Granville’s best motivation comes from a few steps behind.
The Blue Aces often have Mid-State League-Ohio Division rival Heath to keep them in check, and Lizzie Gabel welcomes it. Gabel won the 100 and was a part of two winning relays as the Blue Aces won the Division II, District 1 title Saturday at Westerville South.
“We are glad they are there,” Gabel said. “They remind us we can’t screw up and we have to give it our all. We talk to each other and are friendly. It is just nice to have them there.”
Gabel edged Heath’s Kayla Carmichael in the 100 — 13.08 to 13.09 — and helped the 400 (50.67) and 800 (1:46.21) relays to victory. The Blue Aces scored 147.5 points.
Carmichael got a bit of revenge in the 200. After Gabel false-started, Carmichael ran away from the field, winning in a personal-best 26.13.
“That is the one race I really wanted to win,” Carmichael said. “I have been praying about it. I tried my best.”
Ainsley Harmon, Erika McCort and Amanda Frey joined Gabel on the 400 relay, and Harmon, McCort and Allison Brunn were a part of the 800 relay. Brunn, Rachel Blumling, Micaela DeGenero and Taylor Beitzel wrapped up the meet by winning the 1,600 relay (4:10.65).
“We lost a lot of key runners last year, so we really had to collect ourselves and find those key people,” Gabel said. “We had to push them and build a relay where we can trust each other and push other. We have shown that today and are excited for next week and hopefully state.”
Blumling also won the 400 (59.16), but the Blue Aces easily pulled away thanks to piling up seconds and thirds.
Runner-up finishers came from DeGenero in the 1,600 (5:14.47) and 800 (2:23.42), Frey in the 100 hurdles (15.92) and 300 hurdles (47.33) and Alyssa Atkinson in the 3,200 (11:55.76).
Placing third were Blumling in the 200 (26.96), Brunn in the 400 (1:01.30) and Claire Lamb in the 3,200 (12:01.44). Harmon was fourth in the 100 (13.16).
Heath — which finished third with 77 points — neared the school record in the 400 (50.91) and 800 (1:46.75) relays, placing second in both. The Bulldogs were third in the 1,600 relay (4:19.22).
“We know it is getting closer to regionals, and we have to put our full effort into it,” Carmichael said. “We have become more focused. We have gained a lot more confidence and know that (Granville) is just people like us.”
Licking Valley’s Mackenzie Butler turned in another championship performance, winning the 1,600 (5:10.05) and 800 (2:21.15). She also anchored the 1,600 relay to a fourth-place finish (4:19.57). Haylee Zigan placed third in the 3,200 (12:23.17).
Johnstown’s Marissa Sheets was fourth in the 400 (1:01.33), and teammate Elizabeth Blenk matched her in the 300 hurdles (47.62).
Heath capped an impressive boys meet, winning the 1,600 relay in a season-best 3:25.44. The Bulldogs finished second overall, trailing just Independence.
“We started off at indoor state, and I knew we had to drop a lot of time,” freshman Carlos Rencher said. “I have just worked my butt off and tried my best to help the team as much as I can. We are getting closer and closer to our goal, which is state.”
Rencher was joined by Matthew Kaser, Fred Stinson and Josh Lines on the 1,600 relay. The Bulldogs also were fourth in the 400 (46.71) and third in the 800 (1:31.52) relays, and Austin Smart placed third in the 1,600 (4:43.76).
“That is what I live for: going out and giving my all the whole way,” Smart said. “It was definitely fun. Luck happened to come with me.”