Only one decision remains for Wynford’s state track and field qualifiers to make heading into this weekend’s competition: where to eat dinner.
Five Royals advanced to the Division III state championship at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Last year Wynford sent three tracksters to state, and the year before, they sent two. Each season the numbers continue to grow, and the coaching staff couldn’t be happier.
“This may be one of our best postseasons ever,” Wynford coach Brad Ruffener said. “We’ve had a lot of kids in relays, but as far as having five individuals, that was a big regional year for us, and a big state year.”
This year’s group consists of state veterans Ellie Richmond and Callie Ruffener and rookies Amber Gottfried, Samantha Lambert and Cole Fortner. Each athlete has high expectations, and all of them have a decent shot at making the podium.
Ruffener said she wants to finish in the top three and enters competition with a regional pole vault title of 11-00. Her personal best is 11-09, which she hit during the district meet, and she’s confident she’ll be able to clear 12.
“I just have to jump consistently, make my bars on first attempts and hopefully it works out I go 12 feet or above,” she said. “Right now the division leader is 12-1, so hopefully I can get up there.”
Richmond returns in the 1,600-meter run after a personal best, third-place finish time of 5:141⁄5 at the regional meet. Last year she finished 12th at state and is hoping to improve in both place and time.
“I learned that you definitely can not go out with the first group like I did last year because I completely killed myself on that first lap,” Richmond said. “I ended up not even close to where I wanted to be last year, but that being said, it makes me feel better that I know what I need to do this year, and hopefully that will get me to the podium.”
Fortner, the lone boy in the group, finished seventh at the regional meet as a freshman, and after getting off to a slow start in this year’s regional preliminaries, bounced back for a third-place finish of 11.26.
“It’s awesome, but it’s kind of disappointing I’m the only guy because our 4×100 relay (with Corey Brown, Tony Watson and Braxton Tea) was so close to making it, but we have more qualifiers than last year, so that’s pretty cool.”
Fortner is looking forward to the experience of running at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“Making it was really my No. 1 goal,” Fortner said. “I’m just worried about the prelims right now, and if I can make the finals, whatever happens, happens then.”
Gottfried advanced to state with a personal best performance of 5-04 in the high jump, good enough for third place. The senior is hoping to at least clear 5-04 again at state.
“It’s pretty exciting because I made it to regional the last two years, and I didn’t expect to jump 5-04, so I’m really excited about it,” Gottfried said.
Competing in the state indoor meet has helped in easing Lambert’s nerves this week. The experience has made her more comfortable with competing in large meets against a number of talented throwers.
“Throwing at Akron twice calmed me down and made me realize it’s just another meet,” she said. “There is nothing I can do about it, just go out and throw.”
Lambert finished fourth in the regional with a throw of 119-07, making her hungry for a better performance this weekend.
“I was happy to get to state, but I wasn’t happy with my performance,” she said. “It definintely gets me motivated to do a lot better than what I have been doing.”