While no one took home a state title, seven Brown County athletes competed in front of a packed house on June 5 and 6 at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
Six athletes from Eastern High School and one athlete, Jake Cropper from Georgetown High School, participated in the meet, with freshman Cassidy Staggs and sophomore Blake Rigdon competing in the finals of their races. Staggs finished as the final qualifier for the finals with a time of 47.28 seconds in the preliminary round of the 300 meter hurdles, before finishing last, in ninth place, in the finals, despite improving with a time of 47.14 seconds. She was the only freshman of the finalists, and there were no sophomores present as well.
Rigdon ran the 3,200 meter run, finishing in 11th place with a time of 9:41.71. Rigdon was the only sophomore to qualify for the 3,200 meter run at the state meet.
“It was a pretty good experience,” Eastern track and field coach Mark Day said in a phone interview. “The kids had a great time. They competed. We didn’t do quite as well as we wanted to. It’s the very best in the state up there.”
Regarding Staggs, Day was at a loss to explain her finish, as he expected her to challenge for one of the top spots in the state. Day said it was possible that a minor knee injury played into the result.
“She had run faster a couple of weeks earlier in the year,” Day said, referencing Staggs’ time of 46.87 in the regionals and districts. “She was a whole second slower, it’s hard to say why that happened.”
Also competing for Eastern was their 4×100 meter relay team, which finished in 13th place in the preliminaries with a time of 51.65 seconds, failing to advance to the finals. The relay team was made up of juniors Abby Fultz, Kayla Tomlin, Delaney Walsh, and sophomore Jensen Sowers.
Fultz also competed in a separate event, though she finished in 14th place with a time of 16.53 seconds in the 100 meter hurdles.
Cropper qualified for the 400 meter dash at the state track meet, but failed to advance to the finals after posting a time of 51.90 seconds. Cropper said it was a slow start that cost him.
“I had a bad start,” he said. “I was in lane seven so i was in front of everyone, and by the time I had a feel for the race it was too late.”
Still, the early exit from the meet didn’t take away from the experience of being among some of the top athletes in the state, and the nation.
“It’s a neat feeling going to state track meet because you’re not used to such a big crowd for track events and it’s packed,” Cropper said. “Every other person you see walking around is a college coach. There’s a feel of how important it is. I was very excited to run.”
With their season over, Eastern coach Day is proud of the way his athletes performed over a long and grueling season, which saw them travel at times north to Akron, east to Chillicothe and Athens, and west to Mason and Louisville, Kentucky.
“It’s a huge achievement,” Day said of having runners qualify for the state track meet. “We’re quite proud that we got as many people there in as wide a variety of events. If you look at regionals we had many almost get there too. That’s what I’m proud of.
“We have quite a track program. We have competed (in our school’s history) in 28 different events in the state meet. We have a state champion from the school and several people have been in the top eight. Getting people to state is not unusual. It’s kind of what we expect. That’s why we work hard.
“We were very close last year in a couple of races and we just didn’t get there. We’re doing what our goals are set out to do and what we’re working for.”
While the entirety of the state track qualifiers for Eastern will return next year, last week’s meet was the final time for Cropper to wear a G-Men uniform after what seems like a lifetime of doing so. The record-setting basketball star is headed to Mount St. Joseph’s to continue his basketball career, but he said it was bitter sweet to have finally finished his Georgetown career.
“It’s kind of sad because I’ve always grown up with Georgetown and as a young child I wanted to be the best Georgetown athlete,” he said. “I’m very happy for what I accomplished and I’m hoping that someone else will be ready to represent Georgetown and show people that we’re not just a basketball school but overall great at every sport. That was my goal in high school, to try and be the best in every sport that I could be.”