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You Have To Give Them Credit

May 17, 2014 - Al Stephenson
I just returned from Columbian Stadium after taking in the last four events of the NOL track meet. It was my first track meet of the year, but I expect to watch part of the regionals here in Tiffin and most likely will make the trek to Columbus for the state meet. I have been going to OSU (and for a while Dayton) for the state meet for years. Watching young athletes perform in track and field is a lot of fun.

Believe it or not, I ran track in high school. My first meet for Attica H.S. came in the spring of 1965 at, of all places, New Riegel H.S. where I ended up teaching for 30 years. I remember the event though a lot of folks in New Riegel do not. Meets took place at the horse track where the late Pete Boes trained harness horses. I had no idea what event I would be able to do, let alone be good at, so my coach entered me in the half mile, today called the 800 meter race.

I finished third on that day and my coach came over, clapped me on the back and said, "it looks like we have a distance runner." A few seconds later I was bringing up whatever I had for lunch that day and wondering why I was even running track. The answer was simple though. I was an athlete and track was a sport. I played baseball on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, then ran track on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's what athletes did back in the day at small schools.

I recall a number of things from my high school track days. Uppermost in my mind was my senior year. I finished second in the discus and third in the mile run at the county meet. Not bad for a guy that could not run fast, throw well, jump at all or otherwise had no business being on a track team. My otherwise most memorable moment was when I accompanied my teammate Wayne Leddick to the state meet where he became the state champion in the 200 yard dash. I held his sweats for him and couldn't have been prouder had I won the race myself. My love affair with the sport has continued to this day.

Today I watched some of the prelims in the morning and then returned for the finals this afternoon. I watched the low hurdles, the 200 meter dash, the 3200 run and the 4 by 4 relay. It was the 3200 run that fascinated me most. I once ran that event at the Toledo Blade Relays and was lapped by three different runners. That happened today to some runners in both the girls and boys event and I could commiserate.

Tiffin Columbian's Alexis Desjardins, a sophomore took second in the girls event while fellow soph Cassandra Gooding placed fourth. In the boys race, Chris Gates battled with an Ontario runner for the lead in the first half of the race. In the last two laps the Ontario kid took off and Chris was left to battle for the runner-up spot with Norwalk's Quentin Howell. When Howell started separating himself from Gates on the backstretch of the final lap I realized the Columbian senior would have to settle for third. What I didn't realize was that Howell was going to give one of the greatest kicks I've ever seen, making up at least 30 meters in the homestretch to win the even by .4 of a second.

That event alone made the day worthwhile. It was a miserable weather day. The temperature barely made 50 degrees, it was damp and the wind chill had to be in the low 40's. Yet these kids went out and gave it their all.

The view from my seat suggests that we sometimes don't appreciate what high school athletes go through in order to compete at the highest level. Let me extend my congratulations to all the athletes from the NOL schools that performed today. Kudos to you all.


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