ARCANUM – Arcanum’s distance runners set a high standard last year when they qualified for state in the 4×800 meter relay, but this year the Trojans have met and exceeded every expectation placed on them.
This year’s 4×800 meter relay team of senior Chance Klipstine, junior Tanner Delk, junior Justin Vanatta and freshman Landen Kreusch made it back to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet. Klipstine in the 800 meter run and Delk in the 3,200 meter run also advanced to state as individuals, making 2018 one of the most successful seasons in recent memory for the Trojan track and field program.
“I expected a little bit of a drop off this year,” Arcanum distance coach Jon Junkins said of the relay team. “You replace a kid like Isaac (Stephens), who was a senior last year and one of our best 800 runners we’ve had in this school for a while, you replace him with a freshman coming in, I expected a little bit of a drop off. They actually got even faster than they were last year.”
The Trojans were able to overcome the loss of Stephens with a total team effort this season. All four of the relay members ran personal-best times during last week’s regional meet, which allowed them to improve their season-best time as a group by more than 11 seconds.
“We’re actually running even faster than we did last year, which is good to see,” Delk said. “It was definitely unexpected. Surprised us a lot. Just came out of nowhere.”
Kreusch, being the lone newcomer on the squad, said he felt the pressure to perform and help the Trojans get back to Columbus.
“Motivation was definitely there,” he said. “We all had the common goal of going back to state so I didn’t want to be like the one to not let us go so I was just pushing as hard as I could so we could go back to state.”
With their season-best time now at 8:14.09, the Arcanum runners are within four seconds of the school record time. They’ve set their sights on taking down that school record on Friday in Columbus.
“It’s within reach,” Vanatta said.
Arcanum’s time of 8:14.09 is the 10th fastest in Division III entering this week’s state meet. That gives the Trojans hope that they could break into the top eight and earn a spot on the podium.
“Any place we can get with that we’ll be happy with,” Vanatta said. “The majority of times we saw were 8:10 to 8:15 so if we might have a chance.”
In their individual events, both Delk and Klipstine would like to set new personal bests this weekend and possibly contend for a spot on the podium.
Delk has a personal-best time of 9:45.21 in the 3,200 meters, and Junkins expects him to excel in the fast-paced conditions of the state meet.
“I think he’s going to surprise some people,” the Arcanum coach said. “I think he’s got another PR in him this year. I think a faster-paced race is going to serve him well. He always has his kick at the end so not matter where he’s at he’s going to have his kick at the end. I think top eight is definitely doable for him.”
Klipstine benefited from a new OHSAA rule this season that increased the number of state qualifiers from 16 to 18 in each running event. He finished fifth in the regional meet, which in previous years would have ended his season, but earned one of the two at-large spots in the 800 meters thanks to his fast time of 1:57.10 at regionals.
“He went sub-two (minutes) about two weeks ago, and ever since then it’s been a second here, a second here, just dropping a second every time he runs,” Junkins said. “His confidence is sky high right now. I expect a big run out of him.”
It wasn’t until he was on the podium at regionals that Klipstine heard about the expanded field at state then a couple days later he discovered he had in fact been selected to compete in Columbus.
The Arcanum senior is excited to finish his high school career in Columbus alongside his teammates in the 4×800 meter relay and then in the 800 meter run.
“We’ve all dropped our times a whole bunch,” Klipstine said, “and it’s just really exciting that I get to go there again as a senior.”
With three of the Trojans having raced at the state meet last year, their confidence is much higher this time around compared to last year when they left Columbus a bit shell-shocked by the size and speed of the meet.
“We know how it’s like now because it was definitely different than any other meet,” Delk said. “We’re going to be more prepared for it for sure, and we’re going to know what to expect so that’s good.”
And now that they’re back, the Trojans are hoping to continue defying expectations and raising the bar.
“It’s nice to, you know, keep the tradition alive, and hopefully we can go back stronger than we did last year,” Delk said.
Arcanum’s 4×800 meter relay team will run in the Division III state finals at 9:45 a.m. Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus. Klipstine will run at approximately 11 a.m. Saturday in the 800 meter final then Delk will run at approximately 11:45 a.m. Saturday in the 3,200 meter final.
For more information about the OHSAA state track and field meet, visit http://www.ohsaa.org.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4312. 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.