A weekend full of achievements.
The 2017 OHSAA track and field championships held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium ended up being historic for the Ohio Valley Publishing area, mainly due to the fact that three different schools came away with podium finishes.
The girls programs at Meigs, Gallia Academy and Eastern all scored points in their respective divisions, something that hadn’t happened on the Ohio side of the tri-county area in six years — dating back to when GAHS, EHS and River Valley last accomplished the feat during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns.
In all, six different ladies amassed all-Ohio honors in four separate events. Nobody came away with a state title, but four seniors ended their prep careers standing atop the awards platform … and two underclassmen will have a chance to duplicate that feeling in a little under 12 months.
It started on the opening day in Division III with Eastern senior Laura Pullins, who qualified for the state meet in each of her four years with the Lady Eagles.
Pullins was appearing in her third career high jump final and took full advantage of that experience after tying a personal-best leap of 5 feet, 6 inches — which is an EHS school record. Pullins ultimately finished fifth overall, which netted four points for the Lady Eagles.
Eastern ended up tying with seven other squads for 52nd place out of 82 scoring teams in Division III, but Pullins also gave the program its first state points in three years.
Coincidentally, Pullins is linked to the Lady Eagles’ last podium efforts in 2014 after joining Keri Lawrence, Taylor Palmer and Maddie Rigsby on a pair of top-eight relay teams.
As a freshman, Pullins was part of a fourth place finish in the 4x800m event and was also connected to a seventh place effort in the 4x400m relay.
Lawrence also finished seventh in the 800m event during those 2014 finals, making her the last individual podium honoree before Pullins.
Pullins also qualified for the cross country state meet as part of a team her sophomore year and was also a freshman on the 2014 Division IV championship squad in girls basketball. Pullins will be attending Marietta College for both women’s basketball and track.
Meigs sophomore Kassidy Betzing started the second wave of history on Saturday, though it took all three of her qualifying jumps just to sneak into the back half of the Division II long jump final.
Betzing — who placed seventh as a freshman in this same event — posted a school-record leap of 18 feet, 9 1/4 inches in the finale, which ultimately resulted in a runner-up finish … the highest of any OVP area athlete in the early June competition.
Betzing — who already owns the TVC Ohio and D-2 Southeast District long jump records midway through her prep career — netted eight points for the Lady Marauders with that single leap, then played a part in another point later in the day.
Seniors Devyn Oliver and Sky Brown, as well as sophomore Taylor Swartz, joined Betzing in guiding the 4x100m relay team to an eighth place time of 49.93 seconds — also a new MHS school record.
Those nine points allowed Meigs to finish tied for 25th place out of 75 scoring teams in the Division II competition, the program’s best since 2000.
Both Swartz and Betzing have two years to improve, while Oliver has signed to play softball at West Virginia Wesleyan. Brown ends her prep career with a state medal and the memory of a lifetime.
Though it was the first state runner-up effort for Betzing at the OHSAA meet, the sophomore did join some pretty elite company from down the river.
A pair of former Gallia Academy state champions — Felicia Close and Alexis Geiger — each earned state runner-up honors in the long jump during their decorated careers.
Geiger — who competed at Ohio University and won 11 varsity letters in three sports during her prep career — finished seventh in the long jump as a freshman, then recorded back-to-back runner-up efforts before winning her only Division II long jump title in 2009.
Close — a Division II 100m hurdles champion in 2006 — finished second in the long jump that same season. Close still owns the record for most state podium finishes in a career for the storied Blue Angels’ program.
There have been only three OHSAA track and field championships won by the OVP area since the turn of the millennium, with Gallia Academy accounting for all three. Logan Allison also won the D-2 long jump as a senior in 2014.
GAHS senior Madi Oiler — a three-time state qualifier and sixth place finisher as a sophomore — capped her 300m hurdles career in style with a time of 44.05 seconds, which was good enough for fourth place overall.
Oiler — a University of Rio Grande track signee — netted five points for the Blue Angels, which led to a nine-way tie for 41st place in the Division II field.
Oiler became the new record-holder in the 300m hurdles at GAHS with her state finale, surpassing Close’s mark of 45.04 seconds as a freshman back in 2003. Close, however, still owns the highest state finish in the 300m hurdles after placing third in 2004.
Oiler was also a multi-year starter on the GAHS soccer team, which won two sectional titles and a share of the OVC crown during her tenure.
Gallia Academy’s girls program has scored at least one point at the state track and field meet in 20 of the last 21 years, with 2016 being the lone exception.
With the 2017 tournament now in the books, the Ohio Valley Publishing area has had at least one team earn a podium finish in the last 25 OHSAA meets. The last time that Gallia or Meigs counties collectively failed to score a point at the state level was 1992.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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