Stacia Kyler’s first impressions of Randy Noftz’s coaching were of skepticism.
“I looked at him like this is crazy,” said Kyler, a junior. “This is so amazing. We work hard at practice. We run every morning, so it works us harder. We just get better and better.”
Kyler and her Newark teammates have stuck to the plan, which has helped the Wildcat boys be so successful during Noftz’s tenure. Now, the Newark girls are tasting the fruits of their labor.
The Wildcats placed fourth in a time of 10:09.01 in the 3,200 relay during the Division I, District 2 meet Wednesday at Hilliard Darby. Newark qualified for next week’s regional meet at Pickerington North, where it will take aim at breaking the 10-minute mark and resetting a school record that has stood for 25 years.
“I am so excited. I am so proud of my team,” sophomore Meghan Roche said. “I don’t know what to say. (Noftz) has always pushed me. I just do what he says basically — or try to.”
Roche led off and had the Wildcats battling with Thomas Worthington. Just as Noftz asked, Newark remained with the Cardinals the entire way.
Freshmen Mylanda Bunch and Michaela Trawick followed with the middle two legs, and Kyler finished it as the Wildcats pulled away from fifth-place Big Walnut.
“I thought Big Walnut was going to beat us,” Kyler said. “I was trying so hard my last 200 meters to try to get as far away from them as I could.”
Newark has another week to work and another chance to continue carving their place in program history.
“We are a team,” Roche said. “They work with me every day, and I know them so well. I know they are going to put out their best if I put out my best. It will be nice to see competition. They will make us run faster.”
In the boys race, Watkins Memorial also placed fourth (8:35.07).
Granville’s Byron Spruill is used to breaking poles. Now, the junior is breaking records.
Spruill cleared a school-record 14-feet-8 to place second in the District 3 meet. Spruill cleared a personal-best 14-0 to tie the record, and he just kept right on going.
“I am so happy. Ever since I got to Granville, I have been gunning for that,” Spruill said. “I have had a bunch of meets this year where I would go to 14-0 and just like choke. It was a huge weight. I was nervous coming in. But as soon as I got 14-0, I was so happy and got my confidence back.”
It was an impressive run for Spruill, who pushed Westerville Central’s Charlie Moushey. One of the top vaulters in the state, Moushey won at 15-6.
Spruill made a run at 15-0, but he shattered his pole on his second attempt. It was his second broken pole of the season.
“After I cleared 14-4, I went to my bigger pole and it was seven inches longer. That gave me so much more room to work with,” Spruill said.
Spruill’s teammate, Cody Lenfest, walked away with his second consecutive district title in the long jump. The senior fell short of the school record and his personal best, but he had one of the most consistent days of his career.
Lenfest opened with three jumps between 22-4 and 22-5.5. He was unable to connect on a better one during the finals.
“This year’s Honor Roll meet and last year’s (Mid-State League-Ohio Division) meet were the only times I had two 22-foot jumps,” Lenfest said. “Having that consistency is kind of nice considering last year I was ranked first going into regionals and I couldn’t pull it out.”
In the girls meet, Watkins Memorial freshman Sammi Miller cleared a personal-best 9-6 to place third in the pole vault and qualify.