Newark coach Randy Noftz has not been afraid to be radical this season.
Newark’s mad scientist was at it again Friday. Running their best two runners at the start, the Wildcats did not reach the podium at the Division I state meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, but the 3,200 relay did break the eight-minute mark for the first time.
“We did all we could today,” junior Toby Hardwick said. “Everybody put everything they had into it.”
Newark finished 11th in that season-best time of 7:59.45. Hardwick led off and was at the front when he handed to Anthony Johnson, one of the favorites for Saturday’s 800 title.
Johnson opened up the lead by a couple of seconds, and Kameron Carpenter and Isaac Wheeler did their best to hold on against a fast field. The Wildcats were less than a second out of ninth, and four seconds separated Nos. 7-12.
“We don’t get to stand on the podium, but coming to the state meet is definitely a reward,” Hardwick said. “We did all we could. That is all we can ask for.”
Newark was less than a second off the school record. Hardwick and Johnson each ran splits of 1:55, and Carpenter at 2:03 and Wheeler at 2:05 were near their personal bests.
“They are so amazing. They have so much talent,” Wheeler said. “They work so hard in practice. It is so much fun to run with them.”
Johnson returns to compete in that 800 at 5:55 p.m. today. He has the state’s top time this season.
Hardwick will have to wait until 2014. He had hopes of qualifying in the 1,600, but he was knocked down during the regional and unable to get back into contention.
Hardwick at least now has a taste of the state meet.
“Being here — wow,” Hardwick said. “I thought the state meet for cross country was big. I felt so much pressure for everything. It is great. I like it.”
Granville junior Casey Lenfest also will be among those running for a state title. Lenfest lowered his school record in the 200 to 21.33. The only competitor faster in the preliminaries was Gahanna’s Riak Reese, who has been a nemesis for Lenfest this spring.
Reese used a favorable wind down the frontstretch to run 21.13. The two times are the fastest in the state this year, and they broke the stadium record.
“It definitely feels good to come out and run a (personal best),” Lenfest said. “It is going to be a fast race. I am looking forward to it.”
Lenfest also anchored the 800 (1:29.28) and 1,600 (3:19.09) relays to qualifying times. Casey Lenfest, Cody Lenfest, Tyler Otterstedt and Trey Zangmeister won their heat in the 1,600 relay.
“We know that from all of the work we have put in, we can run fast times,” Casey Lenfest said. “All of the competition here just makes us that much better.”
Cody Lenfest qualified in the 300 hurdles (38.52). Hunter Rogerson did not qualify in the 110 hurdles (14.82).
Watkins Memorial’s Ethan George qualified in the 300 hurdles (39.86). The running finals begin at 4:30 p.m. Nine competitors will battle for eight spots on the podium.