Mackenzie Butler added two more district titles Saturday to her impressive career, but they were not what she wanted to discuss.
The Licking Valley senior’s face lit up when asked about the 3,200 relay. Butler helped the Panthers qualify to this week’s Division II regional meet thanks to a 13-second season best.
“I am excited for everybody,” Butler said. “It is going to be fun to have teammates to be at regional with me. It was a (personal best) by 13 seconds. Everybody pulled their own weight and just ran their hearts out. It ended up working out. It is going to be a great experience.”
Butler, junior Natalie Hurst, freshmen Haylee Zigan and Bethany Rutherford placed third in a time of 10:26.10 in the Division II, District 1 meet May 21. Valley competes in the regional meet Thursday at Lexington.
Butler then returns Saturday to compete in the 1,600 and 800. She won both events for the second consecutive year with times of 5:10.05 and 2:21.15 at the district meet.
“I felt pretty strong in both of my races,” Butler said. “I probably could have gone a little bit faster if I had more people pushing me. I feel positive about next week, and I am excited.”
Butler placed sixth in the 1,600 in the 2012 state meet. Also an All-Ohioan in cross country, she is attempting to qualify individually this year in the difficult 1,600-800 double.
“I want to get 5:00 or under by the end of the year,” Butler said. “I will be OK with under 5:05, but I would really like to break 5:00. For the 800, I would like to be under 2:20.”
Valley’s boys will be well represented in the regional meet at Dayton. Seniors Neil Bailey, Zach Crouse and Quincy Robinson are competing in a total of five field events. Robinson is Valley’s top athlete on the track, carrying one of the top times in the 400 into the regional.
Murphy reaches regional
Erikka Murphy could not be finishing her Newark Catholic career any better.
Murphy broke 17 seconds for the first time in her career in the 100 hurdles Saturday and placed fourth in the Division III district meet at Hamilton Township. She qualified for the regional meet for the first time.
“I had hoped for district finals, but I didn’t ever expect regionals,” Murphy said. “I wanted to cry. I was so happy. … We went to regional semis for volleyball, too and now going to regional semis for track. It is really cool that I could do that in both sports.”
Murphy competes in Wednesday’s regional semifinals at Fairfield Union. Mary Richardson in the 3,200 will join Murphy, and NC has the 400 and 3,200 relays participating in the boys meet.
Murphy, one of the few veterans on the NC roster, said she was motivated early by the Green Wave’s young talent. She has been ascending all season, having placed second in the Licking Valley Invitational and fourth in the Mid-State League-Ohio Division meet.
“I actually had a freshman that came out and was faster than me, and I loved it because it pushed me harder, too,” Murphy said.
The Green Wave had a nice run of success at the end of the previous decade for both teams. Murphy is attempting to help show NC the way back.
“I really wanted to show them how important track is,” Murphy said. “A lot of people don’t really think of it as a sport. I like having a young team because they have so much further they can go with it. I like being able to push them to get there.”
Johnson chasing state dream
Anthony Johnson’s record-setting season has area fans whispering “state title.”
The Newark senior still has work to do, but Johnson has been blowing away competition and fans throughout the season. On Saturday, Johnson lowered his school record to 1:50.92 in winning the Division I, District 1 title at Hilliard Darby.
Johnson’s time was by far the best of the weekend in Division I across the state. In fact, the next four best times in the state were from central Ohio, including Granville’s Tyler Otterstedt and Westerville North’s Jacob Dumford, who finished second to Johnson.
The regional meet begins Wednesday at Pickerington North, when Johnson and Otterstedt will be in action on their respective 3,200 relays. The 800 will be contested during Friday’s finals.