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Tigers’ 3,200 relay team returns to state

PIQUA — Meghan Vogel had no time to rest here Wednesday afternoon. Her teammates wouldn’t let her. The West Liberty-Salem girls 3,200 relay had celebrating to do.

WLS-girls-relay

West Liberty-Salem’s Meghan Vogel reaches the finish line during the girls 3,200 relay Wednesday at the Division III regional meet in Piqua as her teammates Shawnda Henault, Jasmine Smith and Alyssa Strickland celebrate in the background. The Tigers placed second to earn a state berth and set a new school record of 9:43.24. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)

The Tiger distance stars earned a second straight trip to the Division III state tournament after placing second here at the regional meet inside Alexander Stadium.

Vogel had just finished the race when fellow seniors Jasmine Smith, Shawnda Henault and junior Alyssa Strickland picked her up off the ground near the finish line and hugged her. They were celebrating a state berth and what they were sure was a new school record.

“I think we did better than even we expected to do,” said Strickland. “I thought we did really well and got our time down. We knew what we had to do in order to do that. We’re all just really excited to be going back to state.”

It was quickly confirmed that the Tigers had, in fact, set a new school record with a time of 9:43.24. It was the fifth school record the WL-Salem’s girls team has set this season and the last of head coach Ann Vogel’s remaining high school records, which was set in 1984.

“It’s real special that this group of girls broke the record,” said Ann Vogel. “I’m thrilled for them to knock 10 seconds off their time from last week. It shows how focused they were today. They know their time left together is short and they want to go out with a bang.”

“I think it’s fun to take coach’s record,” said Smith with a laugh. “We’re excited to get the record.”

“It was fun, but it was also an honor,” added Strickland.

The top four placers in each event qualify to the state tournament next week in Columbus.

The Division III regional meet at Piqua concludes Saturday with field events at 1:30 p.m. and track finals at 2:30 p.m. The top two finishers in each heat, plus the next four best times from Wednesday advanced to Saturday’s finals.

WL-Salem’s 3,200 relay was in fourth when Vogel took over the last leg of the race. With 200 meters left in the event, the senior turned on the jets, kicked into another gear and flew past two runners in front of her.

The final time was 10 seconds faster than their qualifying time from a week ago at the district meet, but that isn’t what Vogel was focused on at that moment.

“At that point I knew we were getting to the state meet, but I wanted to get Russia,” said Meghan Vogel. “I knew that would give us confidence for state if we could knock them off and we did. We didn’t know for sure about the time after the race. We were all running together and it paid off.”

“Russia has beaten us at every meet this year, so for us to beat them now definitely gives us a confidence booster heading into the state meet,” said Ann Vogel.

“Jasmine had a great start for us. We have struggled with that this year, but she really turned it on today. She really got us off to a great start and we were able to hold the fourth position for most of the race. Our runners in each leg of the race just kept pushing. They gave it their all and were running for each other.”

In other regional finals events Wednesday, the Tiger boys saw Alex Gardner place eighth in the discus with a toss of 142-3.

Overall, it was a strong performance from WL-Salem as it qualified to the finals in eight out of a possible 10 races.

Advancing to the finals for the Tiger girls were Morgan Freyhof in the 100 (13.01), the 400 relay of Freyhof, Michaela Rausch, Megan Etgen and Abigail Rabenstein (50.48) and the 1,600 relay of Freyhof, Vogel, Darby Thomas and Caylee Karg (4:16.43).

The 400 relay ran an impressive race and holds the second fastest time heading into the finals. Freyhof has the sixth best time in the 100 finals and the 1,600 relay has the eighth best time.

Cordell gave an impressive performance for the WL-Salem boys in his hurdle races. He advanced to the finals of the 110 hurdles with a top time of 15.12 and also advanced in the 300 hurdles with a time of 41.22, which is second best.

The Tigers also reached the finals with Conner Karg in the 400 (51.31), the 400 relay of Jacob Ortman, Kelvin Shank, Ross Hickenbottom and Cordell (44.05) and the 1,600 relay of Hickenbottom, Karg, Cordell and Shank (3:28.75).

The 1,600 relay is in the best position to qualify with the second best time, while Karg and the 400 relay each have the fifth best time entering the finals.

Other WL-Salem athletes in finals events on Saturday include Vogel in the 1,600, Strickland in the 3,200, Etgen in the pole vault and Aaron Scott and Alex Adams in the boys 3,200.

Marion Local is currently leading the girls race after scoring three events with 14 points. Russia is in second with 11 points, Fairlawn and Minster are tied for third with 10 points each, Miami East is fifth with nine points and WL-Salem is sixth with eight points.

In the boys race, Minster is leading the way after scoring four events with 27.5 points. Fairlawn is in second with 21 points and Lima Central Catholic is holding third with 17 points. WL-Salem is sitting in 20th with one point.

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