The indoor state meet is small potatoes compared to the outdoor event in June.
What Newark Catholic’s improving team was able to accomplish this winter, however, is nothing to take for granted. The Green Wave were well-represented at the indoor meet earlier this month, and they are out to show they can compete in the Licking County League against Goliaths such as Granville and Watkins Memorial.
NC’s boys and girls teams qualified a total of nine events in the Division II-III meet. The Green Wave had four medalists: Mary Richardson in the 1,600 and 3,200, Anthony Wing in the 60 and Ryan Allyn in the weight throw.
“I felt like a celebrity,” junior Kevin Lally said. “I think it was the first time we had been recognized as an actual sport here because we made it to the state meet. I thought it was great.”
NC opens the outdoor season at home Saturday. The Green Wave host a unique meet that will include high school and junior high competitors. Despite nine teams competing, including Utica and a portion of Licking Valley, the NC coaches do not put a cap on competitors in each event.
Lally, Wing, Chris Meek and Cole Buchanan were ninth in the 800 relay, missing out on a medal by a half-second at the indoor meet. The Green Wave’s time of 1:34.21 already was more than two seconds faster than where NC finished the outdoor season in 2013.
Junior Meg O’Reilly enjoyed her chance to run on the Green Wave’s girls 3,200 relay. It became a coveted spot after NC finished with a flourish, placing fifth in a loaded district meet. That entire foursome of Richardson, McKi Reid, Kat Bowman and Mickayla Messer returns, and O’Reilly just adds to the depth.
“I was really excited because we were able to make it to the indoor state meet, and that has always been a dream of mine,” O’Reilly said. “I never thought that I would have a spot on that team. It was pretty crazy because I am not the fastest distance runner out there. I know I am probably not going to be the top or the best, but just having those girls around to encourage me along the way, it’s awesome.”
Green Wave assistant coach Zak Holland is in his second year with the program and he made an immediate difference, emphasizing the importance of the offseason. Holland ran, then coached at Heath, where work in the snow and ice made the Bulldogs state champions in 2007.
O’Reilly, a cheerleader during football season, started running in December soon after NC was eliminated from the playoffs. Cross country standouts Tanner Ernest and Richardson took only a bit of time off, and the sprinters developed chemistry for the relays in various indoor meets.
“For me, it is about comparing to where we were last year to this year and knowing that we can achieve these times,” O’Reilly said.
Allyn, a sophomore, has had a rigorous offseason working with throwers coach Jim Harris. His weight throw of 48-feet-8 was a four-foot personal best and earned him a seventh-place finish. He hopes that momentum carries over into the shot put and discus.
For the girls, coach Joe Tanner is starting from the basics with a group of new throwers. Tanner’s only pupil with experience is freshman Mary Brigid Keck, who was a league champion in junior high.
The Green Wave might not yet have the depth to compete for a team title in the LCL meet in May, but NC certainly should have an improved showing in the Division III district and regional meets. A return to the state could be in the future, too.
“This is my first year officially on the track team, but I heard we did well last year. We are doing even better this year,” Lally said. “It makes me feel really well that we are getting better and that we are not below (our opponents) anymore. We can race with them.”