As he lay on his back, needing assistance to rise, it was pretty evident: Toby Hardwick really wanted this one.
Newark’s stellar senior went into the Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division meet wanting to pull off a rare triple. Instead, he wound up preventing one.
After losing battles to Lancaster All-Ohioan Stephen Sparks in the 1,600 and 800, Hardwick outkicked Sparks in a 3,200 showdown as he picked up the Wildcats’ third conference title of the meet Saturday at Thomas Worthington. Sophomore twins Tana and Takia Barrett earned titles in the high jump and discus, respectively, on Thursday.
Hardwick won the 3,200 by less than a second in 9:43.62, well off his best time of 9:05. But by that time, he and Sparks were pretty well spent and still were able to reach back for something extra.
“That guy is tough. I know he wanted that triple and I knew it would probably come down to a final sprint, just like the other two races,” Hardwick said. “I wanted to reserve something for the very end.
“I really wanted to win for Newark, because we don’t get many of these OCC titles. My teammates and coaches were cheering like crazy.”
Sparks passed Hardwick in the 1,600 to win in 4:17.71 to 4:18.63, then won his specialty — the 800 — from the front in 1:55.49 as Hardwick closed fast to take second in 1:57.94.
“I changed my strategy a little in the 1,600 and it didn’t work out,” he said. “I knew he would be tough to beat in the 800. But the 3,200 has always been my race.
“(The triple) was rough. I usually do it in duals or tri meets and use it as training. But with the competition here today, it was totally different.”
Hardwick totaled 27.25 out of the Wildcats’ 45 points as they placed sixth. Pickerington North won with 170.5 to 154 by Lancaster. Hardwick also anchored the 3,200 relay of Patrick Williams, Owen Keith and Isaac Wheeler that placed fourth in 8:14.83.
Tana Barrett cleared 5-feet-2 to win the girls high jump Thursday, and Takia Barrett won the discus with a personal best throw of 120-5. She was glad to join her sister atop the podium after coming into the season with a best throw of 95-0. She also was second in the shot put at 35-4.75.
“I’ve always thought she was better than me, so I was happy to be up there with her,” Takia Barrett said. “We argue a lot, but it gives us a little push. It’s like that in volleyball and basketball, too. There’s a little competition there.”
“She didn’t think she would do that,” Tana Barrett said. “At the beginning (of the season), she didn’t try as hard. Now, who knows how far she can go? She’s trying a lot harder.”
Tana Barrett was a bit disappointed with her winning high jump after clearing 5-5.5 in a dual meet two weeks ago against Grove City.
“I went right to that height today, but didn’t get it,” she said.
Coach Randy Noftz isn’t concerned.
“She almost cleared it twice,” he said. “She’s done 5-4 four meets in a row.”
Tana Barrett also continues to lower her 300 hurdles time. After running a PR 47.06 in Thursday’s prelims, she bettered that with a close fourth-place finish in 46.72.
Also placing fourth in the 800 was junior Meghan Roche, who made a serious run at the school record. She led for part of the final lap before finishing in 2:23.70. The record of 2:23.1 was set in the 1980s by Christina Thompson. The 3,200 relay of Roche, Mylanda Bunch, Keirsten Kyler and Brigit Luecke was fifth in 10:20.13.
Takia Barrett had 18.25 points and Tana Barrett 16 as Newark totaled 47.5 for sixth place. Gahanna won with 202.5, and Pickerington Central had 141.