After graduating from Maplewood High School during some of the more prolific times in the school's athletic history, this next statement will sound somewhat blasphemous.
Before this past weekend, I had never been to the Ohio high school state track and field meet.
Therefore, I was ill-prepared for the almost festival-like atmosphere that comes with the two-day, all-day affair in and around Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. Following the end of the meet, I was almost as exhausted as the athletes who competed over that two-day span. Almost.
Anyway, here are some stories that really stuck out down in Columbus:
Wheelchair events: The Ohio High School Athletic Association added wheelchair events to the slate of events, and it was great to see 11 boys and Southeast sophomore Jenna Fesemyer participate in the 100-, 400- and 800-meter races and in the shot put.
The crowd's reaction to every event, especially the 100 early Saturday morning, was heart-warming. Although most of the spectators didn't know the competitors, the roar from the crowd sounded just as loud or perhaps even louder.
The crowd should have been that loud, too. There were stories there that are worthy of people's notice, such as Thronville Sheridan senior Zach Hanf. Hanf earned all-Ohio honors at the 2011 state cross country meet by placing 21st in the Division II race, but following an accident in October 2012, he had to have his left leg amputated. Now, he can say that he's all-Ohio again with his performances in the 100 (sixth place), 400 (seventh) and 800 (fifth) and his state-winning shot put throw of 19 feet, 5.75 inches.
Fesemyer herself is a great story, having covered her earlier this season and with the Tribune Chronicle covering her multiple times over the past year since the OHSAA announced the addition of these events. What made her story even more interesting was the fact that she was the only female athlete to compete in these events, but that didn't stop her. Even though she was guaranteed a state championship, she competed and held her own against the boys. In the 100 race, she finished second in her heat with a time of 23.01 and led for most of the race.
She managed to make a few fans in the media with that performance, her wheelchair decorated with inspirational sayings like "We were made to be courageous," and her upbeat personality. Here's to hoping that she gets some competition next year, as she's ready and waiting for it.
Kenney's dream come true: Another inspirational story from the meet came from South Range senior Jon Kenney.
Kenney missed the better part of two years in all sports by blowing out both knees on two separate occasions while playing for the school's football team. During his sophomore season, he tore both his ACL and MCL in his right knee, and in the third game of his junior year, he tore his MCL, ACL and meniscus in his left knee.
During his last full track season, all that Kenney wanted was to get onto the podium at the state meet in discus, and having qualified in seventh place after the preliminary throws, his dream looked like a very good possibility. He dropped two spots in the finals, however, and all seemed lost.
Despite this, his dream did come to fruition, thanks to some ill-timed language from Colonel Crawford's Clay Jury that earned him a disqualification from the officials. That bumped Kenney back up to eighth and on the podium again, putting a nice little bow on his story of injury and recovery.
"It was difficult, but my family and friends, they're all there supporting me," the South Range senior said. "That got me through it. I made it, I got my goal and I couldn't be happier."