A pep talk and a little magic was all Alexis McJunkins needed Thursday.
The Heath junior cleared her head and rallied for a fourth-place finish in the shot put and qualification for the Division II state meet.
“Katie White told me to just not even think about fouling and just do it,” McJunkins said. “I let it fly. She is my good-luck charm, and I used the same shot that she used in the state. It must be a good thing.”
McJunkins was sitting in seventh heading into the final during the Division II regional at Lexington. With one mighty throw of 38-feet-1.25, she jumped into fourth.
McJunkins gave White all of the credit. White did not tell her pupil everything.
“She knew I was kind of down on myself during prelims,” McJunkins said. “She told me that I had nothing to lose. … I think Katie knew where (I ranked), but she didn’t tell me until I was done. It was probably just to not make me nervous.”
McJunkins competes June 7 in the state meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. She is Heath’s ninth state qualifier in the girls throwing events since 2007.
Bulldogs sophomore Brianna Walsh will attempt to match McJunkins when she competes in the discus Saturday.
“I cried when I heard that I got fourth,” McJunkins said. “Last year when I was here, I fouled every single one of them. It was just amazing to do it here.”
In the boys pole vault, Utica’s Kyle Knezovich fell a clearance short of a trip to the state but he could not be too upset. The senior tied his personal best of 13-6 to place sixth.
“I wanted to get 14-0 in the pole vault,” Knezovich said. “I like having competition. If they beat me, I hope they beat me on a good day.”
Knezovich, who qualified for Saturday’s finals in the 300 hurdles (40.69), cleared 13-6 for the first time at the district. He matched that on his first attempt at 13-6 in this meet.
“I would much rather have finished at state, but this was the next-best thing,” said Knezovich, who will be competing at Bluffton in 2015.
Johnstown sophomore Josiah Annis had a bit of excitement when he snapped his pole on an attempt at 12-6. Borrowing a pole from Utica, Annis cleared two more heights and placed eighth at 13-0. Licking Valley’s Jeffery Lowery did not clear a height.
Lakewood’s 3,200 relay finished 11th (8:25.93), and the Panthers finished 13th (8:32.94).
Qualifying to Saturday’s finals were Heath’s Josh Lines in the 400 (50.22) and the Bulldogs’ 800 (1:31.12) and 1,600 (3:26.38) relays.
Lines and the Eastmoor Academy anchor were battling for first in the heat, but Lines shut it down and cruised about the final 70 meters. He saw no sense in risking a trip or a dropped baton.
“It is all about qualifying,” Lines said. “You pretty much know in the last stretch of your race where you are going to be, and it is just kind of like an unwritten rule for most guys that you just hold your place.”
Heath was fifth in the 1,600 relay in 2013, and they would like to right that wrong. They were seeded second heading into the preliminaries.
“It is like a weight on our shoulders,” Lines said. “Running against the same teams as last year and running against some of the same guys is intimidating, but I feel like we have the skill and confidence to be able to compete with this competition.”
The Lancers’ 1,600 relay (3:30.70) qualified for the final. Northridge’s Chad Campbell (19-0) and the Redskins’ Travis Baldwin (18-6) did not make the finals in the long jump.
In the girls meet, Northridge’s Ellie Shedloski in the 100 (13.07) and the Bulldogs’ 400 (51.24) and 800 (1:48.37) relays qualified for finals. The Johnnies’ 3,200 relay was disqualified.