After countless practices, meets, invitationals and two weeks of postseason action, the quest for the coveted Ohio State Track and Field Championship has reached its final weekend.
The OHSAA State Track and Field Championships unfold Friday and Saturday at Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
The Division II meet begins Friday morning at 9:30 with the first wave of field events, including the boys pole vault, boys long jump, girls high jump, girls discus and boys shot put.
PICTURED IS the Martins Ferry 4x2 relay, which will run in the Division II?state meet Friday afternoon. From left are Brian Styles, Hunter Hill, Andrew Watts and Jack Fitch.
PICTURED IS the St. Clarsville 4x1 relay, which will run in the Division II?state meet Friday afternoon. From left are Isiah Green, Jordan Vincent, Shane Peroni and Jaylon Brown. Brown will also compete in the 100, 200 and long jump, while Vincent will compete in the long jump.
PICTURED IS the St. Clarsville 4x1 relay, which will run in the Division II?state meet Friday afternoon. From left are Mechenzie Wood, Kennady Walker, Hannah Jordan and Ayla Stewart. Stewart will also compete in the 100 meter dash.
The first running action of the state's middle class begins at 1:30 p.m. with the 4x8 and the semifinals of the short sprints and hurdles get under way at 2 p.m.
On Saturday, the remaining field events will be contested at 9 a.m. and the running finals will begin at 1 p.m.
All told, 16 area athletes are making the trip to the capital city this weekend to take part in the event, which will feature 325 athletes, representing 113 schools.
St. Clairsville is taking the largest collection of athletes with 10 athletes.
The Red Devils' boys - fresh off their regional runner-up finish at Muskingum University in New Concord - have a solid chance to score fairly well this weekend.
Leading the way will be senior sprinter Jaylon Brown. The regional champion in both the 100 and 200 meter dash enters his fourth state meet with the top times in both short races.
"Looking at where my times are ranked, I am excited to see what I can do," Brown said after the regional. "It's nice being the top seed. I like having a target on my back. I know with people coming after me, I just have to push myself harder so they can't catch me."
No one has been able to catch Brown this season. He has dominated the sprint races and has continued that through the postseason. Last Saturday, he turned in a pair of personal best marks, winning the 100 in 10.66 and the 200 in 21.55.
Both marks are by far and away the top seed, thus he will attempt to qualify for the final from Lane 4, Heat 1 in both events. Brown paces the 100 by 18 hundredths of a second and the 200 by 37 hundredths of a second.
In the 100 semis, Brown will line up next to defending state champion and Ohio State football recruit Parris Campbell. Campbell was second in his regional at 11.05. All told, only five sprinters in the 100 field broke the 11-second barrier in the regional.
In the 200, Brown, who is headed for Youngstown State University for football, is one of only three under the 22-second mark.
Brown should be warmed up well by the time the sprints begin. He'll take part in the long jump in the morning. He was third in the regional at 21-ft-7 3/4. Brown will be the third jumper in the first flight. His mark ranks sixth coming into the meet.
Brown also serves as the anchor of the Red Devils' crack 4x1 team. Brown blazed down the homestretch, running down no fewer than three teams for the gold medal.
The quartet, which includes Jordan Vincent, Isiah Green and Shane Peroni, posted a 43.64. They'll run in Heat 2, Lane 5 and are seeded ninth, which is the number of teams (and individuals) that qualify for the finals.
Vincent will make his state meet debut with Brown in the long jump. He finished fourth in the event at the regional with a mark of 21-5 1/4.
The only freshman in the field, Vincent will jump second in the second flight and ranks 15th.
Also competing on Friday morning will be senior Michael Eaton. For the second straight season, he'll be a member of the pole vault field.
Eaton, who is headed to OSU to swim, enters after placing third at the regional in 14-ft-6.
The pole vault will begin with the bar at 12-6 and Eaton is scheduled to be the 16th jumper in the competition.
On Saturday, senior Colby Lindsay will compete in the discus for the first time in his career. He reached the state after placing second in the regional with a platter twirl of 158-ft-3. His mark ranks him sixth overall. He'll throw eighth in the second flight.
The St. Clairsville girls will be represented by four athletes, competing in two events.
Senior speedster Ayla Stewart, who has put together a brilliant final season, is at the state meet for the first time in an individual event. Stewart ranks 10th in the 100 at 12.43.
She'll go after a berth in the finals in Heat 2, Lane 2. The semi-final race is slated to begin at 2:20 p.m.
The Red Devils' 4x1 team has been steadily dropping time since the calendar flipped to May. The team of Stewart, Kennady Walker, Mechenzie Wood and Hannah Jordan ran a 49.98 to finish second in the regional.
They'll attempt to get to the state final from Heat 1, Lane 3 and boast the 10th best time.
Martins Ferry will send five competitors, but will be represented in just two events.
The Purple Riders' crack 4x2 relay team of Brian Styles, Hunter Hill, Andrew Watts and Jack Fitch bring an undefeated resume to OSU.
Fresh off winning the regional title in a season-best time of 1:30.84, the Riders' quartet will aim to reach the state championship run from Heat 1, Lane 5.
All told, the Ferry foursome, which competed in the state last season, is ranked 12th overall.
The Purple's other entrant is in the 1600 meter run.
Talented freshman Jacob Bishop will compete on Saturday afternoon at 1:35 after placing third in the regional at New Concord last weekend.
Bishop posted a solid 4:28.72 in the regional and that mark ranks 14th overall.
Union Local junior Austin Kemp will make his state meet debut at 9:30 Friday morning in the pole vault.
The junior finished fourth to earn the final spot from the New Concord regional last Thursday. His 13-ft-6 clearance is tied for 15th in the field, which will begin jumping with the bar sitting at 12-ft-6.
Kemp is scheduled to be the sixth jumper in the competition, but athletes electing to pass at heights could affect the order.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org