COLUMBUS - Charles Penny was named Warren G. Harding track and field coach in 2004. Since then, the Raiders' mentor always stated one thing. His team's goal was to win a Division I team title - plain and simple.
On Saturday, Penny's aspirations became reality, as his Raiders came together and brought home state gold.
It was the school's first track and field championship and the first time the team has taken the podium in Columbus since capturing runner-up honors in 1967.
It's the first time a Trumbull County team has won a state track and field title since Maplewood's boys did so in 2000, when the Rockets captured the Division III crown.
It is also the first time a WGH team has won a state championship since the Raiders captured the Division I state football championship in 1990 under then coach Phil Annarella.
The talented Raiders made that championship magic happen Saturday as they held off Trotwood Madison, 47-44, at the state track and field meet.
Penny was asked about that aforementioned statement he made every year since he's been the varsity coach.
"You're going to make me cry here now, you know that, right?" he said. "That was my goal and the mission for this program."
The Raiders started with five points from Aaron Wilson for his fourth-place finish in the shot put.
Later in the day, DeAver Williamson followed it up as he repeated as state champion in the 100 and teammate Andrew Zitnik placed fourth. That made it 10 points for the win and another five for a fourth-place finish.
They had 20 points.
The magic number for a state title shot seemed to be around 50, since Gahanna Lincoln won last year's Division I state title with 48 points.
Harding's 800 relay of Zitnik, Williamson, Marvin Logan and Marteze Roper placed third, adding another six points.
The tally was up to 26 as Olentangy Liberty hovered, at that time, with 18 points.
It seemed too good to be true - Harding was in a position to win a team title.
Last year in Columbus, the Raiders had a chance to win it all, but had too many things go wrong. They ended up third behind Gahanna Lincoln and Glenville.
In the past, Harding's track and field team has seemed cursed. Somebody tripped on a hurdle and fell. Someone dropped the baton. Those kind of moments have hurt the Raiders in districts, regionals and state in past years.
Not this time.
Penny and this team worked too hard not to put those demons to rest.
It started at the state indoor championship at Akron. There were signs that the Raiders could be for real, but it seemed the same as in years past.
Then, at the Mansfield Mehock Relays, on a frigid day in April, Zitnik blossomed into a state-caliber sprinter. Zitnik, who transferred in from Hubbard and was an all-state, Division II performer last year in the 100 and 200, seemingly transformed into a top Division I sprinter that day.
Later, he and Williamson became the 1-2 combination the Harding team had sought - something that was stable in a previously unstable past.
Then there was Roper, who transferred in from a strong distance background in Maplewood. He became a missing link by adding a half-mile presence - something Harding needed to balance its speed-oriented diet.
Roper's fifth-place finish in the 800 Saturday, coupled with Logan's seventh-place finish in the 300 hurdles raised Harding's total to 32 points.
It seemed a bit more realistic that Harding could win state. Could the Raiders hold off Glenville and Trotwood-Madison, who now trailed by eight points? Past history said no, but the Raiders found a way to seal the deal.
At that point, in past seasons, something quirky would've happened. Zitnik or Williamson would've slipped and pulled a hamstring before the 200. It did rain earlier on Saturday and there was a bit of standing water on some parts of the track, so it wasn't out of the question.
But no, it wasn't meant for this year. There was something quite different about this team - something quite stable.
It was the air of confidence - confidence Harding finally got with plenty of hard work during the years.
Williamson and Zitnik sealed the state title with another first- and fourth-place finish in the 200, giving them 47 points.
Trotwood-Madison was in second with 34 points heading into the final event - the 1,600 relay. Even with a win, which Trotwood-Madison got in the relay, it couldn't catch the elusive Raiders.
"It was a great mixture of everything you wanted to have to produce a state championship program," Penny said. "Given all the ingredients, it has taken time to put everything together.
"I always knew we could (win). It's such a great moment to feel an endless amount of hard work, an endless amount of giving up things in my personal life. To have this moment today means a lot."
For WGH, its coaches, athletes and supporters, this is truly a moment that the city of Warren should celebrate because the Raiders are bringing home the city's first team state title since 1990.