The Heath program opened Saturday honoring many of its alumni who placed at past state meets.
No chance the current Bulldogs were intimidated. Instead, they continued to show why they might claim their own spot on the state podium in June.
Heath swept the 800 and 1,600 relays during its Hank Smith Invitational. The Bulldogs’ foursome of Freddy Stinson, Donny Beistel, Carlos Rencher and Josh Lines set season bests in both relays. The mark in the 1,600 was a meet record, running faster in the event than the eventual 2007 state champions did.
“We talked to some of them, and it is just amazing to see the crazy successful things they have done and to be able to follow in their footsteps,” Stinson said. “We always have a goal walking into a meet. (Setting a meet record) was one of our goals, and it was such a great feeling to accomplish it.”
Heath did it without competition, too. The Bulldogs’ time in the 800 relay (1:31.13) almost was two seconds faster than runner-up Meadowbrook, and nobody was in the same area code of Lines when he crossed the line to finish the 1,600 relay (3:25.36).
Heath usually runs Matt Kaser in the 1,600 relay, but with him injured Beistel moved up without missing a beat. The foursome also placed third in the 400 relay (44.47).
“It is always good to have that fifth man just in case things like this happen,” Stinson said. “It is nice to have that one just following the pack.”
The Bulldogs were left on the sidelines in 2013, barely missing out on a state berth in the 1,600 relay. Despite only having the fifth-fastest time in the Lexington regional, Heath had the seventh-fastest time across the state.
It continues to drive them.
“Last year, we looked up to (the alumni) and said we want to be just like them,” Stinson said. “We have some demons we have to fight off this year, and we are off to a good start with that.”
Lines added a third in the 200 (23.53). The Bulldogs were eighth with 36 points. Liberty Union won the meet with 86, four more than Sheridan.
Lakewood’s Major Henry admittedly surprised himself. The junior edged out Canal Winchester’s Jermil Powell for second place in the 110 hurdles (16.28), and his time was a significant personal best in an event which improvement often is measured in hundredths of a second.
“I have been practicing hurdles really diligently the past few days and weeks,” Henry said. “My times have been real fast compared to what I have before. I PR’d by three-quarters of a second.”
Newark’s A.J. Oiler in the 400 (52.60) and Isaac Wheeler in the 3,200 (10:13.55) each earned runner-up finishes. Utica’s Travis Baldwin was fourth in the 200 (23.62).
In the girls meet, the Wildcats had a trio of runner-up finishes. Newark was third with 85 points, trailing champion Granville’s 137 and Canal Winchester’s 108.
Meghan Roche, Mylanda Bunch, Stacia Kyler and Lauren Fischer opened the day on the track with a second place in the 3,200 relay (10:22.90).
Individual second-place finishers were Tana Barrett in the high jump (5-feet-2) and Fischer in the 3,200 (12:25.01). Barrett added a third in the 300 hurdles (48.38), and Roche (2:31.91) and Bunch (2:32.00) were third and fourth in the 800.
Heath’s Alexis McJunkins was second (37-6) and Newark’s Takia Barrett fourth (33-6) in the shot put, Licking Valley’s Hannah Gearhart third (110-0) and Heath’s Brianna Walsh fourth (107-3) in the discus and Heath’s Claudia Allen third in the long jump (14-8.25).
Heath was second in the 800 relay (1:50.78), and Newark was third in the 1,600 relay (4:23.89).