I was an average track runner on my best days.
If I could hang around 5:00 in the 1,600 and 11:00 in the 3,200, I was happy. I did not have hope of reaching a state tournament or competing for a league title.
My one and only goal out of each competition was to do better than my best. That made the first two weeks of the season really frustrating.
Area runners have been competing the past two weeks with little hope of immediate gratification. For many like I was, simply attempting to stay warm or dry is a battle in itself, and the practices designed by coaches with an eye to May are not conducive for achieving personal bests on race day.
As the clouds broke Saturday, however, it signaled a new day. The season entered its first exciting portion.
For athletes with Watkins Memorial at Pickerington North’s Stingel Invitational or Granville at Lexington Invitational, it was the first time to let their hair down. A season ago, Watkins’ boys and girls raced impressively against top competition, and it was a precursor for a postseason that saw the Warriors’ teams have their best showings in the regional meet since moving to Division I.
Granville standouts Michaela DeGenero and Natalie Price had their opportunity to show the progress they have made with their work behind the scenes the past month since competing in the indoor state meet a month ago.
Next Saturday’s Hank Smith Invitational at Heath will do the same for many of the area’s top athletes from Heath, Lakewood, Licking Valley and Newark. Will Heath’s Hailey Ferguson steal the show on her home track in the 200 and 400?
Valley’s Griffin Butler earned All-Ohio honors in cross country. Will he show the potential to duplicate that feat in the 1,600 or 3,200, or will Lakewood’s Major Henry continue a torrid early-season pace in the hurdles events?
Maybe Newark’s Tana Barrett will keep climbing in the high jump. She has set a quite a high bar for herself, reaching 5-feet-4, just one inch off her personal best, a week ago.
The performances set during the next two weeks are simply a starting point. They serve as a reward for the work done while stepping through snow banks and staring an icy wind in the face.
The performances serve as a carrot. They are an acknowledgement that the sky is limit, but so much work is left to be done between now and late May.
The sun is shining, and the temperature is rising. It is time to heat up the action on the track. No records are safe.
Snyder is a sports writer for The Advocate. Tell him what you think at email@example.com.