MANSFIELD – One earned runner-up honors and the other was a double medalist at the 2014 state track meet.
Athletes don’t come more decorated than Crestview’s Ben Olewiler and Madison’s Frank Douglas. Not that it matters. They’ll still have their work cut out Saturday.
Fierce competition is what makes the Mehock Relays, celebrating its 83rd birthday, one of the premier meets in this part of the country.
The task for Olewiler — last year’s Division III state high jump runner-up — is to unseat defending Mehock champ and record-setting state indoor champ Cody Stine, of Shelby. From an area perspective, that dynamic duo make the high jump the Relays’ marquee event.
Douglas, who gave UCLA-bound Steele Wasik of threepeat champion Lakewood St. Edward all he could handle last year in both hurdles races, has a new nemesis this year in Warren John F. Kennedy’s Chad Zallow.
All Zallow did last weekend was become the No. 1 ranked hurdler in the nation with a 13.50 showing in the 110-meter highs at the Arcadia (California) Invitational. It’s the second-best time ever by an Ohio hurdler behind multiple Mehock champion Chris Nelloms, of Dayton Dunbar. He ran a 13.3 in 1990.
Zallow won Mehock gold in the highs two years ago. Warren JFK, a parochial school, was prevented from coming to Mansfield last year because the meet fell over Easter weekend.
“Chad’s a great runner and he has an awesome coach (former Madison state hurdles champ Jeff Jenkins), so I look forward to running against him,” Douglas said. “Me and Chad have been running against each other since the middle school state tournament.”
That’s where Douglas met Jenkins, who swept state titles in the 120-yard highs and the 180-yard lows for Madison in 1975. They’ve stayed in contact.
“Madison doesn’t have a hurdles coach, so I’m basically on my own,” Douglas said. “I ask him for tips.”
Last year, the 5-foot-8 Douglas lost by less than .2 to the 6-4 Wasik in the 300 hurdles despite his opponent’s longer stride. Wasik also beat Douglas in the highs, with OSU recruit Davon Anderson of Cleveland Glenville squeezing between them for second.
Zallow isn’t as tall as Wasik and therefore can’t use length to his advantage. But he’s a master technician.
“They are great competitors; that’s the only similarity,” Douglas said. “Chad’s very confident and focused on what he does. Steele used his height to his advantage.”
Douglas broke 38 seconds in the 300s for the first time at last year’s state meet, where he medaled in both hurdles races. He’s been running the 110 highs and 100 meter dash back-to-back in meets this season to help with conditioning, but on Saturday, he’ll concentrate solely on the hurdles.
“It’s an opportunity for me to regain all my wind (between races) and go out and run my best,” Douglas said. “All of my high school career, I’ve been trying to put a time on (what I want to accomplish). You can’t do that. You’ve just got to go out and do your best.”
If Stine wasn’t the jumper to beat after winning Mehock last season, he clearly is now. His leap of 6-10 in the state indoor meet at the University of Akron was a meet record. He duplicated that feat in his first outdoor meet of the season and won the Shelby Invitational last week with a height of 6-8 — which was an inch higher than he cleared last year at state.
So, yes, he’s locked in.
“I’ve been doing well lately; I think it’s just a carry-over from indoors,” Stine said. “I changed my approach from an 8-step to a 10-step, and I’m getting more comfortable with it.”
No one will have more of a vested interest in the Mehock high jump than University of Akron jumps coach Tomasz Smialek. A former 7-foot jumper and All-American for the Zips, Smialek has welcomed both Olewiler and Stine into the fold. Stine makes it official when he signs with Akron on Thursday.
“I’m excited about it,” Olewiler said of his new teammate.
Akron’s chances of landing Stine weren’t hurt when he set his state indoor record on campus.
“It was down to Akron and Eastern Michigan,” he said. “I liked everything about Akron.”
Olewiler hadn’t so much as practiced an approach going into this week because of some knee tendinitis, but he persuaded Crestview coach Kim Yost to let him jump Saturday. He was already entered in the 200, 400 and 4 x 200.
“It’s going to be a long day for him,” Yost said, “but he does well with stress.”
Olewiler juggled football and golf in the fall, but he said his left knee felt fine until basketball season.
“I was jumping on it too much, but you can’t really take time off during basketball season,” he said. “(The tendinitis) progressed and got to where it is now.
“It still hurts, but my doctor said that even though it bothers me, I’m not going to hurt it any worse. I guess it’s time to suck it up and jump.”
Olewiler and Stine met twice last year. They both cleared 6-6 at the Shelby Invite, where Stine won on fewer misses. At Mehock, Stine went 6-6 for the gold medal and Olewiler settled for fourth at 6-2.
In winning Mehock, Stine unseated Wasik, the two-time defending champ. Just don’t ask Stine if that was a bigger highlight than winning a state indoor title in record fashion.
“That’s a hard question,” he said. “It felt really good knocking (Wasik) off because he’s a great athlete and will probably be on the Olympic team in a few years, but winning state indoors felt pretty good.”
The Mehock high jump record of 7-2.75 was set by Erick Kynard of Toledo Rogers in 2009.
“Right now I just want to get to 7 feet,” Stine said. “I’ve almost done it a couple of times in practice. It will have to be the perfect jump.”
Given its storied history, Mehock Field would be the perfect place.
If you go
•What: 83rd Mehock Relays
•Where: Mehock Field, Malabar Intermediate School
•Schedule: Field events, running preliminaries at 10 a.m. Finals at 1 p.m.
•Field: Schools from Ohio, Michigan and Canada
•2014 champs: Lakewood St. Edward (boys); Solon (girls)
•Meet director: Brady Groves