By Rob Kiser
MIAMI COUNTY — The Covington boys track and field team will have one returning podium finisher from a year ago when the Division III state track and field meet gets underway Friday at Jesse Owens Stadium — and hopes to add to that this year with a number of competitors with state experience.
Junior pole vaulter Jett Murphy leads the way after finishing fourth at state last year, clearing 14-4 — and he hopes for even bigger things this year.
Murphy comes in tied for the fourth-best qualifying vault at 14-4.
He is one of three Cross County Conference vaulters at state, with regional champion Brock Shellhaas of Ansonia and Blaine Brokschmidt of Miami East.
“This is a tougher year, but the goal is to get higher on the podium,” Murphy said. “Definitely, I think it helps being over there and having success. Vaulting against Brock (Shellhaas) and Blaine (Brokschmidt) all year just makes us all better. I want to get at least 15. I was really close at 14-8 last week, and I think I can get it.”
“Even though Jett (Murphy) finished third at regionals this year and won last year, I think he is vaulting better than he was last year,” Covington coach Kyle Moore said. “I think vaulting against some of the top guys in the state all year has benefited him. The competition is tougher this year, but I think he can continue to climb up the podium.”
Junior Zach Parrett is tied for the sixth-best qualifying height in the high jump, clearing 6-2 at regionals.
“I think if Zach wants to podium, he needs to get through at least 6-2 clean,” Moore said. “Even though there aren’t a lot of guys with big heights, there are a lot of guys in that 6-2, 6-3 area. Even though it is his first time there, I am sure Zach will be relaxed.”
The 4×400 relay team of Zane Barnes, Gray Harshbarger, Jayce Pond and Nathan Lyle is right on the border of making finals with the 10th-fastest qualifying time of 3:26.41.
“Three of us were over here last year, and we brought the other guy over as an alternate,” Pond said. “We know what to expect. We want to make it to finals and see what we can do.”
Lyle, the anchor, thinks the relay can still lower its time.
“I think the competition (at state) pushes you and makes you faster,” he said. “We can definitely lower our time.”
“Three of the four guys were over there last year,” he said. “Even though they wanted to make finals last year, I think they were happy to be there. I think this year, they want to make finals. And last year, I felt like they ran their best race at regional. This year, I don’t think they have run their best race yet.”
Junior Cade Harshbarger returns in both the 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediate hurdles.
His times of 15.21 and 40.48 seconds, respectively, are the 11th-fastest qualifying times in both events, but he ran under 40 in the 300 hurdles in regional prelims.
“The goal was to get to state,” Harshbarger said. “Now that I am at state, you can always run faster times. I would like to get under 40 again. It is going to help having been over there (at state last year). You just have to push yourself.”
Moore thinks Harshbarger has the potential to do very well.
“I think Cade (Harshbarger) is a year bigger and stronger,” he said. “That will benefit him, especially in the 300 hurdles. He doesn’t have the 4×100 to run anymore, so that is going to help him in the 300 hurdles. His goal should be to make the finals in the 110s. He can definitely podium in the 300s. He is capable of being a top five guy.”
The running event preliminaries are Friday morning, with the two fastest times in each heat and the next five fastest times advancing to Saturday’s finals. Murphy vaults at 4 p.m. Friday.
Set for State
The Covington girls track and field team will be well represented at the Division III state track and field meet Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Stadium on the Ohio State University campus.
And the Buccaneers will be looking to bring home a number of medals, as well.
Leading the way is the 4×400 relay team of Rayna Horner, Morgan Lowe, Paige Boehringer and Breanna Kimmel, which has the third-fastest qualifying time of 3:59.74.
“I think the relay team has a chance to do really well,” Covington girls coach Dave Tobias said. “They are positioned well, and I don’t think they have run their best time yet.”
Horner, who will also run in the 400, is excited to be running in the state meet.
“We are pretty well positioned,” Horner said. “We are ranked third. We definitely want to make finals and get up on the podium. I went over last year and watched the boys run, so I have an idea what to expect (running at Jesse Owens Stadium).”
Boehringer knows you have to think big at this point.
“The goal is to win,” Boehringer said as she looked towards Horner, who nodded her approval. “It is exciting to be running at state. We know we need to run our best (to win).”
Horner has the fourth-fastest qualifying time in the 400 of 58.09 seconds after setting a school record with 57.92 seconds at the district meet.
“I looked at the times,” Horner said. “There are three girls running in the 57s. Hopefully, I won’t be as nervous as I was at regionals. It is going to come down to whoever is feeling it that day. I am excited.”
Tobias said it is a matter of responding to the competition.
“Rayna (Horner) is positioned really well,” he said. “But, again, it comes down to who is going to handle it (the atmosphere and crowd) and respond. I think Rayna has a chance to do really well.”
Sophomore Lauren Christian feels redemption after being stopped short of state last year by injury, as she qualified in both the shot put and discus.
Her throe of 39-9.5 is 11th in the shot put, while her toss of 118-10 in the discus is 14th. She will compete in both events Friday afternoon.
“I broke my foot last year at district, so I kind of wanted to make this my comeback year,” Christian said. “It is exciting to be throwing at state. I have a better chance in the shot. I want to get up on the podium.”
Before anchoring the 4×400 relay, Kimmel will run in 100 Friday morning.
She goes in with the 16th-fastest qualifying time of 12.90, but Tobias said her start will make the difference.
“It is going to come down to having a block start for Breanna (Kimmel),” he said. “She is as fast as any of those girls, but she has got to have a block start to have any chance.”
The Rest of the
Best of D-III
Miami East boys pole vaulter Blaine Brokschmidt is tied for the seventh-best qualifying vault (13-8), while the Miami East girls 4×800 relay team of Lindsey Yingst, Lorenza Savini, Kaitlyn Mack and Marie Ewing has the eighth-fastest time at 9:45.23, with all of them looking to earn spots on the podium.
In the distance races, Bethel’s Korry Hamlin has to make up some room to get a podium spot, entering with the 12th-best qualifying time in the boys 3,200 (9:59.57). Bradford’s Karmen Knepp enters with the 15th-fastest time in the girls 3,200 (11:32.39).
Lehman’s Alanna O’Leary is hoping the third time’s the charm, as she will run in the 400 with the sixth-fastest qualifying time (58.35 seconds), hoping to earn a spot on the podium.
Rob Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.