By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
COLUMBUS — Maybe it was having a week to reflect on what happened. Or the change of scenery. Or even the bigger stage.
Whatever the case, Tippecanoe’s Bryce Conley had a much better Saturday this week.
“I feel much better than last week, that’s for sure,” the Red Devil junior said. “Last week, there was just something up with me. But this race? It clicked the opposite way. It felt great.”
Conley — who finished second in the regional last week and was highly disappointed in his time and effort — was the state runner-up in the boys 3,200 at the Division II state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, finishing second in a personal-best 9:32.12 behind only Shelby’s Caleb Brown’s 9:29.58.
And, oddly enough, beating his old best time by roughly five seconds wasn’t even Conley’s main aim on Saturday.
“I felt great, because this time I knew was going out to compete instead of going for time,” Conley said. “I’d see a guy ahead of me and just be like ‘I’ve got to get him.’”
One of those hims just happened to be Indian Hill’s Ben Bayless, who had beaten Conley in last week’s regional. Bayless ended up finishing fifth.
“That (beating Bayless) was something that I wanted to do, and it feels great to be able to accomplish that,” Conley said.
And even though a second-place finish is impressive, Conley is already looking for better again.
“(Being the state runner-up) feels great, but I’ve got another year, too,” Conley said. “I want to try for first.”
And on the girls side, Tippecanoe senior Katie Taylor competed in the 3,200, as well, finishing 14th in 11:56.71.
• Grudich 5th
Milton-Union sophomore Morgan Grudich had a pretty natural reaction to competing in her first ever state meet.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “When I was warming up, I was super nervous. I just tried not to think about all the people.”
But when it came time to perform, she did just that as Grudich placed fifth in the long jump with a leap of 17-2 to earn a spot on the podium at Saturday’s D-II state track and field meet.
Fouling on her first attempt of the day, though, did nothing to help Grudich’s nerves.
“That just added more nerves,” Grudich said with a laugh. “And my second jump was only 16-4, so I knew on my last one I had to get a good jump to move on to the finals. I was even more nervous than ever on my last jump of the prelims.”
Grudich was already fifth after two preliminary jumps, but her third jump of 17-0.75 was good enough to secure her a spot in the finals and give her a chance to climb the podium in the competitive field. Toledo Central Catholic’s Simone Green — who Grudich was second to in last week’s regional — won the competition with a 17-9.5 as the top seven finishers were all able to improve their marks in the finals.
“It felt great, just knowing I’d at least be on the podium and getting a medal,” Grudich said of making the finals. “It felt good. To get on the podium was the goal.
“I can’t believe I made it on the podium with all these people watching and me being nervous, but I still performed. It feels good.”
• Hawkins 6th
No matter how exhausted she is, Miami East’s Gabrielle Hawkins knows how to finish.
“I felt really tired, honestly. The whole time,” she said. “But I figured I’d just rely on my kick at the end.”
That strategy continued to pay off for the Viking junior, who held off one challenger and caught up to and passed two others down the final stretch, placing sixth in the 400 in 58.06 seconds at the D-II state track and field meet Saturday.
Hawkins ran a 58.28 in last week’s regional to qualify for state, then ran a time of 58.78 seconds in Friday’s preliminaries to qualify for Saturday’s finals with the seventh-best time.
“That was the goal, and it feels amazing,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t expect to get this far, but just being able to be out here was pretty sweet. And a new PR. That’s amazing.”
Still, Hawkins knows she has one more year left and wants to go through it all again.
“I want to do the same thing — but do it better,” she said.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.
Milton-Union’s Morgan Grudich splashes down in the long jump at the Division II state meet Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.