Long-time indoor track and field rivals Big Walnut and Watkins Memorial were at it again at Saturday’s Central District Indoor Girls Track Championship at Otterbein University.
Going into the final event, the 4x400-meter relay team of Sara Althaueser, Olivia Daggett, Catie Craig-Bowden and Avery Kerns, Joe Evener’s Golden Eagles needed to accomplish two things to defend their State championship and take their fifth consecutive Central District Indoor crown … win their heat or run faster than the fifth-place team ran in heat one.
Big Walnut was 3.1-point leader over Watkins and 2 1/2 points down to Pickerington Central going into the 4x400.
“I told our girls that we had to do two things,” Evener said, “Win our heat or run faster than the fifth-place team.”
When the race was over, Lancaster edged Big Walnut for third place by 0.03 seconds (4 minutes, 30.76 seconds to 4:30.79) and the Watkins Memorial team was celebrating, thinking they had won the State title.
“Sara, Olivia, Catie and Avery were visibly upset, thinking they had let their teammates down. I had to see the final results for myself, so I went over to the scoring table to see for myself,” Evener said. “With our concentration on the fact we had to win the race, I discovered that we actually ran faster than three of the teams in the first heat, including Watkins (which ran a 4:31.20 placing fifth), that put us in fourth place overall in the race and gave us 62 points and the State title, leaving Watkins in third place behind Central.”
The final standings had Big Walnut on top with their 62 points followed by Pickerington Central with 59.50 and Watkins Memorial in third with 58 points. Bishop Hartley was third with 42 points.
“The joy on the girls’ faces when I ran over the huddle was amazing … and something I will never forget,” Evener said. “They never gave up and they never backed down … I am so proud of them.”
As expected, the majority of Big Walnut’s points came in the field events where the Golden Eagles won four of six eveets and scored the majority of their points. And as predicted, Watkins scored most of their points, dominated the 3,200 meters whcih put them in the position to win the meet.
Big Walnut won four events thanks to Olivia Small who took firsts in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches), in the long jump (17-3) and in the triple jump (36-4). Hannah Griffith joined Small on the podium by capturing the weight throw (33-11).
Also placing for Big Walnut were Kerns, second in the high jump (5-2) Anna Mackey, third in the triple jump (33-2.5). Recording top 10 finishes were Anna Vrancken, seventh in the weight throw (19-4.5) and MaKenna Hemming eighth in the 3,200 meters (14:27.22).
“It is so satisfying to win a fifth title in a row, It is the joy of each year doing it with a different group and in a different way,” Evener said. “It’s so fulfilling to see their hard work hidden in the basement of the high school week after week … and year after year it pays off.”
Assistant BW girls track coach coach Mike Ryder echoed Evener’s thoughts.
“The effort that those girls put into that two-mile and the 4 x 400, exemplifies Big Walnut track,” Ryder said. “And for the girls to win their fifth consecutive Division I Central District Indoor title is just plain crazy!”