St. C., UL, Buckeye Local, Steubenville all produce multiple All-Ohioans in Division II

ST. CLAIRSVILLE junior Emma Henry sprints toward a silver medal in the 200 meter dash during Saturday's Division II state championship meet at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Henry was also second in the 100 meter dash.

COLUMBUS — The final day of track and field season for 2023 was definitely one to remember.

No fewer than seven area athletes are returning to the Ohio Valley with a nice, shiny new medal to add to their vast collections after the conclusion of the OHSAA State Track and Field Championship at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium Saturday.

While seven wrapped up their events on the Ohio State campus on Saturday, a total of 10 area athletes, counting those from Friday’s action, are now newly minted All-Ohioans.

Bellaire junior Mayson Sochor was the lone Ohio Valley Athletic Conference athlete to win a state championship. He captured the Division III state high hurdle title.

However, in Division II, St. Clairsville, Union Local, Buckeye Local and Steubenville all produced multiple All-Ohioans.

St. Clairsville’s Emma Henry put forth a state meet that she won’t soon forget.

That tends to happen when you finish as state runnerup in both of the individual events in which you qualify.

Henry came into Saturday’s state championship races as the top seed in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes and though she came up short of gold, she ran brilliant times and laid the groundwork for what could be a senior season for the ages.

In the 100, Henry broke the tape in 11.89 and then came back in the 200 and turned in a 24.61, but fell to Marengo Highland’s Juliette Laracuente-Huebner, who simply wasn’t going to be denied as she put the finishing touches on a four-gold medal meet.

“I was a little nervous, but I am truly grateful for this opportunity to compete here,” Henry said. “I am really happy. I ran another personal record and I feel like this is a great way to end the season. I am just hopeful that I can keep moving on the upward track I’ve been on and continue to make my family proud.”

Red Devil junior distance runner Ben Shields put the finishing touches on a brilliant school year of distance running by capturing a bronze medal in the 3200 meter run with a time of 9:29.30.

Shields was the premier area cross country runner and then put forth a brilliant indoor track season. He competed in both state meets and then he’s been one to watch in the two mile.

This however, marked his first All-Ohio finish in an OHSAA-sponsored event.

“All the work from last summer, through cross country and throughout the winter led up to this point,” Shields said. “It feels amazing to have it all pay off in a setting like this.”

Shields remained in a tight pack for the first mile and then as the pack broke up a bit, he went with the leaders.

“I knew it was going to be a battle during the second mile when things pick up like they always do,” Shields said. “I just went with the lead pack to try get as good of a place as possible.”

Union Local senior Johnny Sabinski throws the discus during Saturday’s Division II state meet in Columbus. He placed fifth in the event.

Union Local entered the state meet in three events and Jets junior thrower Johnny Sabinski and senior sprinter Josie Goodson are bringing home three medals.

Sabinski got thing rolling on Friday when he finished second in the shot put. He returned to the Jesse Owens Stadium bright and early Saturday as the top seed in the discus.

He settled for a fourth-place medal in the platter event with a mark of 171-10.

“It wasn’t really my day, throwing 10 feet shorter than I did last week (at regional), but I didn’t even make the final in the discus last year,” Sabinski offered. “No excuses. I just didn’t throw as well as I can, but I am happy to have placed.”

Goodson, meanwhile, put forth a brilliant effort all weekend in each of the 400 meter dashes she was required to run.

She advanced to her first state final in the event and didn’t settle for just being there.

Goodson, who had qualified for the state in 2022, finished fifth in the event with a sparkling — and school-record — time of 57.84. Goodson didn’t know her time until it was announced over the public address system and nearly broke down in tears as she eclipsed Amanda Mercer’s record, which had stood for more than 20 years.

“I’ve been praying for this and have worked so hard for this,” Goodson said as she fought back emotion. “I’ve had so many people supporting me through all of this and it’s just an amazing feeling. I have to thank my teammates for always pushing me. I couldn’t have have asked for a better support system to help make me who I am as a runner. I came here last year and I didn’t run a good time, but I told my family after last season that that race was was just a warm up for (2023) because I knew I wanted to be on the podium.”

Buckeye Local senior Cai McKeever races toward a sixth-place finish Saturday at the Division II state meet.

The Buckeye Local Brother-Sister duo of senior Cai McKeever and junior Brynn McKeever were there rooting each other on every step of the way.

Cai McKeever — a standout in the 400 meter dash — concluded his prep career in impressive fashion. He turned in an impressive 49.81 en route to garnering a sixth-place finish.

The elder McKeever just transitioned to the sprint events this spring. He had been primarily a distance runner, but dropping down to the 400 was a perfect match.

“I really have to thank my coach because he’s really put in the work to help make me a great sprinter,” Cai McKeever said. “This is really cool. I didn’t even make it to the regional last year, so I never even thought I’d be here (at the state). I’ve put in the work and it’s paid off. It’s really cool to have placed. Doing it after my sister was really cool. I love her so much and I watch the amazing work she puts in at practice, and I am so proud of what she’s accomplished.”

Brynn, who was the lone area athlete to qualify to the state meet in three individual events, advanced to the final in the 100 as the ninth seed. She moved up a spot en route to garner All-Ohio by finishing eighth with a solid 12.32 clocking.

McKeever admitted that if someone told her in March that she’d be an all-Ohio sprinter in June, she wouldn’t have believed it.

“I usually had spent most of the spring playing AAU basketball, but my coaches have really been encouraging to focus on track and it’s paid off,” Brynn McKeever said. “It’s been crazy how I’ve been dropping time all year. Plus, getting to experience this with my brother is great.”

Both McKeevers as well as junior thrower Pam Kandrach, who competed in the shot put on Saturday — received Academic All-Ohio acclaim as well.

Steubenville’s Micah Mitchell, who ran a sub 14 high hurdle semifinal, didn’t get the results he had envisioned on Saturday.

He entered as the top seed in both the high and intermediates hurdles, but settled for eighth and third, respectively. He did run a leg on the 4×2 and 4×4 teams, which also placed, making him a four-event All-Ohioan.

“I didn’t get the results I wanted in the hurdles, but I will just have to try to go harder in the rest of my career,” Mitchell said. “Coming here was a beautiful experience, but it just didn’t go the way I wanted.”

By his own admission, Mitchell “messed up” on the first hurdle and simply couldn’t recover. He finished with a 14.97.

In the intermediates, Mitchell was leading the race, but clipped the seventh hurdle, causing him to lose his balance slightly and the opening was enough for two other competitors to get by him. He finished with a 38.42 and a bronze medal.

In the 4×2, Steubenville ran a 1:30.48 for eighth. Joining Mitchell were Savior Faulks, Jemier Faulks and Josiah Rea.

In the 4×4, Big Red was seeded second after the qualifying round on Friday. They dropped a second and finished fifth. Along with Mitchell, the team included Savior Faulks, Rea and Josh Schoonover.

Junior Sabria Jones, who has been battling injury since early May, was able to place use determination and guts to finish seventh in the long jump with a mark of 17-8 1/4.

“Getting to the state meet was hard because I had to take a break and do therapy and rehab and stuff,” Jones said. “I’ve really been coming out here and just winging it (through the postseason). I’ve simply been hoping for the best, but there’s still pain. So, knowing my injury, it feels great to be on the podium. That was my goal.”


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