COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a single jump, Meigs’ Kassidy Betzing jumped to the front of the line — and almost to the very top of the awards podium.
With the fastest race of her decorated hurdling career, Gallia Academy senior Madi Oiler made school history.
And, by breaking yet another school record, the Lady Marauders mustered all-Ohio honors in the 4x100m relay.
Indeed, it was a fabulous five for the Ohio Valley Publishing area on Saturday — with five individuals ultimately earning places on the coveted medals stand, as part of the annual state track and field meet, held inside sun-baked Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
That’s because Betzing, after placing seventh in the Division II girls long jump a year ago, captured state runner-up honors in the same event — and only losing out on the magical state championship by a razor-thin quarter of an inch.
Oiler, after placing sixth in the Division II girls 300m hurdles two years back, amassed a fourth-place finish in that race on Saturday — becoming the highest-placing Gallia Academy girl at the state’s 300m hurdles.
In between, Betzing joined fellow Meigs sophomore Taylor Swartz — along with seniors Devyn Oliver and Sky Brown —to place eighth in the Division II girls 4x100m relay.
As Cyndi Lauper once sang, girls just want to have fun.
But these ladies set personal-best and even school records, and absolutely enjoyed their experience underneath the hot sunshine at Ohio State University.
Betzing began the barrage, jumping a personal-best 18-feet and nine-and-one-quarter inches to eventually land state runner-up.
In fact, after only edging her way into the finals by sitting in eighth-place following the preliminaries, Betzing briefly led the state championship chase —after erupting for her 18-9 1/4 on the opening jump of her three finals attempts.
But leave it to Springfield Kenton Ridge senior Jamari McDavid, who — by jumping her massive 18-feet, nine-and-one-half inches on her second-to-last of six jumps — bested Betzing’s best leap by a mere quarter inch.
Still, Betzing was much happier on Saturday, eclipsing last season’s state jump (17-2 3/4) by nearly 19 inches.
“Last year, it’s kind of hard being on the bottom of the podium. But being a little closer to the very top, it’s much much better,” she said. “This feels so much better than last year. I’m so excited that I PR’d (personal record) and it’s amazing. I already can’t wait to get better for next year.”
McDavid won the state championship as a freshman, before her state runner-up performance last season to Wheelersburg’s Ellie Ruby.
Ruby finished fifth this year in 17-feet and 10-and-one-quarter inches, as only four inches separated third-place Jenna Frantz (18-5 1/2) and fourth-place Katelyn Meyer (18-1 1/2).
All three trailed Betzing and McDavid, but Betzing — who swept both the Southeast District and Region 7 championships almost never made it out of the prelims.
With the top nine jumps from the two preliminary flights qualifying for the finals, Betzing — jumping second in the opening flight — fouled on her first and third tries, sandwiched around her 17-feet, 1 3/4-inch jump on her second attempt.
She finished fifth in her flight, and actually had to sweat it out as the eight second-flight jumpers took their three preliminary turns.
She ended up eighth after the prelims, but quickly moved to the top spot — with her 18-9 1/4 on her opening attempt in the finals.
By Betzing busting that leap out, she brought the Marauder faithful in attendance to their feet.
“Oh my gosh. It was awesome, especially having everyone come up and support us. I am completely blessed for that,” she said. “Honestly, I just had to get my mind right and calm down. I was so nervous. I knew I could jump really far and PR. So I just had to do it.”
Meigs track and field head coach Mike Kennedy talked about the rapid pendulum swing with a single jump.
“I tell people I’m 28, but honestly I’m 52 and I think I had a heart attack for a bit there. I’m okay now,” joked the coach. “I told her father right there what a heady kid she is. That (two fouls) could have torn a lot of kids up. Then have to watch jumper after jumper go all the way through the second flight. But for her to pull it together in the finals after she squeaked into the finals, that says a lot about her character and mental state.”
Betzing jumped second in the finals, and scored a 17-feet three-and-a-half inch leap on her second attempt.
But McDavid, leading after the prelims and jumping last in the finals, stole the spotlight right back —nailing her 18-9 1/2 on her second try.
Betzing then jumped 15-feet and nine-and-a-half on her final attempt, thus losing out on the state championship —but maintaining her runner-up spot as the next seven jumpers, including Ruby right before McDavid, didn’t surpass her 18-9 1/4.
“I wasn’t upset (for being state runner-up). I was just really happy that I PR’d,” said Betzing.
