LANCASTER — The conditions for Lancaster to place well in the Division I state track meet came together almost perfectly during the weekend.
The Golden Gales, who tied for second with Pickerington North with 36 points, had performances at or near personal bests across the board. All of Lancaster’s athletes who qualified for the meet finished in the top eight, earning All-Ohio honors.
“That, I thought, was pretty remarkable,” Gales coach Jeff Koksal said. “It just felt like we were ready.”
Koksal estimated the number of points it would take to win a team championship. They projected Lakewood St. Edward — the eventual champion with 48 points — to score about 40 and predicted the Gales and Pickerington North would be at about 32 points if all went as planned.
“Our goal was to get on the other, the right, side of Pickerington (North),” Koksal said. “And if St. Edward were to stumble, we’d be in the right position.”
The Eagles didn’t stumble, but Lancaster outperformed its expectations. The winning 3,200 relay Friday started the weekend.
Senior Kevin Miller was next up Saturday in the shot put. Miller broke through in the final with a throw of 57-feet-6, almost 3.5 feet farther than his regional mark of 54-1.
Miller’s good day started with the impression he gave Koksal during his warm-ups.
“He had one or two warm-up throws, and he said, ‘That’s it. I’m done,'” Koksal said. “He had all the confidence in the world.”
Sophomore Stephen Sparks also came through for the Gales by placing fifth in the 800 in a race Koksal said he did not expect to be any more difficult than the previous week’s regional race.
Sparks finished fourth May 25 at Pickerington North after leading some of the race, and held on to fifth Saturday. But perhaps the most important part of the Gales’ weekend was the sacrifice made by senior Brannon Kidder.
Kidder, the defending state champion in the 1,600, shelved his personal ambitions of breaking the 24-year-old state record in the 1,600 of 4:05.88 by Bob Kennedy.
Instead, Kidder held back in the 1,600 — still winning in 4:14.03 — to have enough to win the 800. Kidder won the 800 in 1:51.09 to give the Gales 36 points, enough to tie Pickerington North.
“Brannon really made a sacrifice,” Koksal said. “He put going for as high a team score as we can get above going for a state record. He’s certainly capable of running better than a 4:05.”
Lancaster’s second-place finish was its first since 1985. The Gales have finished second four times, with their lone team title coming in 1980.
“We’re certainly proud of it,” Koksal said. “It’s a culmination of individual efforts, but it’s still a team.”