NAVARRE - Many track pundits around the Buckeye State believe the Fairless regional to be the toughest in Division III.
Locals spent Friday evening experiencing it and they all left as believers after the final day of action concluded with nine individuals, in 12 events, and three relay teams earning a trip to the coveted OHSAA State Track and Field Championship Meet next weekend in Columbus.
The meet, competition and venue had no affect whatsoever on Union Local senior Laura Minnich.
Union Local’s Laura Minnich soars over 11-feet for the pole vault victory during Friday’s regional. This marks Minnich’s third consecutive regional title.
The soft-spoken Lady Jet, who will serve as her class valedictorian at Sunday's graduation, etched her name into regional history by winning her third consecutive pole vault crown to earn yet another trip to the state meet.
"I had a really good week of practice and the warm weather definitely helped me out," Minnich said shortly before received her award. "I was confident coming in and it turned out to be a pretty good day."
The 16-vaulter field trimmed to three competitors in seemingly no time, but the vault turned out to be the final field event to finish as eventual runnerup Claire Lucas of Garfield Heights Trinity had to compete in several running events, which eventually led to her pole vault demise.
Minnich and Lucas were knotted after both vaulters exited at 11-ft-3, but Lucas elected not to take part in the jump off for the gold medal after she ran the 400.
"She deserves a lot of credit for the meet she had," the classy Minnich pointed out. "It's great to be going back to the state meet."
Minnich's 11-foot vault equals her career-best from the 2010 state met.
Barnesville will send a relay team and one individual to the state meet.
Shamrocks' senior Wesley Lewis, who's enjoyed one of the finest distance seasons in the area, will run his final race of his prep career in the 1600 meters a week from today.
Lewis finished fourth in a loaded field, posting a season-best time of 4:23.25. He was sixth in the 3200 meter run, despite a 9:50.
On Wednesday, the Shamrocks' 4x800 team of Lewis, Brennan Delaney, Brandon Stephens and freshman Kyle McIntire finished second to earn a trip to the second event of the entire weekend next Friday. The foursome posted a 8:07.54.
Delaney narrowly missed a trip to the state meet, finishing fifth in 1:58.74, in the 800.
St. John Central has experienced a great deal of state-meet success in recent memory. Senior Emily Hawthorne, who is the last member of the Lady Irish's 2008 state title team, will carry the Green flag this weekend.
Hawthorne, who earned all-Ohio on her own last season in the 100 meter dash, is going back in that race as well as the 200. She finished fourth in both races, posting times of 12.38 and 25.54, respectively.
The Green bullet's 100 time and place suffered after she admittedly had a bad start to the race.
"It feels really good to be going back to the state meet," Hawthorne said. "I can't believe next week is my last high school track meet. The competition is really tough here, so I think of it as if I can make it to the state from this region, that's pretty good."
St. John junior hurdler Lacee Dobrovich finished fifth in 15.57, which was the same time posted for the fourth-place finisher.
River sophomore Cassidy McCullough admitted Friday that she was extremely nervous about the 300 meter low hurdle final.
She seemingly turned those nerves into a solid time of 45.62, which was good enough for third place and her first trip to the state meet.
"This was the first time I had made it to the (regional) finals," McCullough pointed out. "I don't even know how to explain the feeling about going to the state. I am literally shaking, I am so excited."
Monroe Central senior Shane Highman is embarking on his first trip to the state meet.
Highman, who exited the high jump tournament at the district level a season ago, made up for that Friday by clearing 6-ft-1 to earn the fourth-place medal.
Buckeye Trail's Austin Carleton won the high jump by soaring over 6-ft-6.
Steubenville Central led the OVAC delegation with three individuals and two relay teams primed to invade the state capital.
The Lady Crusaders finished third in the team standings with 49 points.
"We qualified a good many kids and did some pretty good things today," said Crusaders' head coach Rob Copeland.
Senior standout Teddi Maslowski delivered 32 of those points by herself.
The Duke University recruit will be on the Ohio State campus next Friday to begin defense of her high and low hurdle titles as the top seed.
Maslowski took no prisoners in the highs, posting a regional-record time of 14.34. She came back a short-time later to win the 300 low hurdles by nearly a second-and-a-half. She skimmed the eight hurdles in a sizzling 44.19.
Earlier in the day, she posted an impressive mark of 18-ft-5 1/2 to win the long jump.
"I am not disappointed in my jump, but I am far from happy," Maslowski said. "I've been jumping about the same distance the whole season. I wanted to get into the 19s. I was jumping almost literally a foot before the board, so if I can get my steps down, I could be in the 19s."
Maslowski anchored the Lady Crusaders' 4x200 team to a time of 1:43.36, which was just behind champion Gilmour Academy.
"Our hand-offs cost us," Maslowski lamented. "If we can get perfect handoffs, I think we have a good chance at beating (Gilmour), but they're a good team, so it's not like if we don't we're not or something."
She was joined on the squad by Margaret Beigel, Taylor Zapolnik and Katrina Vosteen.
Vosteen will also take part in an individual event next weekend. She qualified for the final spot in the 400 meter dash, posting a 60.12, despite running out of lane eight.
"I thought for us, Katrina ran the race of the day," Copeland said. "It's tough for anyone to get in out of lane eight, but she gutted it out especially for a kid who's not been running the event very long."
The Lady Crusaders' 4x100 team of Michaela Gota, Vosteen, Zapolnik and Beigel had orginally thought they finished fifth and were shut out despite running a 50.87.
However, they learned that Ritman, which was the second-best qualifier during Wednesday's action, had been disqualified, moving Catholic Central into the fourth spot.
"At this level, you sometimes need a little luck and a little help," Copeland said. "At this point in the season, you'll take it anyway you can get it."
The lone Crusader boy to qualify was senior standout Dan Schlich, who punched the third-place ticket to the state meet in the 1600 meter run. He ran four laps in 4:23.25.
"We made some decisions with Danny after districts on what he'd run and he made our decisions look pretty good," Copeland said. "We decided to put him in the mile and he bailed us out."
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