Grizzlies followed their memorable 4x800-meter relay victory on Friday with senior Nick Miller winning the 800, Szalay placing fourth in the 1,600 and the 4x4 relay recording seventh.
The four events made up the 27 team points that tied them for fifth with Olentangy Orange. Wadsworth was 9½ points behind runner-up Centerville.
Kentucky recruit Szalay was key, as he earned his fourth straight medal in the 1,600 by crossing in 4:11.66. It was his best finish after placing 11th, ninth and seventh.
“I just need one more year,” he joked. “It’s all about racing for place here at state. I’m happy with fourth place and that, with the 4x8 state championship, couldn’t be sweeter.”
With talented Dustin Horter of Lakota East setting a blistering pace, Szalay held his own to finish within five seconds of the eventual champ and just steps behind Dublin Coffman’s Lucas Bons and Lexington’s Ryan Johnston.
“I was going to let Dustin go because he’s an amazing runner, so I just planned on sticking on Lucas and Ryan,” Szalay said. “I knew if I stuck with them, I would have a good chance to get in under 4:10 or close to it. I didn’t get it today. I think I started my kick too late, and I just ran out of track at the end.”
Szalay, Miller, Josiah Sovine and Andrew Robinson clocked 3:20.94 in the 4x4. Medina was right behind in eighth, as Michael Kelly, Christopher Kelly, Demetrius Shannon and Harry Custer earned the final podium spot in 3:21.57.
A pair of Medina County runners picked up All-Ohio accolades in the girls 1,600, as Medina’s Juliette Keller was sixth with a 4:58.85 and Brunswick’s Emily Bardwell placed seventh in 4:59.03.
Keller improved on her seventh-place run from last season, but this one took a lot more effort after the humid conditions dominated the final session.
“The race was fast — really fast — but it was a lot better than last year,” the sophomore said. “My key is I like to go out a little slower, so I let everyone else do the work and then I pick it up when it slows down. Last year, I pushed really fast then I got burned out. This year was different.”
Bardwell wasn’t done, as the 10th-grader turned in an eighth-place finish in the 3,200 in 10:50.50 for her second medal. Teammate Alyssa Wolf won in 10:27.57, while Highland’s Kaylie Kenne was 10th (10:52.87).
Despite the weather, Bardwell knew she was going to run in both finals.
“I’m surprised and really happy for what I did today,” she said. “I kept a positive mindset, but I’m going to be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull it off. I’m glad I did.
“I was going to run both races. I just wouldn’t be satisfied if I dropped out of one because it’s the last meet. I just had to be tough and race both and I ended up doing well.”
Led by Wolf and Bardwell, Brunswick had a pretty good day, too, as the Angelina Lotarski placed seventh in the pole vault and the 4x4 relay took eighth.
Lotarski soared over the bar at 11 feet, 6 inches on her final attempt.
“I’m proud of myself with how I did this year,” the sophomore said. “Next year, I have bigger goals for myself now. It was a great experience and really fun.”
Kaelin Stahl of Highland just missed the podium, finishing ninth at 11-0.
The Blue Devils’ 4x4 of Rachel Mancini, Ashli Holden, Nellie Bykova and Maddy Neitzel closed the season in 3:54.63.
For Mancini, a 4x4 state qualifier in each of the last two seasons, it was nice to finally to get a medal.
“This was my goal to be on the podium, no matter what place it is. As long as we were there, that’s what I’m happy with,” she said. “Just being here with my team makes it even more special. We had to go out hard and finish hard. That’s how the 400 is. It’s a difficult race.”
Brunswick had another sprint relay, the boys 4x1, walk away with a podium finish, as Josh Peppers, Ben Mewhinney, Sam Raiff and Cole Zamiska capped their record-breaking season with a 42.29 for sixth.
After the relay missed the regional finals a year ago after a disqualification in the prelims, placing in Columbus meant everything.
“That really left a bad taste in our mouths,” Peppers said. “To be able to come here and place is great. It’s been crazy. When we started two years ago, I never thought I would get this far.”
Medina’s boys 4x2 did not finish the race.
Hailey Borges of Medina and Alex Stamper of Medina also competed. Borges was 14th in the 800 in 2:16.93, while Stamper clocked 9:45.32 to place 16th in the 3,200.
In the field, Medina’s Tom Supan and Wadsworth’s Hailey Montgomery were strong in the discus and shot put, respectively, while Buckeye’s Justin Canedy placed in the high jump.
Supan capped his career with an eighth-place 166-8 in the discus. The senior, who will play volleyball at Hiram College, saved his best attempt for last.
“I really wanted to make the podium, especially with this being my last year,” said Supan, who was 12th in the shot. “I think last week (at regionals) was my peak, which is what I wanted because I wanted to get to state. Just being here, even if I didn’t make the podium, is great.”
Montgomery’s shot distance of 39-7¾ was a personal best and enough for sixth. Sitting in ninth heading into the finals, the senior wasted little time with the career mark on her first attempt.
“I like that pressure and I always seem to throw better in finals, so I knew I could improve my mark,” she said. “On that one, I just had a little bit more speed behind it, then my other throws. I really need to work on my finish because it can go a lot further.”
Canedy completed a busy weekend with a seventh-place medal in the high jump (6-5). The lone representative for Buckeye missed the long jump finals by one spot and ran the 100 and 200 prelims on Friday.
“I feel like I did all right, but I could’ve done better,” he said. “Considering I jumped 6-3 last year here and I got 6-5 this year was good. I was surprised about the competition, though, because whenever you get to state, everybody is good, so it’s never a shock.”
Brunswick’s Katrine Kidal recorded a 16-10½ in the long jump on her first try, but it wasn’t enough to get her in the finals. The junior was 13th.
The area’s lone runner in D-II, Cloverleaf junior Tommie Kurtz, was 17th in the 800. Kurtz, who clocked 2:23.24, didn’t dwell on the finish.
“I’m happy to be here, but I wish I would’ve done better ... but I got one more year to go,” Kurtz said. “Being her for the first time, this is such an emotional track meet. It’s good to get that experience and refuel for next year. I’m hungrier.”