Right in the middle is exactly where both the London High School boys and girls track and field teams found themselves at the conclusion of their own 13th annual Red Raider Relays held Saturday, April 5.
Both Red Raiders squads placed sixth amongst the 12 teams competing in London’s showcase home event. The girls team scored 53 points and finished behind champion Northeastern (82), runner-up Bexley (74), Bishop Ready (64), as well as Benjamin Logan and Kenton Ridge (both 62).
The London boys’ 40 points placed them sixth well behind champion Bexley (105), Benjamin Logan (82), Northeastern (69), Kenton Ridge (68) and Buckeye Valley (45).
Coach Andy Crawford took the results for what they were and is hoping his team can build upon them.
“The performance from both teams was pretty solid,” Crawford said. “You’re not going to win a meet of this magnitude with 11 girls, no matter how much effort they give. I probably ran a few of them harder than I should have, but I didn’t know we were going to be that short-handed until that morning. We’ve traditionally done very well at our home invitational, so the team finish was a little disappointing, but that’s not on the girls who were there. Every last one gave it everything they had.
“Likewise, the boys’ 40 points, as well as their sixth-place finish, represented the high end of my expectations going in. We scored just 12 points last year, so things are definitely looking brighter, especially when you look at some of the individual performances and the times from some of the more traditional relays.”
The relay format combined different events that normally aren’t run together, also it made all field events a team-effort, combining the scores of teammates to provide a team score.
The Red Raiders girls won the distance medley (14:32) topping runner-up Bexley by nearly a minute and a half (15:58). They also finished first in the middle distance medley (4:52), edging Bishop Ready (4:56).
The team however came up just short in the 4x1, 600-meter relay (24:43) to Bexley (24:35.8).
The collection of London girls that competed had busy days, as Crawford tried his best to keep his team competitive despite being shorthanded.
“Sarra Taylor ran two 1,600’s (5:43 and 5:47) and an 800 (2:35). Jessica Stewart ran a 5:51 in the 1,600, a 4:19 in the 1,200 portion of the distance medley, and later a (1:08) in a 400, all while hacking up a lung fighting a chest cold,” the coach said.
“Hunter Mouser was asked to run a 2:55 in the 800 and a (1:06) in the 400 in back-to-back events. Freshmen McLaren Rogerson (1,600-800-800) and Maddie Martinez (400-200-400) ran three times, and Kali Boyd and Mikayla Martinez each covered four total events for us. Jenn Darling had one of her better days at the shot and discus, but we didn’t have a second thrower to pair her with, and that just killed us. That cost her a couple of medals, and it might have cost us the meet.”
Boyd equaled her career-best of 4-10 in the high jump despite cold, windy temperatures Saturday morning. The weather improved in the afternoon, but after her high jump competition was over.
“I think I jumped really well,” Boyd said. Starting out at 4-10 in my first meet is really good, 5-0 would have been my (personal record) had I cleared that. Your muscles are really tight and it’s a lot of running back and fourth putting your sweats on and taking them off, just staying loose in this type of weather is really tough.”
Boyd said she and her teammates take pride in competing in their biggest home meet of the year.
“We’ve had rain, wind and sleet in the past, but I really like this meet,” she said. “I think we host it well. Just seeing the competition we’re going to see (Saturday) helps us prepare for the rest of the season.”
On the boys side, there were plenty of encouraging performances turned in by the Red Raiders but perhaps none more so than a collection of sprinters.
“The quartet comprised of seniors Dage Spinning and Keith Wright, junior Tashawn Drafton and freshman Garrett King had an excellent first day,” Crawford said. “We kept them together for the shuttle hurdles, which Tashawn and Garrett had never run before, the 4x200 relay and the 4x400 relay. That 4x200 time (1:40.9), while not great — we did finish fifth, it is respectable for a first outing and faster than anything we ran last year. The 4x400 is perhaps even more impressive when you consider that two of those guys had never run a 400 in competition before. They were learning the strategy of the race literally on the fly.”
Crawford said his team was prepared for the cold temperatures and was encouraged to see the weather improve as the day went along.
“By the time the afternoon rolled around, the sun had broken through the clouds and it was actually fairly pleasant,” the coach said. “Still kind of cold, especially at the North end of the stadium, as the runners are heading into the final turn, a wind coming from the West always wreaks havoc. We were outside on Friday afternoon, knowing that it was going to be a lot worse than what we would face Saturday, and I think that it helped toughen our mindset quite a bit.”
The meet once again went off without any major problems and the coach credits an army of volunteers for that.
“We have great parents and staff here at London, and with their help, it always seems to work out. The only minor glitch that I’m aware of is that our 300-foot tape measure that was supposed to go to the discus area wound up at long jump, leaning against a fence, and so we had to perform emergency surgery on a shorter tape measure and run it out there, and the event got started late. But, again, the willingness and ability of our volunteers to step up and think quickly on their feet saved the day.
“I would also be remiss if I did not mention the coaching staff at Madison-Plains, who helped us run the pole vault, shot put and discus events. Of all the things I would like to be remembered for at London, I hope it’s in fostering a spirit of cooperation with the other track and field teams in the county. With three of us now joining the MSL, we’re going to need to look out for and help each other.”
The Golden Eagles boys scored 23 points and finished ninth, while the Madison-Plains High School girls scored 27 points and came in eighth.
The boys team got a third place finish from its shot put crew (70-11.5) and a fourth in the discus (212-09).
The top finish for the girls was the shuttle hurdle team which was second at 1:23, the long jump duo’s total of 26-03.25 was good enough for third place.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.