By David Fong
and Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Morgan Gigandet knew exactly where she was … and where she needed to be.
And so, with less than 50 meters left in the girls Division I 3,200 race at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet, the Troy junior — who was in ninth place — knew she had better make her move.
“I knew what place I was in, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s not good,’” Gigandet said. “I figured I may as well try to move up.”
Gigandet was able to do just that, passing Olentangy Libery’s Emma Bower in the final few meters to wrap up eighth place — and the final spot on the podium. Gigandet finished in 11:01.40, while Bower finished in 11:02.30. Hilliard Davidson’s India Johnson won her second straight state title in the event, finishing in 10:23.84.
“It was really hot,” Gigandet said. “Usually I like the heat, but it hasn’t really been this hot all week. Plus my quad and my (Iliotibial band) have been bothering me. No excuses, though. All of the other girls ran really well.”
Gigandet nearly became yet another near-miss for the Trojan track and field team and the only state placer in eight events for the Troy boys and girls track teams. In those eight events, Troy finished ninth twice, 10th once and 11th or 12th three times. Instead, Gigandet placed in the 3,200 for the third time in her career, having placed seventh as a freshman and third last year. She’s also a two-time placer in the state cross country meet.
“It pretty good to place again, because I know what I am capable of doing,” she said.
Troy freshman Lenea Browder came within a few inches of getting on the podium in the discus at the Division I state track and field meet Saturday — but still considered her maiden voyage to state a success.
“It was a fun weekend,” Browder said. “It was great getting to know my team better. It was a great privilege just to be here.”
Browder’s first throw of the day was 125-10, which would end up being her best throw of the day. It would be just enough to get her into the finals, giving her three more throws. She was unable to improve upon her initial throw, leaving her in ninth place and just 3 inches away from the eighth and final spot on the podium.
Browder — who was one of only three freshman to reach state in the discus — said she considered her first trip to state a valuable learning experience.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I’ve learned how much I’ve got to stay focused and compete. I learned I can’t get as nervous as I did — I’ve got to come and just have fun. There’s no other meet like state. I’ve been to other meets where there are people around you watching, but nothing like this. Then you see some girls throwing almost 160 feet … that makes you nervous. But it was a great experience and I hope I can learn from it.”
For Alaura Holycross, missing the podium by one spot wasn’t the disappointing part.
It was the way it happened.
The Troy junior finished her flight of the shot put in fourth place with a throw of 39-6, and only dropped to seventh after the second flight — more than good enough to earn a spot in the finals in her first trip to the state meet. But one girl passed her on the second throw in the finals, and the final girl passed her on her third try as Holycross finished ninth at 39-6.
“I’m a little disappointed in myself,” Holycross said. “I was getting a little nervous in the finals. (Troy throwing) coach (Aaron Gibbons) always says it only takes one throw, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Solon’s Jane Sensibaugh shot from eighth all the way to fourth on her next-to-last throw and finished there at 43-5.75. With Holycross still in eighth, Worthington Kilbourne’s Ndidiamaka Anaraodo hit 40-10 on her third and final throw to take eighth and bump Holycross off the podium. Anthony Wayne’s Madison Pollard won the competition with 48-11.5.
After the emotional finish, though, Holycross is ready to put what happened to use.
“Oh, I’m not done,” she said defiantly. “This is definitely going to motivate me to push myself harder. I know I have the ability to do better. This was a great and exciting opportunity, and being in that position is just going to motivate me to work harder in the offseason.”
For most competitors, competing at the state track and field meet is about as nerve-wracking as performing brain surgery while wearing oven mitts.
For Troy junior pole vaulter Christine Moser, competing at state had just the opposite effect.
“This was more relaxing than any other meet I’ve ever been to,” Moser said. “When you’ve made it to state, you’ve made it to the biggest meet you can. It was cool just being here. I enjoyed vaulting on the runway, the mat is nice and the event staff is really good. It’s a great meet.”
Moser finished in 10th place with a vault of 11-6, just two inches off her personal record. She came in at the opening height and, after an initial miss at 10-6, she would clear that height and then 11-0 and 11-6 on her first attempts. She would bow out of the competition when she was unable to clear 12-0.
Moser, who was making her first trip to state, said she learned some valuable information she hopes she can use if she qualifies again next year.
“If I can make it back again next year, I think it will be a lot easier. I’ll know where I’m allowed to go warm up and where I’m supposed to be and what time I’m supposed to be there and all of those things. To me, getting ready to compete was more nerve-wracking than actually competing.”
Troy senior Travis Hall ended his athletic career as a Troy Trojan with a 12th place finish in the Division I shot put — and a memory he’ll carry with him for a lifetime.
“It’s definitely in my top three memories — up there with beating Piqua and going to the playoffs in football,” Hall said. “To be able to finish my career at state is a great feeling. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Hall threw 52-9.75 to finish in 12th place.
“It felt great just to be here,” he said. “The atmosphere is great. Just being here is an honor.”
Hall — an All-Ohio offensive lineman last fall — said he’ll always cherish his time as a Trojan athlete.
“It meant everything to me to be able to compete for Troy,” he said. “I would never choose to be any place other than Troy. I love Troy and I’d stay a Troy athlete forever if I could.”
Hall has committed to play football at Notre Dame College this fall.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong. Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.