BRADFORD – Having run at the state cross country meet twice Bradford’s Karmen Knepp is prepared for the competition she’ll face this weekend but feels more unsettled about the fans in the stands.
Knepp has qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships in the Division III girls 3,200 meter run. It’s the first time the Bradford sophomore has qualified for state in track and field though she did finish 10th this past fall in the state cross country meet.
“I think it prepares me for all the people that are going to be there but not quite the area,” Knepp said of her previous experience at the OHSAA state cross country meet. “I’m just a little nervous about it being in a stadium and everything. I’m just excited to see how that’s going to feel.”
The state track meet, which draws almost 14,000 fans a day to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, will have the largest crowd Knepp has ever encountered in a race. And those fans are right in front of the action unlike cross country races that tend to be more open and thus more peaceful, Knepp said.
“Already in track it’s a little bit more nerve-wracking because everybody is constantly watching you, but like during cross whenever you have an open course like that you don’t constantly have people watching you,” she said. “It’s just kind of relaxing on a cross country course but not so much during track.”
While the atmosphere of track and field can be more nerve-wracking, it does provide a silver lining.
“You constantly have people cheering you on,” Knepp said. “It’s just kind of like when you hear somebody cheering for somebody else it just kind of pushes you even more. So I wouldn’t say they’re competition, too, but it really helps push me a lot better. I really like having those people to push me the whole way.”
Along with having thousands of fans to push her, Knepp will have the best runners in Ohio to push her when she runs in the state finals at 11:25 a.m. Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
“I think she’s going to do great,” Bradford distance coach Rob Grillot said. “She’s kind of coming off an injury right now so I think she’s finally starting to heal up from that, and I think she’s going to be feeling good on Saturday. And the level of competition is going to help her reach her goal of getting a PR and hopefully finding herself somewhere in the top eight.”
Knepp’s personal-best mark in the 3,200 meters is 11:32.39, a mark she set during last week’s regional meet in Troy. She’d like to beat that time and finish in the top eight to earn a spot on the state podium although she knows that will be a challenge.
“I definitely have more competition in track,” she said.
That competition has pushed Knepp. Last year she finished fifth in the 3,200 meters at the regional track and field meet, just one spot out of state-qualifying position.
“She’s definitely worked hard for it,” Grillot said. “Her training really began over the winter, and all the hard work just paid off with a trip to Columbus.”
Knepp wants to do her best in Saturday’s race, but both she and Grillot think this could be just the start of something very special for her.
“Looking at some people’s times like from their senior years and looking at mine now, it makes me really excited just to see where I am now and where they were at this point,” Knepp said. “Some of them my times are better than that. It’s exciting to see where I’m going to be in two years because they probably didn’t think that they would be where they would be.”
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.