They saved their best for last and the end result was a photo finish state championship.
The Galion High School girls’ 4x100 relay quartet of Clair Erlsten, Sydney Hunt, Laura McElligott and Michaela Slone defeated heavily favored Youngstown Ursuline by eight-hundredths of a second in the finals of the Division II Ohio High School State Track and Field Championships last Saturday afternoon at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
The state crown is the first by either a team or an individual from GHS in track and field in 93 years, the last being when the 1921 boys’ squad won the then Class B team title.
Erlsten — who ran anchor and was able to hold off Ursuline’s Alexandra Carnathan at the finish line Saturday — said, “It is an amazing experience! My team knew that we were going to have to run our hardest and have clean handoffs and we did everything perfect! It was everything we were hoping for!”
The champions clocked in with a school record 48.71, knocking nearly a half-second off their own standard established just 24 hours earlier in the preliminaries.
Asked what was going through her mind after taking the baton from Hunt for the final sprint, Erlsten replied, “My thoughts running the anchor leg … well I was very nervous! I pick out certain peoples voices when I am running so when Sydney was coming around the curve I heard my coach Colby (Bright) saying, ‘It’s looking good bear. Hold to your mark and run!’ So, I got the baton and heard my teammates Alex (Armistad) and Drake (Barnett) screaming for me and then Sydney yelling so I just gave it my all and finished as strong as I could!”
What makes Erlsten out-running Carnathan particularly impressive is that Carnathan is the fastest sprinter for Ursuline. The latter — like Erlsten, a junior — placed third in the 100 dash.
Why was Ursuline favored to win the race?
For one, the relay squad consists of four juniors who finished fourth in the 4x100 a year ago at the state meet as sophomores. Also, they entered this year’s competition with the fastest time in Ohio in regional competition, and had the best time in last Friday’s preliminaries out of 16 teams.
But none of that matter to the determined Lady Orange-and-Blue.
Not at all.
McElligott, the elder statesman as the lone senior of the title squad — Hunt is a sophomore, Erlsten and Slone are juniors — stated, “… I would like to say that it was an amazing experience that I would not want to share with anyone other than these awesome girls! I’m so proud of my team, we’re all on cloud 9 from winning. We worked so hard and it being my last race ever means so much that we won.”
Hunt — an elite gymnast who didn’t run track as a freshman — said, “We have worked really hard, and have become very close with one another. It became apparent to us during regionals that we actually had a shot at winning state. I couldn’t be any more happy and proud of my team than I am right now!”
Slone stated, “… all I can say is that this is a life experience I will never forget. It’s an amazing honor to work and train with these people. All of the tough practices were worth it. We brought our ‘A’ game on Saturday and it showed. It was a nice surprise. I love all those girls!”
Todd Roston — head coach of the Lady Tigers — stated, ” I am very proud of everything these girls have accomplished this year. It is very difficult to win a state championship in any sport, but especially hard to do it in a race that takes exact precision on every step and hand-off. Several of these girls have been training for this day since December when we started indoor practice. Their hard work paid off.”
Roston was also quick to acknowledge assistant coach and former GHS star athlete Colby Bright. “Coach Bright did a great job of training these girls for this day. They ran the perfect race, at the right time.”
While the Lady Tigers celebrated, the boys’ 4x100 relay foursome of Armistad — a senior — and sophomores Drake Barnett, Jacob Fryer and Khennter Hughes, suffered a stinging disqualification in the preliminaries Friday because of a baton transfer outside of the exchange zone.
“I feel really bad for the boys because I believe they were one of the best 5 teams at the state meet, but with one missed step it is all over in a race like the 4x100,” noted Roston.
Armistad placed 10th out of 16 competitors in the long jump last Friday morning. His best jump was 21’1”. In 2013, he finished 15th.
“We sent 8 kids to the state meet this year, Roston mentioned. “We are hoping with 6 of those individuals returning next year, we can take even more next year.”
Other area athletes who placed at the state meet were: Colonel Crawford’s 4x200 boys’ relay team of sophomore Owen Adams and juniors Brett Bakies, Dylan Gulley and Dalton Scott, seventh in Division III at 1:30.58; CC’s Clay Martin, eighth in the 1600 in 4:26.45; and the Lady Eagles’ Chelsey Webster, eighth in the girls 400 with a 58.80 clocking.
Too, Brett Cortelletti — an Ontario junior and son of veteran Galion City Schools teacher Judi Cortelletti — placed fourth in the Division II 3200 by crossing the finish line in 9:43.61.