ARCANUM – A trio of Arcanum seniors will represent the Trojans one final time at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet.
Austin Gibboney in the boys 300 meter hurdles, Alexis Kreusch in the girls high jump and Erica Zimmer in the girls shot put all qualified for the Division III state meet at The Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
“These kids have committed almost year round for their sport,” Arcanum track and field coach Chris Kessler said. “It has paid off to get them to state. It’s just so exciting. Very proud of them.”
While Gibboney and Kreusch qualified for state for the first time, Zimmer is making her second consecutive appearance at the state meet. Last year as a junior, she finished 13th in Ohio with a throw of 36 feet 8 inches.
“I’m excited,” Zimmer said of returning to Columbus. “I can really prove what I didn’t prove last year.
“I didn’t throw worse. I didn’t throw better. I just threw my average last year, and I didn’t want to do that at the state meet.”
As a senior Zimmer has seen improvement and has increased her personal best throw to 42 feet. She hopes to top that mark in Columbus and throw 45 feet.
“Coach (Theo Whitaker) has got lines out here for me to target at,” the future Otterbein University track and field athlete said. “He’s got my average out here, my PR and then what could win me. I’m really aiming for that last line so I can get on top of the podium.”
Zimmer enters the state meet with the fifth best qualifying mark of 40 feet 9.75 inches, which won her the regional championship last week at Troy.
“I think she’s going to do real well,” Whitaker said. “Hopefully she can get a PR out and place as high as possible.”
Like Zimmer, Gibboney enters the state meet hoping to earn a spot on the podium. After finishing as the regional runner up with a time of 40.31, Gibboney is hopeful that he can make it through the preliminaries of the 300 meter hurdles on Friday.
“That’s what I’ve wanted to do since freshman year,” said Gibboney, who will run collegiately for Tiffin University. “All it would take is one good, clean run.”
Five competitors in the Division III boys 300 meter hurdles finished the event in less than 40 seconds at regionals last week. The other 11 all have times between 40 and 41 seconds so it could be a really tight race.
“The thing is he’s going to be running with 16 Austins so he has tough competition, but that does not scare Austin,” Kessler said. “It just makes him more determined to make that podium.”
While Gibboney and Zimmer both expected to compete at the state meet, Kreusch was the surprise state qualifier for the Trojans. She cleared a personal best of 5 feet 1 inch in the high jump at the regional meet to qualify for state, but she didn’t believe it when she got the news.
“I was told right before my last jump by Thomas, and I didn’t believe him until I attempted the jump and then got off and the lady (official) told me,” Kreusch said.
Kreusch, who in college will compete for Wright State University’s Emerald Jazz dance team, hopes to finish off her high school career with another personal best. She’s hoping to clear 5 feet 2 inches, which would tie Arcanum’s school record.
“She works hard in whatever she does,” Kessler said. “It was just such a huge bonus making it to state.”
Having three athletes at state – the first time Arcanum has sent multiple athletes to the state track and field meet since 2008 – is a big accomplishment for the Trojans.
“It’s really impressive, especially because it’s in a field event that’s jumping, a field event that’s throws and then a running event,” Gibboney said. “It’s kind of like complete. It shows that our coaches really take care of us and make sure we’re a rounded-out team.”
Gibboney will be Arcanum’s first athlete to compete in this year’s state meet as he runs in the preliminaries of the 300 meter hurdles at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. If he qualifies for the finals, he would run again at 10:40 a.m. Saturday.
Kreusch and Zimmer both will compete in their event finals at 4 p.m. Friday.
Both Kessler and Whitaker said Gibboney, Kreusch and Zimmer all are very deserving of making it to Columbus because they are three of the hardest workers on the team. And in addition to being a great accomplishment for each of them, it’s also great for the Arcanum track and field program.
“It’s something that kids of the future can look at and see to get to a certain level how much work you’ve got to put in and how much time you’ve got to put in,” Whitaker said. “It’s awesome to see these kids out here because they deserve it, but like I said at the same time it really helps the program to show kids what it takes to get to this level.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.