ANSONIA – For the first time in almost a decade Ansonia is sending three track and field athletes to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships.
Senior Lydia Sink in the girls long jump, junior Aliya Barga in the girls high jump and freshman Brock Shellhaas in the boys pole vault all qualified for the state meet and will compete on Friday at The Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. It’s the first time since 2008 that the Tigers have three or more athletes competing at the state meet.
“It’s phenomenal for the community and the school,” Ansonia track and field coach Craig Riethman said of the three Tigers qualifying for state. “There’s a lot of times we don’t have this opportunity and with a couple of the athletes being young I think it’s going to generate a lot of excitement in the track program.”
Sink is the most experienced of the trio having qualified for the OHSAA state meet for a third time in her high school career. Last year she missed out on qualifying for state so she’s glad to have a chance to make it back as a senior.
“It was honestly really disappointing for me because one of my main goals freshman year was to make it all four years,” Sink said of missing state qualification as a junior. “It made me get my mindset straight for this year.”
Sink qualified for state in the high jump and long jump as a freshman, and as a sophomore made it back in the high jump. As a freshman competing in the long jump her nerves got to her.
“It’s kind of scary I guess you could say because I didn’t do very good at state my freshman year in long jump,” she said of making it back to Columbus in that event.
During her freshman season, Sink finished 14th in the long jump at state with a jump of 16 feet 1.5 inches. Later that day she calmed her nerves and finished eighth in the high jump to earn a spot on the podium.
“Long jump was just really nerve-wracking for me,” the future University of Dayton track and field athlete said. “It was the first time I had ever stepped into the stadium.”
Having missed state qualification last year, Riethman said, Sink was determined to make it back to Columbus and finish her high school career at the highest possible level.
“I think she’s going to be more relaxed,” he said. “I think she’s going to enjoy it more and actually understand what’s going on while she’s there. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on her shoulders any more. I think she just wants to go out on a good note and head off to UD and continue.”
Having more experience now, Sink feels better prepared for the state long jump competition. At last week’s regional competition she jumped a personal-best distance of 17 feet 4.25 inches, which was the third-best qualifying mark in Ohio and less than an inch out of first place.
“If I can jump that or a little bit farther I think I should be in that top five at least,” Sink said.
Sink’s goal in the state long jump competition, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday, is to finish in the top eight and earn a spot on the podium.
“Go out with a bang my senior year,” she said.
Barga is making her first trip to the state tournament this weekend. She’s consistently improved throughout the season and last week set a personal-best mark by clearing 5 feet 4 inches.
“At the beginning of the season I wouldn’t have thought (making state was possible), but once I started hitting 5 foot and 5-2 consistently I was like I’ve got a chance,” Barga said.
Riethman is eager to see how Barga will respond to the big atmosphere of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium when she competes at 4 p.m. Friday. Her work ethic allowed her to earn this opportunity, he said.
“Her work ethic and her consistency has gotten better with how she’s attacking the bar and really, really trying to get vertical,” Riethman said.
At the state meet Barga would like to clear 5 feet 6 inches, which would tie the school record set by 2010 state runner-up Ariel Edwards.
“I’m shooting for 5-6, at least tie our school record, but we’ll see how that goes,” Barga said.
The Ansonia junior also would like to finish in the top eight and earn a spot on the podium.
“Right now there’s about 10 of us that are real competitive at state so I’m hoping to get top eight and on the podium, get a medal,” she said.
As just a freshman, Shellhaas achieved his season’s top goal of qualifying for the OHSAA state meet.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been shooting for all season.”
Shellhaas now would like to finish his season with a personal-best mark and a spot on the podium.
“I’d love to finish top three,” he said of his goals for the state meet. “That’s the goal. I’d love to get a PR; that’s the big thing. I’d love to PR to end the season out.”
Having cleared 15 feet earlier this season, Shellhaas already owns the Ansonia school record that previously was held by his father, Steve Shellhaas. He’ll have a chance to improve on that at 4 p.m. Friday.