HEBRON — The butterflies felt more like bees buzzing in Ryan Byers’ stomach, but the senior had one job to do for his Lakewood boys track teammates.
Byers was handed a lead in the Cardinal Division 3,200 relay, and he was going to keep it. He ran a 2:01 split to finish the Lancers’ victory in a time of 8:22.55 in the event on their home track during the first day of the Licking County League championships.
“Obviously, I was a little anxious. I am before every race,” said Byers, who followed freshman Derrick Norwood and classmates Caleb Rafferty and Corey Rafferty. The Lancers ran a season best and finished ahead of Heath’s 8:27.76, also a season best.
“I didn’t feel so great, but I had crazy motivation,” Byers added. “I was going to win this for my team. They gave me the lead, and there was no way I was going to let myself lose it. At the start of that second lap, I knew I had to push everything and go all out even if I didn’t feel anything near good.”
The pack was chasing Johnstown during the Cardinal girls 3,200 relay, and it never caught up. Junior Reece Savage gave the Johnnies the lead on the leadoff leg, and sophomore Allison Bonito, junior Jordan Ellis and freshman Audrey McCrady took it from there, finishing in a season-best 10:21.44, ahead of Northridge’s 10:27.50.
“It’s great. We have sort of a younger team, so it’s good to be doing this well when we still have next year, too,” Ellis said. “It’s crazy on this hot of a day, which we are not used to. (Savage) is the best person for the lead, and with Audrey finishing, it’s just perfect.”
Licking Heights’ freshman foursome of Emma French, Elizabeth Killey, Morgan Watkins and Addison Caudill continues to impress, and the Hornets broke the 10-minute mark for the first time to win Buckeye girls 3,200 relay, resetting their school record in the process at 9:59.78, finishing ahead of Granville’s 10:18.77. Granville seniors Eli Kretchmar and Andrew Harms and sophomores Lane Hannahs and Cohen Stump won the Buckeye boys 3,200 relay in 8:24.31, finishing ahead of Watkins Memorial’s 8:30.38.
Half of the field events in each of the Cardinal and Buckeye also were held Wednesday. The other half will be held at 4 p.m. Friday with the running finals to follow at 6 p.m.
Lakewood senior Landry Driskel was Wednesday’s only double winner, taking the discus (133-feet-10) and high jump (4-10) in the Cardinal girls meet. Driskel just missed resetting her school record in the discus, finishing ahead of Newark Catholic senior Ilana O’Neill (105-0), and she edged out sophomore teammate Aubrey Howell on misses in the high jump.
“It’s the average throw for me now. I feel like 125 to 135 is the average,” Driskel said. “Gosh, I wish I could pop one out (to 140) in a meet. That would be great.”
Watkins senior Elise Adelman won the Buckeye girls discus (112-4), finishing ahead of Licking Valley junior Peyton Robey (83-10). All six of Adelman’s attempts were within a seven-foot range.
“(Consistency) is mostly what I am looking for at this point. If I can get hit a PR, it’s OK, but I just want to be up there,” Adelman said. That (120) is what I am shooting for. Hopefully it’s next week at districts.”
Valley junior Trevor Croak won the Buckeye boys shot put (49-9), finishing ahead of Heights junior Alex Amartey (47-6). Croak was happy with the title, but he is hoping the adrenaline of the postseason helps him approach his personal-best of 53-11.
“I am going to have to progress more here soon. I’m not disappointed in 49-9, but it’s not going to get me anywhere in districts and regionals,” Croak said. “As far as numbers go, I usually throw better when I have competition. It definitely helps me a little bit. I hate to say it, but I kind of fall asleep if I am not throwing against anybody that is really pushing me.”
A pair of Northridge seniors were champions in the Cardinal boys meet. Bryce Isler won the shot put (47-9.5), finishing ahead of Heath junior Reece Shriner (46-0.25), and Stihl Foster won the pole vault (12-0), finishing ahead of Utica freshman Hayden Quinif (10-6).
Heath junior Daylen McIntyre flew to a personal-best in winning the Cardinal boys long jump (20-10). He had sophomore teammate Joshua Jones right behind him as Jones took runner-up (19-3.75) despite just recently picking up the event.
“We did pretty well honestly, better than I thought,” McIntyre said. “I have been trying so hard to get 21s. I am right there.”
Licking Heights senior D.J. Fillmore exploded to an eye-popping win in the Buckeye boys long jump (23-8.75) as he continues his preparation for defending his Division I state title in the event. He finished ahead of his sophomore brother Jalynn Fillmore (21-7).
Valley junior Cooper Hornfeck cleared a personal best to win the Buckeye boys pole vault (13-6) with Granville junior Greyson Ingle taking runner-up (12-0). Granville freshman Malia Teter won the Buckeye girls high jump (4-6), ahead of Watkins sophomore Tayten Vinson (4-2).