By John Bombatch
DAYTON — She had nothing to lose, and everything to lose. Wednesday’s Division I regional track and field championships were Bellbrook senior Melissa Wahl’s last chance to qualify to the state meet.
Faced with a girls Division I regional championship high jump field that had 13 of the 16 competitors within one inch of her own seed mark of 5 feet, 3 inches, Wahl knew she had a shot at grabbing one of the coveted top-4 spots in the field. A finish of fourth place or better would send the Golden Eagles senior to the state championships for the first time in her high school career.
Wahl was one of just four competitors to clear 5-4, and so she earned herself a trip to Columbus. Upon realizing that she’d earned a spot, she congratulated Trenton Edgewood’s Hannah Bush for winning the event, then went over to Bellbrook coach Blake Barnes and gave him a big hug.
“This means sooo much to me! Last year I didn’t make it, and the year before I didn’t make it. So during the off season I worked extremely hard. Coach Barnes was always there for me,” Wahl said. “This is the best feeling I’ve ever felt. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Barnes was happy to see Wahl finally get her chance to compete in Columbus, after having come pretty close to advancing the past couple years.
“There were a couple years in a row where she would just miss being able to advance by one or two places. So this year she came in feeling really determined to finish well and get that spot that would send her on to state,” Barnes said. “You could see it in her face. She was real calm, very focused, and she jumped really well today. She did exactly what she needed to do.
“We had a plan coming into this meet, and she executed it very well.”
Wahl was the lone Greene County-area athlete to advance to state out of Wednesday’s six field events that were contested as finals. In the two running finals, a pair of Beavercreek 3,200-meter relay teams punched their respective tickets to the state championships.
First, the Beavercreek girls quartet of senior Cameron Baird, juniors Jordan Grant and Lauren Shuman, and sophomore anchor Stephanie Pierce finished third with a time of 9:32.05 — nearly eight full seconds slower than their district seeding time — to earn themselves a trip to Columbus.
The foursome had turned a 9:24.71 time at last week’s district meet on the same track.
Moments later, the Beavercreek boys junior foursome of Brad Klingbeil, Ian Johnson, Ben Ewert and Jacob Benigno ran nine seconds quicker than their district seeding time, and finished fourth to also book themselves a trip to Columbus.
“Ben and I went last year, but these guys are coming with us this time,” said Johnson. “We’ll be back next year, too. We ran about 8 (minutes) flat today, which is our season’s best. And I think we’ve got a lot more left in the tank, too.”
Beavercreek’s boys contingent finished in 8:01.16. Their district seed time had been 8:10.99. Had they run that district number at regionals, the Beavers would’ve wound up seventh and would be staying home on June 3-4 for the state track and field championships in Columbus.
The following area runners are scheduled to compete in Friday’s D-I regional running finals. (The top-4 in each of Friday’s events will also move on to the state meet.):
110 Hurdles — Mathew Riekens, Beavercreek; 1,600 run — Ben Ewert, Beavercreek; 800 run — Ian Johnson, Beavercreek; 3,200 run — Ewert, Beavercreek; Shot Put — Sam Sherwood, Fairborn.
100 Dash — Tatum Washington, Xenia; 1,600 run — Lauren Shuman, Beavercreek; 800 run — Stephanie Pierce, Beavercreek, Jordan Grant, Beavercreek; Pole Vault — Makensie Wasson, Beavercreek, Riley Allen, Bellbrook.