“It’s just a testament to her. You have a talented kid from the get-go, who we knew in junior high was going to be talented. But you just don’t go out there and win it. You put in the hard work. We’re so proud of the work she has done every day in practice,” said Kennedy. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
Except for, with two more years remaining, Betzing winning the girls long jump state championship.
“I would like to see her on the top of that podium for the next two years,” said Kennedy.
Also near the top of the podium was Oiler, who set a new personal and GAHS record in the girls 300m hurdles in 44.05 seconds.
Oiler is a three-time state qualifier in the event, but had the 12th-fastest time in last year’s semifinals to miss out on the finals.
This year, she wasn’t about to be denied.
“I’m really proud of myself,” said Oiler. “Last year, it was a pretty hard hit to my confidence by qualifying but not making it to the finals. It was a wake-up call. I was more determined, I worked harder, I put more training in and I ate right. I didn’t listen to anyone who said I couldn’t make it back here this year or that I peaked my sophomore year. I came back with more determination to do the best that I could. My coaches taught me a lot of things, but they didn’t teach me how to give up.”
The top two runners in each heat and the next five fastest times from Friday’s semifinals advanced to Saturday’s state championship race, as Oiler established her second school and personal record at 44.18 in the prelims.
In fact, she entered the finals — and in Lane 6 — with the second-fastest time (44.18), trailing only junior Sara Foster of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
“It’s a lot of hard work to get here, but I’m really blessed to be surrounded by so much support,” said Oiler. “I’ve worked really hard to bring my time down and the competition this year was a lot more stiff, even to make it to the finals. You had to run 45-flat (seconds) just to make it into the top nine. It’s hard to do, but I’m proud of myself and thankful to be here again. I was feeling a little fatigued at the end, but today is the hardest day of the whole season. I had to give it everything I had, and I feel like I did that, so I’m happy.”
Only ahead of Oiler were third-place Karlie Zumbro of John Glenn in 43.43, state runner-up Foster in 43.02, and finally state champion Rachel Miller of Ontario in exactly 43 seconds.
Oiler ends her Blue Angel career making school history in more ways than one.
“To PR your last race of your (high school) career, and hit your three best career times coming in, it’s unbelievable. She didn’t like her results from last year, so she had a great mindset for this year. She (Oiler) did everything right to give herself a chance to do well,” said GAHS girls track and field coach Todd May. “I’m just glad she got to be a part of Gallia Academy history here today. We really enjoyed her work ethic and her leadership on the track. The last two weeks she has certainly been impressive. She answered the call, and her mental toughness coming into this weekend has been the strongest we’ve ever seen. She got the results she knew she could come here and get.”
The Lady Marauders got the results they wanted as well.
They placed eighth in a school-record relay time of 49.93 seconds, breaking their own mark by just six one-hundredths of a second (49.99) — which they originally established in the Region 7 finals and tied again in Friday’s state semis.
The top eight placers in each event earn points, but more importantly earn all-Ohio honors.
“It’s unreal and like a dream come true,” said Brown. “An official came up to us yesterday (Friday) and he was really excited for us. He asked us if this excitement meant we made it (into the finals). We were like ‘Yes! We made it into the finals!’ He said ‘you girls made Southeastern Ohio proud.’ That really got to us. It was awesome.”
Brown ran the third leg, while Oliver opened, Betzing was second and Swartz anchored.
“It’s crazy,” said Swartz. “I think we’ve grown a lot closer. I just feel like we’re a family now.”
The Lady Marauders managed a single point from the relay, but tallied nine team points — including eight by Betzing by placing second in the long jump.
“It’s pretty cool and nice to do this with my girls one last time,” said Betzing.
Brown is a four-year runner in track for Meigs, while this season was Oliver’s first.
“I couldn’t ask anything more of those four girls,” said Kennedy. “They make so proud. That’s a great bunch of kids. They broke their school record which they had set at regionals and actually tied it in the prelims yesterday, then they broke it again today and got on the podium. I’m going to miss the two seniors and the two sophomores are great kids and great athletes. Smart, fast, awesome kids right there.”
The only non-placers on Saturday were three senior boys in the 800m run, as Gallia Academy’s Kaleb Crisenbery (11th in 1:57.68) and Isaiah Lester (12th in 1:57.70) crossed back-to-back in the Division II race —while Eastern’s Jett Facemyer finished 12th in the Division III run in 1:59.80.
Both Lester and Facemyer were running the 800 for the third and final year, while Crisenbery made his first and only state appearance.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106