COLUMBUS, Ohio — They were back … and with a vengeance too.
The Gallia Academy boys and girls teams made triumphant returns to the podium stand Saturday during the 2022 OHSAA Division II track and field championships held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of the Ohio State University.
It had been eight years since GAHS last registered points in both the girls and boys standings at the D-2 meet. The Blue Devils were 13th back in 2014 with 15 points, while the Blue Angels ended up tied for 38th with six points.
The last points scored by Gallia Academy also dated back to 2017, when Madi Oiler scored five points and placed fourth in the 300-meter hurdles. The Blue Angels ended up tied for 41st place that postseason.
The Blue Devils also hadn’t had a single state qualifier in an event since John Stout made it to the 300m hurdles semifinals back in 2018.
Both the Blue Angels and the Blue Devils managed to turn back the clocks a bit at the 114th annual boys and 47th annual girls tournaments held Friday and Saturday in Franklin County.
And yet, the Blue and White still managed to collectively move their storied programs forward with feats that have never been accomplished.
Senior Daunevyn Woodson became the first male athlete in GAHS history to qualify for and compete in four different events at the state meet. Woodson also joined an elite group of company in Amy Wilson, Felicia Close and Alexis Geiger as the only 4-time participants at a single state meet in school history.
Like Wilson, Close and Geiger, Woodson also secured a podium (top-8) finish after placing sixth in the 100m dash finals on Saturday.
Woodson ran a time of 10.96 seconds in the final, but had the fourth-fastest qualifying time of 10.84 seconds on Friday. Woodson also garnered four points for his efforts, the first points for the Blue Devils since Logan Allison won the long jump and Jacob Click placed fourth in the 300m hurdles for 15 points back in 2014.
Woodson just missed the finals in the 200m dash after placing 10th in the preliminaries Friday with a time of 22.62 seconds. Woodson also placed 13th in the long jump final Friday morning with a distance of 20 feet, 9 inches.
Woodson was also joined by junior Mason Skidmore, sophomore Hunter Shamblin and freshman Braydn Simmons in the 4x100m relay semifinals Friday, where the quartet finished eighth out of nine teams in the first heat and 16th overall with a mark of 44.11 seconds.
Woodson — who won the 100m dash as an eighth-grader at the OHSAA Middle School Championships back in 2018 — has battled injuries, COVID and bad luck over the course of his prep career in an attempt to get back to Jesse Owens Stadium.
This year, everything fell in place for the senior … and in a way that no other Blue Devil has ever known.
“It’s been an honor to run for Gallia Academy. It’s been a fun year, particularly the last two days, and it’s a good way to finish a strong season. It’s a good way to close out my career as a Blue Devil,” Woodson said. “To get to do this once is special, competing at state in an event. To do it four times over two days? It’s a big deal, and it’s very special to me. I’ve worked very hard to get here, and I’m very proud to be the first Blue Devil to compete in four different events at one tournament.
“My final memory in that blue uniform will be having a medal placed around my neck as I hear my name called over the sound system at Jesse Owens Stadium. You hear the fans and you see the fans and you just take a moment to enjoy it. That moment will be with me forever. That moment made it all worth it.”
The Blue Devils finished in a 12-way tie for 45th place with their four points. They were joined by Brookside, Utica, West Liberty Salem, Fairview, Bishop Watterson, Archbishop McNicholas, Youngstown Ursuline, Indian Hill, Unioto, Union Local and Zane Trace in that 45th spot.
Glenville won the D-2 boys title with 45 points, with Keystone claiming runner-up honors out of 73 scoring teams with 35 points.
All three local female competitors in the Division II meet were making repeat appearances to the state tournament, including a pair of GAHS athletes that took part in the same events last year at Pickerington High School North.
The Blue Angels came up empty on Friday as junior Chanee Cremeens placed 11th in the discus final with a throw of 117 feet even. Cremeens was 14th a year ago with a heave of 109 feet, 6 inches.
GAHS, however, rebounded nicely on Saturday morning as junior Callie Wilson ended sharing runner-up honors in the pole vault final. Both Wilson and Claire Schweller of Paulding tied for second place with matching cleared heights of 11 feet, 10 inches.
Wilson was two inches off of her personal best mark and nearly a foot away from the championship height of 12 feet, 9 inches set by Westfall senior Peyton Proffitt, but she is also the only underclassman from that trio of top finishers.
Wilson — who tied for 14th last year with a cleared height of 10 feet even — said being at Jesse Owens Stadium was much different than last spring, but her prior experience at the state meet did pay dividends this weekend.
“I just wanted to end up on the podium. Eighth place was the goal, so when they said I was in the top-6 … I was good from there. Then, I end up in a tie for second place. I never dreamed things would go so well this weekend, but it sure has been a lot of fun,” Wilson said with an ear-to-ear smile. “Last year didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but the experience of going up against the best did help. I learned that I belonged in this event last year.
“Now, to have this weekend go the way that it has, it makes all of it worth it. All the work and effort paid off this weekend, and I must say that I have enjoyed Jesse Owens Stadium a lot more than Pickerington North. I’m really hoping to return to Jesse Owens Stadium next year too.”
The final local competitor of the weekend was the only athlete to ever compete at Jesse Owens Stadium prior to this weekend.
River Valley senior Lauren Twyman — who placed 18th as freshman in the 800m (2:30.97) final — completed her stellar career by finishing 11th in the 800m run with a time of 2:19.33.
Oakwood captured the D-2 girls title with 47 points, while Akron Buchtel was second out of 69 scoring teams with 39 points. The Blue Angels joined Huron, Sandusky Perkins, Celina and Paulding in a 5-way tie for 29th place with seven points.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.