In 75 years of hosting the high school

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

In 75 years of hosting the high school state track and field championship meet, the "Horseshoe" has seen them all _ from East Tech's Jessie Owens and Harrison Dillard, to Barberton's Jeep Davis and Boardman's Laurie Gomaz.

That great tradition will come to an end when the stadium hosts its final state championship this weekend.

"It will be sad to see it go," said Field coach Bill Huntington. "You think of all the greats in Ohio history who ran there. It's special to me. I ran there in high school. There's a special place where I sit every year in the upper deck on the west side of the stadium across from the finish line where I can see kids I've coached, other coaches and people you don't get to see but once a year. It's kind of a reunion, and to think that will all be taken away is kind of sad."

What it will be taken away in favor of is yet to be determined.

Rumors have ranged from building a new track facility at Ohio State to moving the meet to the University of Dayton. There has even been talk of separating the Division I, II and III meets to different sights on different days.

"It's all a shame because (Columbus) is such a great tradition," said Garfield coach John Bennett. "It is something everybody looks forward to and the destination, south everyone talks about ... Everyone always looks forward to the big dance at the big horseshoe. You've got to go to the 'shoe' for the big dance."

Crestwood coach Don Faix will miss Ohio Stadium for another reason: It was the home to Buckeye football coaching great Woody Hayes, won of Faix's biggest coaching influences.

"That makes it sad for me," said Faix, who has coached at the state meet for Twinsburg, St. Edward, St. Joseph's and Crestwood. "I hate to leave that place. I think Ohio State is really hurting its recruiting potential because you can't say 'here's our stadium, now come here and run track for us.' "

Hayes himself never missed an opportunity to find athletes for his football team at the state meet.

"Woody hovered between the 100-yard dash and the shot and discus looking for the speed and strength that he wanted for his football team," said Record-Courier assistant sports editor Don Dreger, a veteran of more than 20 state meets at the horseshoe, including two as a competitor in the discus, high hurdles and 4x400 relay for Cuyahoga Heights in 1955 and 56. "I saw Tom Matte run in the 4x400 for Shaw in 1956, and old Woody was there to make sure he was coming to Ohio State. That's what he wanted, a well-rounded athlete."

Hayes would no doubt be impressed by some of the well-rounded athletes at this year's state meet, which will include 54 local qualifiers.

Garfield is hoping the last championship at Ohio Stadium will yield the first state champion from Garrettsville.

"It has never happened before, and I think we have a chance," said Bennett. "John Oliver could make some more history down there. We've never been district runners-up before this year and our boys and girls both did it in Division II and III. Obviously we've never been regional runners-up before, and we did that. Hopefully, we'll keep that streak of 'never before's."

Oliver won the regional championship at Kent in the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles and the high jump, an event in which he set the meet record with a jump of 6-9.

The G-Men junior also qualified for the boys 4x400 relay along with teammates Kyle Paul, Andy Ellerhorst and Nick Rogers.

Paul qualified individually in the 800-meter run, giving the G-Men five potential point scorers in Division II.

Chiara Chambers in the shot and the discus and Kim Tilly in the 800 give Garfield strong point contenders in the Division III girls meet.

The final Ohio Stadium meet will also offer a first for Aurora.

"This is the first time we are sending any girls to the state level in more than 20 years," said Aurora girls coach John Kudley. "We had a 4x2 team qualify once, but that was before I started, and I've been here for 26 years. This will be re-making history for us."

The Greenmen qualified five girls this year in the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. Becky Kohnz, Olivia Peters, Jericka Duncan and Nicole Bookner run the 4x2 and Peters, Duncan, Bookner and Devon Steigerwald make up the 4x1 team.

"Devon is a junior, Jericka is a freshman and the others are all sophomores," said Kudley. "This is a great opportunity for us to learn because we are so young."

Field will finish its season with six state qualifiers.

"I'd like to see our 4x800 team do well," said Huntington. "Emily Mars has a chance to place in the 3,200. Depending on the day, Nate Hutchinson has a chance in the 1,600. but he needs his best time. He's getting stronger, and I'd hate to have to run against him next year. Jonathan Norman can also do very well in the discus."

Crestwood's Faix has high expectations for the Red Devils' five qualifiers, which include Eric Berg (800 meters, 4x800 relay), Nathan Harjung (4x800), Dan Lynch (4x800), Nathan McClintock (1,600 meters, 3,200 meters and 4x800) and Melanie Ziarko (3,200).

"Before the regional, I'd have said that the boys team had a shot at the Division II state championship," said Faix. "If Benedictine weren't there, I'd say there would be two or three teams with a shot. But I look for us to do very well."

Faix also predicted strong showings by the Portage County League's other qualifiers.

"I think Garfield's Oliver has a real good chance at a championship, and so does Andy McCain (high jump, long jump) of Mogadore in Division III," said Faix. "A lot of people will be surprised at how much talent will be down there, but this league also has a lot of talent."

Steve Kreiner of Mogadore also qualified for the state meet from Mogadore in the shot put.

Division III is loaded with PCL talent, including five qualifiers from Waterloo and seven from Woodridge.

Waterloo is led by junior Stacey VanHorn, who qualified in the 100 and 300 hurdles and on the 4x200 relay team. Woodridge's teams includes its strong 4x400 relay team of Bryan Herbst, Jim Misencik, Detrick Williams and Nate Mugford.

In Division I, Kent Roosevelt qualified senior David Kelly (3,200) and sophomore's Jen Hollinger (3,200) and Erin Anderson (1,600).

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