COLUMBUS - It was a good day for first-ever appearances and accomplishments at the final day of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Championship.
Whether it was athletes making their first trip to the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at The Ohio State University or an athlete chasing a medal for four years to finally get his spot on the podium during his final prep race, it happened under ideal conditions Saturday afternoon.
What started out as a large collection of Ohio Valley athletes taking part was trimmed to 12 all-Ohio individuals and one relay squad after two rugged days of competition in the state capital.
Along with the two state champions, River's Cassidy McCullough (Division III 300 low hurdles) and St. Clairsville's Alyssa Robinson (Division II shot put), 10 others got their first taste of the podium.
Buckeye Local senior Jordan Piergallini continued his fairy tale campaign with a pair of medals.
The Buckeye blur, who has only ran track for two seasons, has definitely figured out that his decision to give up baseball and focus on the oval was worth it.
"I was a baseball player, but there was something about speed that always got me," Piergallini said. "I always wanted to be the fastest guy on the field in anything I did, and I think I've definitely found what I should have be doing."
Piergallini, who was the OVAC, district and regional sprint champion, finished as state runnerup in the Division II 100 meter dash in a time of 11.02.
"I always knew I had the speed, but I just didn't use it correctly," Piergallini said. "I knew I had to get out of the blocks well, and I felt like I had an edge (in the 100), but I just couldn't hold it and give credit to (North College Hill's Lamar Hargrove) because that comes with a lot of preparation."
About 90 minutes later, he returned to the track and posted a fifth place finish, which saw four places decided by just thousandths of a second. Piergallini posted a 22.13.
"I am just blessed," Piergallini said. "I can't even believe I got (to the state meet). I dreamed of this as a kid, but never in a million years think I'd be able to do it."
Shadyside's Tara Tollett found herself with a decision to be made Saturday morning when she woke up.
Run a double of 1600 and 3200 or focus on trying to win the longer race?
"If you look at my times, throughout the season, from when I ran both (races), my 3200 was always a lot slower," Tollett said. "I just thought I had a better chance of placing in the 3200, so we decided to run it fresh."
She opted for the latter and it was a decision that paid dividends. She was in contention all morning in the eight-lap race, but eventually a late surge by Gates Mills Hawken's Alexandra Markovich earned her the title. However, Tollett surged in her own right and finished as the state runnerup in her first trip to the state meet.
"It just feels great to see the outcome of all of my hard work," Tollett said. "When I ran an 11-flat (in the 3200) at Bellaire (in April), I think I realized that I had what it takes to run on this level."
Tollett, who was a state track qualifier, has been amongst the area's best all season. She ran an 11:06.63 to earn the silver medal.
"I got the taste of a state event in cross, and I really liked it," Tollett said. "I knew, right then, I wanted to make it in track, so I started working almost immediately to get here."
Martins Ferry's Richie Padyjasek - another first-time state qualifier - put the finishing touches on a brilliant senior season with a cherished fourth-place finish in the 110M high hurdles.
Padyjasek - the Seton Hill University signee - skimmed 10 timbers in a solid 14.76 to earn his medal.
"I can't hardly believe it," Padyjasek said. "I've been working so hard to get to this point and now it's paid off. I finished better than I thought I was. I was thinking coming that I would probably finish sixth or seventh, but I felt like I got a good start, didn't hit too many hurdles, got over them and had good speed in between."
Bridgeport's Cody Frey had been chasing the state meet for four years and wasn't about to relax after making it.
The Bulldogs' senior, who is heading for Notre Dame College in Cleveland next season, finished his prep career with a fifth-place finish and a time of 40.10 in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles.
"To finally make it here and then place (in the state) just feels great," Frey said. "I am just pumped right now. My main goal (on Friday) was to make it to the finals and once I did that it was kind of a relief because I felt like if I ran my race, I'd be able to place."
St. John Central frosh Fallon Doyle competes in two sports for the Lady Irish. She earned all-Ohio in both of them after placing fifth in the Division III 1600 meter run.
Doyle, who was third in the state CC meet, posted a time of 5:07.97 and raced past several runners with her usual 200 meter kick to earn her place.
"I am really, really glad that I was able to make it here," Doyle said. "It's just a great feeling. (The race) didn't play out exactly how I thought it would, but it was a good race. I was happy with it."
Shadyside's Jake Dull, another first-timer at the state meet, posted a solid seventh-place finish in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles.
Dull posted a 40.35 in the finals to earn his spot on the podium.
"I wish I could have finished higher up (on the podium), since I was seeded third coming in, but I hit a hurdle and didn't place as high," Dull said. "Getting here and placing was definitely my goal."
St. Clairsville's Andy Thornburg put the finishing touches on a brilliant prep career by placing eighth in the 1600 meter run.
Thornburg, who is heading to UNC Asheville in the fall, circled the oval four times in 4:30.49.
"I ran well, and I felt like I went out at a good pace, but it really took off after lap two," Thornburg said. "I expected it to be fast, but I didn't expect that much of a pace change after two, but I was able to hold on and did well. It feels good to place in the state meet."
Steubenville Central produced a trio of state placers with - go figure - a Maslowski leading the way.
After watching his older sister Teddi Jo compete and shine in the state meet, Doug casted his own shadow Saturday morning when he finished as Division III state runnerup in the 110M high hurdles in a time of 14.85.
Sophomore Monica Rigaud was fourth in the high hurdles, posting a 15.85.
Steubenville's girls' 4x100 team of Jasmine Ware, Shilynn Crawford, Cierra Macon and Toshchel Demus posted a 50.37 to finish seventh in Division II.
During Friday's competition, Martins Ferry's Sean McGee (Division II shot put), Buckeye Trail's Ausin Carleton (Division III long jump, high jump) and Steubenville Central's Moriah Vosteen (Division III high jump) all earned their medals.
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