Advancing four relays to the state track and field meet is supposed to be a once-in-while thing, but the Gilmour Academy girls don’t know much different.
For the third time in the past four years, the Lady Lancers locked up state berths in the four-by-100, -200, -400 and -800-meter relays during the Division III region meet last Wednesday and Friday at Perry High School in Massillon.
Among 211 Division III programs in Ohio, only Gilmour, Grandview Heights and West Liberty-Salem are sending all four of their postseason quartets to the big dance this Friday at Saturday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus.
“I was really excited, and I know I was excited for all of my teammates too,” Gilmour senior Katie Engle said. “We got a lot of people going down this year, which is really great, and a lot of relays qualified too. So, it’s going to be an awesome experience.”
With 10 athletes punching their tickets to states in five individual events and four relays, the Lady Lancers scored 78 points to win their 11th straight region title, besting runner-up Ridgewood, 53 points, third-place McDonald, 48 points, and the rest of the 63-team field
Starting the region meet off in the four-by-800, Gilmour’s quartet of Engle, freshmen Mary Lombardo and Nina Padanilam, and junior Jorja Hlifka finished third in 9:50.12 to secure their state berth. They are seeded ninth, one spot shy of the podium, heading to Jesse Owens.
“Mary and Nina did really well, especially as freshmen it was really impressive,” Engle said. “They both ran their best times I’m pretty sure, right around a 2:30, which is what we’re looking for. It’s just really awesome to have a group of talented young ladies, because I know that even next year, when I’m gone, we’re still going to have a strong four-by-800 team.
“And I think we were ranked fourth going into that, and the fifth through eighth teams were right around our time, but everyone definitely stepped up and we dropped like 16 seconds off our season-best time. So, that was really exciting, and I’m definitely proud of everyone.”
Individually, Engle finished runner-up in the 1,600 run in a season-best 5:12.14, just 0.47 second behind Badger junior Miranda Stanhope. Engle is seeded fifth heading to Columbus.
Engle also took runner-up in the 800 run in season-best 2:19.51, just 0.34 second behind Mogadore junior Hope Murphy. She is seeded 10th for states in that event.
A double-podium finisher at the state meet last year, Engle finished eighth in the 1,600 run and fifth in the 3,200 run, but she decided to switch up her double this season.
“The 3,200 just drove me crazy because it’s eight laps and such a long race,” Engle said. “Every single meet this year, I was doing the 1,600 and the 800 double just to get practice. And I’m just going to give everything I can for the 1,600, and then just see what I have left for this 800. I just continually tell myself it’s only two laps. So, hopefully I’ll be OK getting through it.”
Although Gilmour cleaned up at regionals, the Lady Lancers’ lone gold-medal performance came from the fourth-by-400 quartet of Hlifka, freshmen Karah Henderson and Kaleigh McNamara, and junior Madison Olsen, who clocked a 4:01.23 to best runner-up Steubenville Central Catholic by 2.64 seconds. They are seeded third for states.
Punching her individual ticket, Henderson finished third in the 100 hurdles in 14.88 seconds and is seeded fifth for states, while Olsen took fourth in the 400 dash in 59.94 seconds.
In the four-by-200 relay, Gilmour’s team of junior Leilani Zeller, McNamara, junior Sophia Giancola and Olsen clocked a 1:46.96 to finish runners-up to Rootstown by 0.02 second. That Lady Lancer quartet is seeded ninth for states.
And in the four-by-100 relay, Gilmour’s Zeller, Henderson, Giancola and senior Annika Corcoran circled the track in 50.06 seconds to finish runners-up by 0.21 second to Rittman. They are seeded sixth heading to Columbus.
Giancola and Corcoran were on the Lady Lancers’ 2018 four-by-100 team that took 11th at states in 51.52 seconds.
“Leilani transferred in (from Beaumont) and Karah’s only a freshman, so it’s awesome to have them coming down with us and getting that experience,” Corcoran said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun, and I think we’re going to do really well. Everyone has a lot of fight in them, so I think that we’re going to go after it and hopefully get another PR.”
Corcoran also punched her individual ticket in the long jump, marking 16 feet, 1 1/4 inches, to finish third in the region – not too shabby for an athlete who was wearing a cast with a Lisfranc ligament sprain in the beginning of the season.
“It was kind of in the middle top of my foot,” she said. “I had two bones that were almost separating and the ligament was getting strained in that area. So, it wasn’t a broken bone, but it was almost worse because it kept getting injured during the basketball season, and I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to run track.”
Last season, the Gilmour girls scored 25 points at the state meet to finish sixth and will be aiming to improve upon that team finish.