AKRON, Ohio — There are definitely worse ways to start a new season.
Gallia Academy had two of its three state qualifiers finish on the podium at the 2014 Ohio Indoor Track and Field Championships held on March 8 at the Stile Athletics Field House on the campus of the University of Akron.
It was an historic weekend for GAHS, as it marked the second consecutive season in which the Blue and White landed at least two people on the podium with top-eight finishes. And for the second year in a row, both Hannah Watts and Logan Allison — a pair of seniors — were standing atop the platform at the end of their respective events.
Watts — a three-time state qualifier in the 400m dash — switched to the 800m event this year after finishing fourth in the 400 a year ago, and the new approach paid off as the senior became the first Blue Angel to win an indoor state title.
Watts posted a winning mark of 2:16.91, which was more than two seconds faster than the entire field. Michelle McKinney of Eaton was the overall runner-up with a mark of 2:19.32.
Watts winning time was just a fraction of a second of the state meet record, which is currently held by Kaela Lightfoot of Minerva (2:16.44). Watts’ 10 points also allowed the Blue Angels to finish tied for 21st with nine other teams at the competition.
John Glenn won the Division II-III team title with 22 points, while Akron Buchtel was close behind in second place with 21 points.
Watts — who has signed for track with Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan — spoke about the honor of becoming the first indoor state champion for GAHS, although her real goal is to become the fourth OHSAA state champion in Blue Angels’ history.
“It just means that the hard work is paying off. It’s a nice measuring stick headed into the track season, but I don’t want to be satisfied with this accomplishment,” Watts said. “I have more that I want to accomplish this year and I want to get as far as I can go, but this an encouraging sign that the fruits of my labor are starting to show.
“It’s a nice accomplishment, but I don’t want this to make me comfortable headed into the season. I know other people are out there training just as hard as I am for the same goals that I have. I still have a lot of work to do throughout the course of the track season.”
For the second straight year, Logan Allison was on the podium in the triple jump event in the Division II-III tournament. Allison posted a personal-best leap of 40 feet, 6.5 inches to finish fifth overall, one spot better than one year ago in the same event.
Devin Snowden of Eastwood won the triple jump with a leap of 44 feet, 2.75 inches.
Allison talked about reaching the podium again and how it helped encourage him for spring, even if he still feels like there is some unfinished business to take care of.
“Throughout the winter, we set goals to make it to the podium. To achieve that goal is a special feeling and it encourages you to do better everyday,” Allison said. “I was on the podium, but I still didn’t get first — which was my main goal to begin with. That pushes me harder and harder to achieve my goal this spring, which is to beat out some of the best in the state at Jesse Owens Stadium.”
Junior Jacob Click — who was making his debut at the indoor state meet — placed 15th overall out of 16 qualifiers in the 60m hurdles event after posting a time of 8.87 seconds.
Jack Lint of Columbus Academy set a new state record with a winning time of 7.93 seconds, beating the previous mark of 8.03 seconds held by Antonio Blanks of Dayton Dunbar. Errik Snell of Cambridge was the overall runner-up with a time of 8.07 seconds.
The Blue Devils finished the weekend with four team points, tying for with three other teams 49th place.
Click spoke about his first trip to the indoor state finals and what he came away with during the competition.
“It was a very humbling experience and I am very thankful for the opportunity to go and compete there,” Click said. “I learned a lot from this weekend and I look forward to applying it to the upcoming season. I am also very thankful that I could be part of this weekend with Hannah and Logan. It was something memorable.”
Dayton Dunbar won the Division II-III team crown with 68 points, while Eastwood was the overall runner-up with 41 points.
It was another productive weekend for GAHS, which currently owns 18 consecutive girls district titles in the spring outdoor season. Coach Paul Close spoke about the events of the weekend in Akron and how they should help the Blue Angels — and the Blue Devils — this year.
“We use the indoor season to get ready for the outdoor season,” Close said. “We feel that we built a lot of confidence going into the spring and we are excited about that. We’re going to have a lot of talented kids and lots of numbers this season, so we are pumped and ready to go.”