>To most people, Memorial Day weekend is a road-trip time that signifies the beginning of summer. For me, it’s a road-trip that starts the real track season.
In Ohio, it’s regional weekend. This is a do-or-die format in every event. The top four in each of four regionals qualify to the state meet. No wild cards, no at-large bids, nothing.
Now, my hometown of Toledo is not what you’d call a track hotbed. Track isn’t ignored, either, but we don’t tend to dominate at the regional or state level very often. Even though “northwest Ohio” sounds like one-fourth of the state, the truth is that the Toledo area (one dying industrial city surrounded by a dozen counties of farmland) only has about 10% of the state’s Division I schools. This year we seem to have more than our share of top runners.
Yesterday’s Region 2 meet at Amherst Steele High School drew from Toledo and its suburbs, a handful of outlying schools, and western Cleveland and its suburbs. Jamie Farr would have been proud. Not only did Toledo claim both team titles and a runner-up, we took 8 of 17 boys’ events and 11 of 17 girls’ events.
Athletes of the day? Chris Lemon of St. John’s Jesuit won the 1600 in 4:11.23 and the 3200 in 9:09.19, both meet records. Lemon was chased to the finish line by teammate Joe Miller (4:14.59) and cross-town rival Bo Waggoner (9:09.52) and twin brother Matt (9:14.80); all three broke the 3200 meet record. Central Catholic’s Sam Hogue ran his sixth 37-second race of the year in the 300m hurdles (no one else in Ohio has broken 38.00) and then in the 4×400 relay he proved he was the second-best 400m man in the meet.
On the girl’s side, a great duel has developed. Meshawn Graham of Bowsher is a known quantity; two years ago she set the Ohio freshman-class record in the 400m and won the state title in the 200m, and won last year’s USATF 15-16 age group Junior Olympics in the event. Sophomore Erica Schmidt of Anthony Wayne (a mixed farming/suburban area west of Toledo) has been improving week after week after week. Well, yesterday we had a doozy.
100 meters: Schmidt led Graham until the last ten meters. Graham 11.80, Schmidt 11.87 (wind +1.8 m/s). Far and away the fastest in Ohio this year; their times rank them 10th and 16th in Ohio history.
400 meters: Schmidt is not in this event, but Graham was led by Sandusky’s Jasmunn Ritchie until the final straightaway. Graham ran 53.47, which was announced as tieing the official state record…but at the exact same moment over in Youngstown, Jessica Beard ran 53.03. In a foreshadowing of the next race, Schmidt anchored her winning 4x200m relay with a 23.5 split.
200 meters: Schmidt had a great start and split about 11.8 for the first 100m (around the turn!). Graham was well back until the very end, finally passing in the last 20 meters. Graham 23.80, Schmidt 24.08. Unfortunately, the wind-gauge operator fell asleep at the switch, otherwise these two would be nationally-ranked in their events.
On to the state meet!