By David Fong
and Josh Brown
and Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — Jett Murphy didn’t let injury stop him.
He didn’t let doubt deter him.
And he didn’t let anyone beat him.
Murphy closed out his illustrious pole vault career at Covington High School in the grandest of fashions, capturing a state title Friday at the Division III state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus.
“It feels really good,” Murphy said. “It feels amazing. I finally got 15 (feet). That was a huge goal for me all of last year and this year.”
After clearing 14-8, three vaulters remained. Murphy then cleared 15-0 on his first attempt, putting the pressure on the other two vaulters, both of whom had missed on their first attempt at that height. One would fall out of the competition at 15-0, but Newcomerstown’s Hunter Garreston cleared 15 on his final attempt, leaving two competitors.
Both Murphy and Garreston were unable to clear 15-4, but Murphy claimed the title by virtue of having fewer misses, meaning he essentially claimed a state championship by clearing 15 on his first attempt, which also was enough to break his own school record.
“I knew I would be in the top two, at least,” Murphy said of clearing 15 on his first attempt. “I wanted to get it clean. It’s the height I wanted all last year and this year. It feels great to get it in my last meet.”
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Murphy, who missed out his freshman season with a torn ACL. He placed fourth at state as a sophomore and third last year. He suffered a second ACL injury in his other knee over the winter, then tore his meniscus during track season.
None of that was enough to stop his assault on a state championship, however.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t vaulting well,” Murphy said. “But as the season went on, I got back in the swing of things … and I’ve never felt better than I feel right now.”
Christian places third
Covington’s Lauren Christian already knew how the throwing events work at the state meet.
“Just one good throw. That’s all you need,” she said.
And that mantra carried her throughout the day, as she placed seventh in the discus to start out and then, after a lengthy weather delay, climbed up the ladder and placed third in the shot put.
That one good throw in the discus proved to be her first one at 122-11, but it was good enough to earn her a spot on the podium after she entered the event seeded 11th after last week’s regional.
And after some early struggles in the shot put, Christian — who was seeded second after last week’s regional in the event — scored a 43-4.25 on her third and final preliminary throw, shooting herself up to second place in the standings and likely solidifying a spot in the finals — and that’s when the rain and lightning hit, causing a nearly two-hour delay that did not phase her.
“I felt pretty good, because I got my 43 out,” Christian said. “I felt really good with that. Coming back in, I was just like ‘go for it with all you have,’ and that’s what I did.”
And in the second flight, only Leipsic’s Grace Rigel was able to pass her, launching a 46-0 toss to take the lead away from top-seeded Izzy Cline from Newton Falls.
Christian bettered her own mark on her second throw in the finals, letting loose a 44-1.5, but Cline hit a 46-3 on the final throw to win it. Both Cline and Rigel are seniors, while Christian is only a junior. Last season, Christian placed sixth in the shot put and 14th in the discus.
“It feels really good,” Christian said. “Last year, I had a lot of pressure on me because I wasn’t even supposed to make finals, and last year was really tough competition, too. But this year, I came in relaxed and had that experience from last year, and I feel like that really helped me a lot.”
The Covington girls relay teams continue to lower records and have a chance to make history today.
Both the 4×200 relay (Rayna Horner, Tori Lyle, Morgan Lowe, Breanna Kimmel) and the 4×400 relay (Kimmel, Paige Boehringer, Lowe, Horner) have the fastest time heading into Saturday’s finals in 1:45.10 and 3:58.63, respectively, after Friday’s preliminaries.
Covington lowered its school record in the 4×400 relay and had the fast time in the race by almost three seconds.
“If we win, we win,” Horner said. “Lowering the record (in the 4×400 relay) is always a goal. The important thing was getting a good seed (lane placement) for tomorrow and we did that.”
Kimmel isn’t thinking about a possible state championship.
“Personally, I would rather not think about that too much,” she said. “We wanted to go out and run a good race today and we did that.”
The same four girls were seventh in the 4×400 relay a year ago.
“I think it will help (having been there before),” Boehringer said. “I think there will be less nerves. I think we will be a little calmer.”
Lowe ran a strong third leg in the 4×400 relay to open up a lead.
“That’s the idea,” Lowe said. “I am going out there and chasing.”
Horner also has high hopes in the 400, where she has the second-fastest time of 57.51 seconds. Dakota Stamm of Archbold ran a 56.91 seconds in the first heat.
“All our times are really close — in the 56s and 57s,” Horner said. “It will just come down to what happens tomorrow.”
Kimmel missed qualifying for the finals of the 100. She had the 11th-fastest time of 12.84 seconds.
Indians Fare Well
As he fell in the standings after throwing in the first flight, Newton freshman Dawson Hildebrand still wasn’t really phased.
“I mean, I’m pretty sure everyone here was nervous today,” he said. “Really, I was just glad to be here.”
Hildebrand’s first throw put him in sixth place coming out of the first flight, and he dropped — but only two places — after the second flight was finish, sitting in eighth and holding onto a spot in the finals. He then launched a school-record throw of 52-2.25 on his first throw in the finals, climbing up to fourth place — where he ended up finishing, grabbing a spot on the podium.
But for the easy-going freshman, nerves or the thrill of competition never really got to him despite it being his first time on the state’s biggest stage.
“For me, it’s pretty much a social gathering — just hanging out with a bunch of guys and throwing far,” Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand threw 50-0.75 on his first throw of the day and rode that to sixth place coming out of his flight. Two competitors passed him in the next flight, but with nine going to the finals, he was still fairly safe.
Once there, he let loose his best throw of the day, leaping up the leaderboard and holding on from there to collect a medal in his first trip to the state meet — the first of many, according to him.
“I was pretty excited about that one,” he said. “It feels pretty good. I’m ready for the future, though.”
And also making his first trip to the state meet, Newton sophomore Cameron Stine placed 10th, clearing 6-2.
Covington senior Case Harshbarger has a much better feeling this year.
Harshbarger advanced to the finals in both hurdle races, where he has the fifth-fastest time in the 300 hurdles at 39.73 seconds and eighth-fastest time in the 110 hurdles at 15.23 seconds.
“It just feels differently over here this year,” Harshbarger said. “I just feel a lot more comfortable.”
Harshbarger will be chasing Cole Smith of Smithville in both races.
“He is good, there is no question about that, Harshbarger said. “That is good. He will push me.”
Covington also advanced two relay teams to the finals.
The 4×200 relay (Alex Shaffer, Gray Harshbarger, Nathan Lyle, Tyler Freeman) has the ninth-fastest time of 1:31.78, and the 4×400 relay (Gray Harshbarger, Andrew Cates, Freeman, Lyle) has the seventh-fastest time in 3:26.19.
“It was about making the finals today,” Lyle said. “We had a much faster heat (in the 4×400 relay). The goal is to get up on the podium.”
Lehman advanced to the finals in all three of the races it competed in in Friday’s preliminaries.
Senior Alanna O’Leary teamed with sophomores Rylie McIver and Lauren McFarland and freshman Lindsey Magoteaux for the third-fastest time in the 4×100 relay in 50.69 seconds. O’Leary has the sixth-fastest time in the 200 in 26.07 seconds, and Magoteaux has the ninth-fastest time in the 100 in 12.81 seconds.