COLUMBUS - Junior Ayla McKibben had a tough time finding words to express how she felt after stepping off the podium at the Division III state track meet.
In front of a jam-packed Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, she couldn't stop smiling.
"I'm speechless," McKibben laughed.
The Colonel Crawford 4x100 relay of McKibben, sophomore Mira Holt, senior Reagan Ritzhaupt and junior Hailey Slagle came into Saturday's finals in Lane 2 and shaved nine-hundredths of a second off their time for a 50.42 and fifth place finish.
"We were fortunate to be in the morning because it's a lot cooler than 90 degrees for the D-I and D-II races," McKibben said. "The wind wasn't terrible, this was my type of weather. My team is tough mentally, whatever we're given, we run with it."
They were given one heck of a battle down the final stretch as Slagle anchored the relay. She had Norwayne's Kendra Berger, Montpelier's Aleigha Hillard and Trinity's Iniya Charlton right there alongside.
"I was just running my race," Slagle said. "I was thinking about catching the girls in front of me and making sure nobody behind me caught up.
"And making sure I didn't let down my team on that last stretch."
It was Slagle and McKibben's first time on the Jesse Owens track having been inserted into relays over the course of the season before settling on the 4x100. McKibben, and her twin Lynae, were alternates on the 4x400 last year.
"It was a total team effort," McKibben said. "And it wasn't even just these four girls who got us here. We switched our order the entire season, we didn't know who was going to be in this until districts. Getting to be a part of it, I'm honored."
After being on the outside looking in most of her sophomore year, Slagle knew her role would increase this season and wanted to make sure she was up for the challenge.
"It feels really good because I've trained since last summer," she said. "I was nervous because I've never had to run at the state meet. But the outcome was more than I could've asked for."
Chase shocks self in the mile
All season long, junior Cecelia Chase had her sights set on glory in the 3200.
A standout as a freshman and junior on the cross country team — sophomore year was hampered by injuries — distance running just comes naturally to her. Which should come as no surprise why she thought the 3200 was her best shot at reaching the podium in her first state meet appearance.
"All eight laps were terrible the whole time," Chase said of the 3200 which ran at 11:30 a.m. nearing 90 degrees. "The heat was terrible, my mouth was so dry, I couldn't breath. It was awful."
She finished the race 13th overall with a time of 11:45.19 which wasn't exactly how she envisioned it.
"That was probably one of my worst races of the year," Chase said. "I came into it with an open mind knowing I'd be tired from the mile. And I really debated scratching it, but it's state and you never know what could happen. I might as well do it because I'd regret it later. I don't think I would've regretted not running that."
Chase probably wouldn't have regretted it considering she went out an hour earlier and ran a personal best 5:06.10 to finish fifth in the 1600. Her time was .36 better than what she ran at regionals.
"I'm so excited I got that," Chase said of her All-Ohio honors in the mile. "Going into the year I was expecting my race to be the two mile because I didn't think I had enough speed for the mile. But when I started going to bigger meets, I realized I was getting better at it.
"I'm so stoked I got this my first year at state for track. There was a lot of competition and I'm glad I did so well."
That competition is what helped her to one of the best performances of her track career to date.
"Usually I don't like to go out as fast, but with everyone going out fast it helped push me up to the time I needed to be," Chase said. "That was definitely a factor. I'm glad all the other girls did great and I'm excited for our team because we've all been doing well this year."
Vogt pushes himself to a new level
It wasn't just the girls doing great, junior Trevor Vogt won his heat in prelims on Friday and secured a coveted inside lane for the finals Saturday morning.
And for the seventh time in the past month, he dropped time in the 300-meter hurdles clocking in at 39.27 for a fourth place finish.
"It was so brutal," Vogt said. "I went out so hard and ran a .23 PR, that final stretch will get you. It's so hard because all these dudes are really fast. They're running a 38 so I have to try and compete with them to compete for a state title. They outran me obviously, there's some fast dudes out there."
Ottoville's Kellen Schlagbaum won with a 38.60 and Marion Local's Owen Rindler was runner-up just .26 seconds behind.
"I had (Rindler) next to me in Lane 6 so I was trying to get to his hip and pass him for second," Vogt said. "Then I see Edgerton's (Carter Herman) on my hip and I thought — oh crap — I didn't have much left in the tank.
"I tried to give it my all but he had more kick than I did."
Herman edged him out over the final hurdle to finish .12 ahead of Vogt who had expected to be competing in multiple events at state. He was unluckily disqualified in the 110 hurdles in districts and the 4x100 relay featured an unfortunate baton drop.
But that just meant he could put everything he had into the distance hurdles.
"It's great to get All-Ohio and be top-five in the state," Vogt said. "With the 110 hurdles, I was expecting it in that and it didn't happen. I just gave it my all in this and it felt great to finally get it."
Having finally found a breakthrough in his third trip to state in as many tries, Vogt is already planning his final return. Schlagbaum and Rindley are seniors with Herman and Lowelville's Michael Ballone (fifth, 39.51) both juniors.
"I'm going to try to repeat and do better in each event, that's about all I can do," Vogt said.
Redemption for the 4x400
One year ago the quartet of Rylee Ritzhaupt, Reagan Ritzhaupt, Gabby Roston and Holt was devastated after missing out on finals by .26 seconds.
"Knowing what happened last year made us run faster," Roston said.
Shaving nearly five entire seconds off their time in 2022, the 4x400 relay not only qualified for Saturday's finals, they reached the podium with a time of 4:02.40 for All-Ohio honors.
"Last year we didn't do what we wanted," Holt said. "Handoffs and everything, nobody really knows how important those are to get you in the right position. Our coaches have been great getting us where we need to be.
"To come back and get fifth with the same group of girls is great."
"All of our hard work paid off to get here," Roston added.
And there was added motivation for Holt and Roston, they wanted to make sure the Ritzhaupt twins had a memorable send-off.
"Knowing it was their last high school race — we're going to compete at (New Balance) Nationals — this is where it counts," Holt said. "To get all four of us on the podium together is definitely nice."
"They've encouraged us and got us through these first two years of high school," Roston followed up with. "It's really great to leave them on a good note."
As a team Colonel Crawford girls finished with 23 points to place 10th overall one year removed from winning the program's fourth state championship. Five of the seven All-Ohioans will be back next year with several more talented athletes eager to join them back at Jesse Owens.
This article originally appeared on Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum: Colonel Crawford puts eight on the podium at Division III state meet