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WL-Salem girls thrive at regional

Tigers send record eight individuals to state


West Liberty-Salem’s Meghan Vogel pulls away from the rest of the competitors on her way to winning a regional title in the 1,600-meter run during the Division III regional meet Saturday in Piqua. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)

PIQUA — Survive and advance.

That is the motto West Liberty-Salem’s girls have embraced this postseason. But the Tigers didn’t just survive, they thrived here Saturday at the Division III regional meet inside Alexander Stadium.

WL-Salem’s girls qualified a record eight individuals to the state meet, earned their highest finish ever at the regional with a fifth-place finish and have now set eight new school records this spring.

“I am really proud of the girls,” said WL-Salem girls head coach Ann Vogel. “That is the best finish we’ve ever had and you can’t ask for more than that. We were hoping for a top five finish. We hung on to third for a long time and second through sixth place was really tight.”

WL-Salem held on to third place for a large portion of the meet, but finished fifth and advanced to the Division III state track and field meet in four events.

Senior Meghan Vogel won a regional title in the 1,600 and qualified to state in the 800, while the 400 relay of senior Megan Etgen, sophomores Michaela Rausch and Abigail Rabenstein, and freshman Morgan Freyhof earned a state berth.

The 3,200 relay of Vogel, seniors Jasmine Smith and Shawnda Henault, and sophomore Alyssa Strickland also qualified to the state meet on the first day of regional action.

The top four placers in each event advanced to the state meet this Friday and Saturday in Columbus.

“The key to this team definitely starts with the leadership of our outstanding seniors,” said Ann Vogel. “Both Megan Etgen and Meghan Vogel, Jasmine Smith and Shawnda Henault have all been great. Jasmine and Shawnda have shared that big meet experience and been able to lead the team and let the other girls know what to expect. They set great examples.”

Russia edged Minster 58-54 to win the regional title, while Marion Local clipped Versailles 45-44 to finish third. WL-Salem was fifth with 42 points. Covington was close behind in sixth with 40 points.

Despite all of her accomplishments and titles, Meghan Vogel had never won a regional title in the 1,600.

The senior added that to her list of accolades Saturday with a winning time of 5:10.38 in the mile.

“Our motto has been to survive and advance,” said Meghan Vogel. “The goal was to finish in the top four and it didn’t matter where I ended up. It still feels great to win it. We wanted to just qualify and save my best for the state meet.”

More impressive was Vogel’s effort in the 800-meter run, which saw her showcase her talent and earn a state berth with just 300 meters left in the race.

“In the mile, Meghan was expected to win,” said Ann Vogel. “In the 800, though, she ran a great race. It went out a lot faster than she wanted it to. She stuck to her game plan and trusted her kick and got to the finish. When you race at the level she has, she knows what to expect.”

The WL-Salem star was in seventh place during the last lap, but with 300 meters to go, Vogel flipped the switch and found that impressive kick. She moved all the way from seventh into fourth place with 100 meters left to go. Then at the finish line, she edged another competitor to take third in a time of 2:18.77, a school record.

“The 300-meter mark is where I know I can start to go and have enough left in the gas tank,” said Meghan Vogel. “The race went out fast, which I’m not accustomed to, but I just had to dig in and kick it in at the end. Fortunately, I got it and was able to get out.

“I feel our district and regional are the toughest in the state. So, I have a lot of good girls that are pushing me and helping me drop my time. I’m blessed to have that.”

“She panicked a little when it started so fast,” said Ann Vogel. “I think it worked to her advantage, though. A lot of girls died at the end, while she stuck to the game plan and got a personal best at the same time. Running the 1,600 and 800 combo is really tough. I’m real proud of her to get out in both events.”

Since May 2 at the Wayne Invitational, the Tigers’ 400 relay team has improved their time in every race, which resulted in breaking their own school record Saturday for the sixth time. They finished second with a new personal-best time of 50.20.

“The girls on the 400 relay are probably not the four fastest girls on the track,” said Meghan Vogel. “They have good chemistry and work well together. They have a lot of confidence in each other. It shows out there on the track. I think if Morgan had five more meters she could have caught Versailles.”

WL-Salem held the second-best time entering the finals and ran like it. With just one senior, two sophomores and one freshman, the foursome was smiling from ear-to-ear after the race.

“It’s a pretty great feeling right now,” said Etgen. “It’s been great getting to know these girls. We’re blessed to have such great teammates.”

“There is still room for improvement,” said Freyhof. “Our goal was to make it to the state meet and now our goal is to get another personal best at state.”

Adding to WL-Salem’s team finish were three other placers on Saturday.

Freyhof capped a tremendous freshman season in the 100-meter dash. She was one spot shy of qualifying to state after taking fifth in a time of 13.04.

Also for the Tigers, Etgen took sixth in the pole vault (9-2), Alyssa Strickland placed seventh in the 3,200 (12:07.73) and the 1,600 relay team of Freyhof, Vogel, Darby Thomas and Caylee Karg were eighth (4:18.10).

Look for a Division III state preview later this week in the Examiner.

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