COLUMBUS — A couple of feet here, a couple of inches there, and maybe — just perhaps — even a second faster.
In one fell swoop, and in almost a matter of three hours, that’s what separated three Ohio Valley Publishing-area athletes from Friday’s —and even Saturday’s —finals in the annual girls state track and field meet.
Eastern junior Alia Hayes just missed qualifying for finals in two events, and Gallia Academy junior Madi Oiler needed to run at least a second quicker, as four area athletes competed on Friday inside a sweltering Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
One OVP-area athlete did place —for the second consecutive season — as Meigs senior Cory Scarberry placed sixth in the boys seated shot put division (see related story).
Hayes competed in the Division III girls shot put and discus throw, as Oiler aimed for a second straight Saturday podium appearance in the Division II girls 300m hurdles.
Both came up oh so close to at least qualifying for the nine-girl finals in the three events, as Eastern junior Laura Pullins tied for 11th in the high jump with Waterford’s Amy Lang.
Hayes, the regional runner-up in the shot put with a best throw of 37-feet, was only three-fourths of an inch shy (36-11 1/4) of hitting that mark with her best — and last — of three preliminary throws for Friday.
However, she needed to top that 37-foot mark to qualify for the three-throw finals.
The top nine preliminary tosses in both the shot put and discus advance to the finals, which follow each of the 16 competitors’ three prelim throws.
Hayes finished 10th in the shot put, as Cheyenne Finney of Berlin Center Western Reserve first threw a razor-thin half-inch (36-11 1/2) ahead of Hayes.
She then secured the final finals spot with another toss of two inches further (37-1 1/4).
This was Hayes’ first state appearance in the shot put, and her second straight in the discus —as she fouled on all three of last year’s throws.
Despite finishing fourth in the regional with a best throw of 121-feet and nine inches, Hayes hit 123-feet on her initial throw on Friday.
Unfortunately, that distance didn’t hold up for the finals, as Kelsi Hulit of Malvern made the final qualifying spot in 124-feet and 10 inches.
Hayes’ other two heaves were 120-feet and two inches and 114-feet flat, actually resulting in a 12th-place performance.
Hayes had captured the discus district championship at Southeastern, as Oiler was the Division II district champion and regional runner-up in the low hurdles.
Oiler, after placing sixth in that event at last season’s state meet in 45.38 seconds, entered as the fourth-fastest in her heat — and eighth-fastest overall in Friday’s semifinals.
Running from Lane 3 in the opening of two heats, Oiler ran 46.27 seconds this year, and ended with the 12th-fastest overall time.
The top two in each heat, followed by the next five-fastest times, qualified for Saturday’s finals.
Oiler, however, only amounted a sixth-place finish in her heat.
She needed to complete the race in at least 45.55, as that was the ninth-fastest time by Sara Foster of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Jasmine Harris of Pepper Pike Orange, the defending state champion and Division II girls state meet record-holder in the 300m hurdles, had the fastest time in 42.76.
In addition, Oiler unable to advance to the finals ended Gallia Academy’s streak of scoring at least one team point in every single state meet since 1997.
Perhaps the OVP area’s best possibility at placing on Friday was Pullins in the Division III high jump.
After all, she qualified in that state event two years ago, and even jumped five-foot two-inches.
But she couldn’t clear that same height this year, despite all three attempts — and even after easily clearing the starting height of 4-foot-1o followed by five-feet even.
The sophomore Lang of Waterford duplicated Pullins’ performance in also clearing 5-foot-0.
The top eight placers in each event at the state meet earn a spot on the awards podium —and automatic all-Ohio honors in the process.
Complete coverage of Saturday’s state track and field meet competition can be found in Tuesday’s OVP editions.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106