Oak Harbor freshman Athena Eli knows how important her team’s four seniors have been to sustained success that includes a fourth straight Sandusky Bay Conference championship after Friday’s meet.
And her teammates know the significance of the reinforcements Eli brought with her as outstanding performer for the girls meet. Eli won the 400 and was part of first-place 4X400 and 4X200 relays.
“It’s a great feeling,” Eli said. “It makes you feel like the hard work and practice pay off. It’s the best feeling in the world, especially coming to a new school but they brought me in like family and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Eli seemed to take extra pride in sharing each relay with at least one senior. Andrea Cecil, Allie Jett and senior Allie Dombrowsky rounded out the 4X400 relay while Jett, Karis DeWalt and senior Sidney Allen completed the 4X200 relay.
“My fantastic team,” Eli said. “It’s four girls running hard and pushing themselves. We do that every race. We have to show them what we’ve got and come through.”
There is a unique pressure for a freshman who already doubles as a team standout.
“There’s pressure to win for them and give it all you’ve got,” Eli said. “(The seniors) have. It will be hard without them next year.
“(The pressure) makes you want to give your all and show what you’re made of. I don’t think age matters. You’re the underdog but you can prove yourself.”
Eli put no limitations on herself as a freshman.
“You want to push yourself and set goals high,” Eli said. “Achieving them makes it the best. I didn’t know so much could happen so soon. You set high goals and when you do it, it’s unbelievable. It was a surprise. I can’t express how happy I am.
“There’s pressure but it all pays off. It’s nerve racking and exciting — as a freshman you’re nervous.”
Oak Harbor senior Jordan Giesler won the discus Friday. Allen, Dombrowsky, Jett and Rebekah Rayburn won the 4X100 relay.
“I was ranked second going in,” Giesler said. “I won on my last throw. I’ve been throwing for four years and this is my first SBC title. I’ve worked hard but always been second best. Hard work paid off. It was a relief to break through. Within the last few weeks I’ve thrown my best. I’m looking forward to districts.”
Senior Allie Dresser said the Rockets consider the championships to be a team competition.
“We compete as a team,” she said. “We all come together when we need to. We couldn’t win without everyone doing their part. (The title) means the world. I’m blessed to have girls who love the sport as much as I do and compete. We knew it would be close and we’re looking forward to districts.”
But first they’ll allow a fourth straight conference crown to sink in.
“It’s a big deal to bring that (championship) home for a fourth time,” said Eli, who hopes to play a similar role to the current seniors down the road.
Oak Harbor coach John McKitrick said Allen, Giesler, Dombrowsky and Dresser are the team’s torch.
“What they did motivating this group to SBC champions and the invites — they taught the kids how to win in a respectful fashion,” he said. “They make our job as coaches very simple. Seniors are not always so welcoming. It’s noteworthy for the four seniors to go out on a high note like this.”
Port Clinton coach Seth Benner has throwers on the opposite end of the spectrum in several ways. Freshman Morrisa Mallory won the shot put as the Redskins’ girls were sixth and senior Cody Smith took the event as Port Clinton’s boys were fifth.
Smith hypes himself up and often throws well early while Mallory is more likely to observe and get one out there in her final toss or two. Smith defeated Perkins’ Aaron Mawhirter, who finished one spot ahead of Smith at fourth at regionals last season for the first time Friday.
“It felt good,” Smith said. “Everything was clicking. My form was good. It wasn’t quite as far as I wanted but we’re getting there. He’s my top competition at SBCs, districts and regionals. It’s friendly. I think we’ll both throw better these next few weeks.”
Tyler Sievert won the 800 as Oak Harbor’s boys were fourth.
Perkins’ boys won their portion for the eighth consecutive season.