COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four schools, five athletes, six chances for gold.
Athletes from Eastern, Meigs, River Valley and South Gallia will all take part in the 2019 OHSAA Track and Field Championships being held this Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University.
Eastern — the only program from the Ohio Valley Publishing area to have multiple participants in this weekend’s meet — will compete in three events in total, with senior Noah Browning in the 400m dash and 200m dash, and junior Caterina Miecchi in the shot put.
Browning is making his second state appearance in the 400m dash after winning the Region 11 title with a time of 49.84. Browning — the EHS boys’ first regional champion since Mikey Johnson won back-to-back high jump titles in 2009 and 2010 — enters with the fourth fastest qualifying time in the 400m dash, .98 seconds behind the fastest mark set by Cooper Braun of River.
Browning is 1-of-8 seniors in the 400m dash, and 1-of-9 seniors in the 200m dash, an event he qualified for with a fourth place finish in the Region 11 meet. Browning’s 200m qualifying time of 23.36 is 18th in the field and 1.72 seconds behind Josh Verhorf of Kalida with the fastest mark headed into the event.
Browning will be in the second heat of both preliminary races on Friday, with the 400m dash set for 11:10 a.m. and the 200m dash beginning at 11:50 a.m. Nine athletes from each event will advance to finals at 10:35 and 11:25 a.m. respectively on Saturday.
The Eagles haven’t scored at the state level since Tyler Cline finished fourth (5 points) in the discus back in 2012. EHS also hasn’t scored a point in a running event at the Division III boys meet since Kyle Connery placed fourth in the 400m dash back in 2011.
Miecchi — extending the Lady Eagles’ streak of consecutive years at the state tournament to 10 — claimed fourth in the shot put with a distance of 37 feet, 5 inches at the Region 11 championships, a mark that places her 14th entering Friday’s competition. Wheelersburg’s Paige Emnett has the top qualifying mark (44-8) in the D-3 shot put, which will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday. Miecchi will be the fourth thrower in the first flight.
South Gallia junior Kyle Northup claimed fourth in the high jump at the Region 11 championships and will make his school’s first-ever appearence at the OHSAA state meet at 1 p.m. on Friday. Northup cleared 6 feet, one inch at the regional meet, a mark that puts him tied for 15th entering the Division III finals. There’s a three-way tie, at 6-6, for the best mark in the 18-athlete field, which features 10 seniors and seven juniors. Northup will be 17th in the jumping order.
Meigs senior Kassidy Betzing — an Ohio University signee — is making her fourth consecutive state appearance in the Division II long jump event and enters the Saturday competition with the second-best regional mark — 17 feet, 10.5 inches.
Betzing — who owns the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division and D-2 Southeast District records in this event — placed seventh as a freshman, was the overall runner-up as a junior, and took fourth last spring.
Betzing’s leap of 18 feet, 5 inches in this year’s district meet is the longest postseason jump from any of the 18 competitors by a full five inches.
Simone Green of Toledo Central Catholic enters the D-2 girls long jump with the best regional mark (17-11.25), but Beachwood’s Ashley Perryman has the only other postseason leap of 18 feet this spring.
The Division II girls long jump is set to start at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with Betzing as the second jumper in the first flight.
RVHS freshman Lauren Twyman was fourth in the 800m run at the Region 7 championships and enters Saturday’s final with the 18th-fastest qualifying mark — 2:21.38. Shelby’s Makenna Heimlich owns the fastest qualifying time in the event — 2:14.64 — which is slated to begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Twyman — 1-of-4 freshmen in the D-2 girls 800m run — will be the first Lady Raider at the state meet since Jessica Hager and Katie Blodgett represented the Silver and Black in 2011.
Neither Gallia Academy nor Southern have a state qualifier at the 2019 meet this weekend.
GAHS had one qualifier last year — John Stout in the Division II 200m dash — while SHS last appeared at state when Jaylen Blanks competed in the Division III 200m dash in 2015.
The 2018 OHSAA Track and Field Championships start at 9:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.