COLUMBUS — The state track and field meet is one of my favorite events to cover during the year, not because of the wins or losses. Those are nice, but I enjoy experiencing the behind-the-scenes aspects of the sport.
•Watching Riley Buchholz of Beavercreek give everyone a hug after he won the Division I boys 1,600-meter state title. He saw teammate Juliann Williams under the athletes’ tent in the infield. Williams had just enjoyed her awards ceremony for placing seventh in the girls mile run, and Riley had just entered the tent with the rest of the boys mile placers in anticipation of their podium awards ceremony. He saw Juliann, and quickly swooped her up off her feet in a big bear hug and spun her around in celebration.
Then he saw me, and the two Beaver milers were kind enough to pose for a photo. I like the photo, because you can see their excitement in realizing just how all that hard work really can — and often does — pay off in a most wonderful way.
•Seeing Xenia’s Reaghan Wakefield grow as an athlete right before her coaches’ eyes. The Buccaneers sophomore admitted to having a bad case of the jitters when the D-I girls high jump competition began. Those same entry heights she’d often cleared with relative ease in prior meets, they now seemed as if she were trying to clear skyscrapers, when you added several thousand fans and a giant stadium into the mix.
Wakefield shook off those nerves, regained her composure and came within a heel clip of clearing the bar at 5-foot-4. I think her first taste of state competition will serve as a motivator for her.
She’ll be back at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in the years ahead, and not as a spectator.
•Moments after her team had lost in the D-I girls 3,200-meter relay race on Friday, I saw how ‘Creek’s Taylor Ewert has not only become a leader on the track but she’s now a leader off of it as well. While the team could’ve let the impact of placing third in the event get them down and really eat at them, Ewert wouldn’t let it happen.
She led the rest of the Beavercreek team in graciously congratulating the state champions and state runners-up from Worthington and Gahanna Lincoln, and then she led the team in a series of cool-down laps in the infield.
It could have been easy for Ewert to show her disappointment in not winning. Her head could’ve bowed down. The hands could’ve gone to her hips in resignation. She could’ve set the example of a sulking and bitterly disappointed loser.
But instead, she kept her smile and showed what true sportsmanship, class and leadership looks like. She’s a good example for anyone to follow.
•Appreciating the workmanlike effort from Beavercreek’s Jodie Pierce and Juliann Williams, who each competed in three events at the state meet. It takes a solid effort to go up against Ohio’s best in just one event, yet there were those two giving it their all in the two-mile and mile relays, while Pierce also raced hard in the 800-meter run and Williams competed in the earlier mentioned mile.
Both finished on the podium in all three events.
•Seeing how competitors looked out for each other when there was a starter’s gun nearby. Beavercreek’s Eileen Yang had been battling with eventual state runner-up Haleigh Eckert of Mason and eventual state record holding champ Riley Hunt, of Greenville, all season long. So there might’ve been a bit of a rivalry brewing amongst the three pole vaulters.
Yet there they were, letting the others know that the infield official was about to fire off a starting gun near them, and reminding them to cover their ears. Yang placed third for the second year in a row.
I think pole vaulters in general are a rare breed. They run, and twist and jump and fire off the pole, all in hopes of clearing a tiny fragile bar seemingly a mile up in the air. It was refreshing to see the vaulters encouraging each other to clear the next height, as well as making sure they kept their hearing.
•And finally, I just enjoyed catching some of the youthful enthusiasm that comes along with being a kid in need of a quick release of energy before putting everything on the line in competition. In a sea of stern faces and serious pre-race focus, there were Beavercreek mile relay team members Ashtyn Gluck and Abigail Hobbs going through their pre-game handshake, airborne chest bump ritual to chase away some of the fear.
That same enthusiasm was evident when I interviewed the girls after they’d finished sixth with teammates Pierce and Williams. Each of them had been through a tough weekend of competition, emotions and drawn-out lightning delays, yet they were already talking about what they had to do in order to get back to Columbus next year.
I have no doubt that I’ll see each of them back, and I look forward to seeing them grow even more.