PICKERINGTON — Qualifying for state in any sport is special. Placing at state makes the trip that much better.
For Eaton’s track and field program, the Eagles had two state placers and a third make the trip for the OHSAA’s 113th Boys and 46th Girls Annual State Track and Field Tournament on Friday and Saturday, June 4-5.
The Division II event was held at Pickerington North High School.
“As a coach, it’s always special anytime you can get somebody here. That’s great when you got kids that are capable doing that and they just they put so much life into your program,” Eaton coach Randy McKinney said.
Sophomore Lauren Guiley and senior Mallory Deaton each made the podium to secure their place as one of the top eight in their respective events, while senior Ryan Brooks nearly set a new personal best while finishing in a tie for 16th.
“It’s been a great season. We had a lot of kids do a lot of great things,” McKinney said. “I’m looking forward to the change in our league next year. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops. We got a really young, strong group of girls coming back, we lose a few key seniors. The boys, we have to rebuild a little bit but you know what, going into this season I had no clue what we could do. It’s a nice place to end in the season at the state meet.”
Guiley got out to a fast start, leading the 800 meter final for the first 550 meters on Saturday. She ran a personal best time of 2 minutes, 17.61 seconds to finish seventh overall.
“We had to wait a couple years. I thought she could get here as a freshman and I really truly believe she would have,” McKinney said. “She’s got a lot of potential and we just have to figure out the best way to run that first lap. Like today, she was 30 seconds at the 200, 104 at the quarter.”
Prior to the race, McKinney told Guiley not to worry about anything but the race at hand.
”I told her before she went out, ‘Today’s the day. Got to get it done today. There’s no tomorrow, well have next year to worry about next year.’ And I said, ‘You’ve got to take care of business today,’” he said.
Coming in, she was sitting anywhere between, fourth and 14th place.
“She just did an outstanding job, getting it done,” McKinney said. “I’m so happy for her because she too has worked so hard to make this happen and, you know, none of those kids realize yet, because they’re all young kids, just how hard it is to get here. They knew it wasn’t easy to get here, but when you’re here and you’ve got 16 or 18 people, how special that is. I couldn’t be happier for Lauren or any of the other two. It was great weekend. To get three to state and two on the award stand, that’s just great.”
Guiley said her only game plan was to stay close to Oakwood’s Bella Butler, who placed third in helping the Jills win the team title.
“The game plan for me, we didn’t really come up with one specifically, but it was just to place in the top eight. I’ve been racing Bella Butler for most of the postseason so my game plan was to try to go out and beat her today,” Guiley said. “I didn’t execute it the best. I went out a little hard and I knew people were coming up on my hip, I could feel them, so I just tried to push the last 200. People caught me route 250 left so that wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s what happened. Honestly, I just wanted to place top eight, so to be able to do that was really awesome.”
For Deaton, a spot on the podium came down to her last throw in the discus.
“Toughest throw of her career was that last throw. To come up here, after she had to wait two years, to finally get a chance to be regional champion and qualify, but to qualify through and get up here and then do what she did,” McKinney said.
Deaton made the finals as the ninth qualifier. On her final attempt she had throw of 122-10 to move her into a podium spot.
”What a great accomplishment for her,” he said. “She was so happy when it was over but, you know, she was very confident and her experience and confidence she developed over the years that I took care of it.”
Deaton admitted her emotions may have gotten the better of her, but she held them in until the final throw.
“Definitely not my absolute best day. I think I had a lot of emotions going in and kind of let that get in the way for some of my throws,” she said while fighting back tears. “I was on the verge of tears many times today, and then going into my last one I knew it was my last throw. So that was really emotional, but I just decided that I was going to get eighth. Pretty bittersweet. I mean, super happy to be on the podium – just sad to see it end.”
Eaton throwing coach Scott Burnett said he was proud of the way Deaton was able to keep her composure.
“A lot of emotion. Anytime you’re a senior and you get the state meet, I mean anytime you get the state meet, it’s a lot of emotion,” he said. “She threw about as well as she could on her last throw, and that was the key. She came in sitting eighth, she’s going to go out sitting eighth. She had her goal set on trying to break that school record but it just wasn’t today. I’m just proud of her, she did an awesome job today. I think holding herself together to squeeze and get into finals, then knowing she had to have a good throw on the last one to be able to get on the podium, she held herself together well.”
Burnett said Deaton’s work ethic was a reason she was able to handle the pressure.
“The character of her and her ability to work under pressure. She’s been training for six years to get to this point. She put in a lot of time last spring, when everybody else was quarantined, they were still throwing at home,” he said. “She’s just an amazing individual that works really hard and sets goals for herself and stays focused under pressure. I’m just extremely proud of her.”
For Brooks, he has been battling a lower back issue over the past several weeks, but still managed to push through and qualify for state.
”Ryan’s come a long way. Having a year off with COVID, being a senior, hurt him, but the tremendous improvement he made during the season was just amazing,” McKinney said.
Brooks cleared the opening height of 13 feet on his final attempt. At 13-6, Brooks just missed on all three attempts.
“When you’ve never experienced a state meet, it’s tough to show up at the state meet and perform. He cleared that 13 feet but it’s amazing he was able to do that with his lower back injuries he’s been nursing for a few weeks,” McKinney said. “I know that he hadn’t talked about it, he’s been real private about it, but in a pole vault you can’t swing those hips through which requires using that back that makes that event very tough. What a great job. He got it done when he needed to at the district. He got it done when he needed to at the regional and just to get here, it’s just such a tough, tough thing. But to accomplish this, as a senior, never having been here before. He did an outstanding job. So I’m very happy for him.”
Eaton vaulting coach Brad Kramer said Brooks had an amazing season.
“Just brushed them. He was right up there,” Kramer said of Brooks’s attempts at 13-6. “We probably could have had the standards in different locations and he would have cleared it but you’re always guessing how fast his speed is on the runway. So it was an excellent, excellent attempt under a lot of pressure. He’s had a little muscle stiffness in his lower back, going [back to] regionals, so he’s performed admirably under those conditions. He just needed a little more vertical finish. Vaulters in high school often finish the jump almost on a laying out position instead of continuing up and extending the pole that you see at the collegiate level. So, with a little more vertical on his finish, he would have had that 13-6.”
Kramer said Brooks improved his personal best by three feet during the course of the season.
“His season has been amazing. He improved three feet over the season. He went from 10-6 to 13-6 in just his senior season after missing an entire year. And so it’s been admirable,” Kramer said. “The one thing I want to point out about Ryan Brooks and really with Beau Shepherd too, both seniors, is that I had the task of coaching, not just all the high school boys and girls, but the junior high boys and girls and the thing about Beau and Ryan is, if I was working with somebody, individually, I would turn around and I would see them helping the youngsters. So, they have really given back to the program, and not just been outstanding athletes, but good leaders and I think that’ll translate to continuity of leadership in the future. “
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr