COLUMBUS — Joe Spitzer made it look easy.
The Versailles senior had qualified for the Division II state meet in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs this past weekend, but he gave up the 1,600 to put all his effort into the longer 3,200, and it paid off.
Spitzer crossed the finish line nearly eight seconds ahead of Buckeye Valley’s Zach Kreft to claim the state title in 9 minutes 14.97 seconds on Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. He stayed with the front runners for most of the eight-lap race and made his move on the final few laps.
“I still can’t believe it,” Spitzer said. “This is such an amazing end to my career. In my whole high school career I had that dream of getting a state title, and the last race of my career I finally did it. It’s just amazing and such an honor.
“Running in the heat sucks,” he continued. “But we all had to run through it. You just have to run the best you can, and it all worked out for me today.”
Spitzer said he knew after last week’s regional meet that he was not going to run in the 1,600 even though he qualified in it. It was all part of his plan.
“Zach Kreft is an amazing miler, and I was hoping he’d run that and then would have that race on his legs,” Spitzer said. “I just wanted to stay with the lead pack in the 2 mile for about five or six laps and then begin to put some distance on them and then give whatever I had left on the final lap. This is just amazing. I can’t believe how good this feels.”
Fellow Versailles senior Josh Steinbrunner placed in one of the three events he qualified in for state. On Saturday, the defending state champion in the 110-meter hurdles finished fourth in the event this year with a time of 14.51 seconds.
“I ran my own PR so I can’t really complain,” Steinbrunner said. “I did hit some hurdles, and that slowed me down, but I’m just proud of everybody who beat me. Congratulations to them. They all raced their hearts out.
“I didn’t really feel any pressure coming in as the defending state champ in this event, but I think that false start kind of got to all of us.”
Steinbrunner also placed 11th in the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, and he was 11th in the 300 hurdles (39.68). It was his first time to state in those two events.
Senior AJ Ahrens got the state meet started on the right foot for the Tigers when he earned a spot on the podium in boys shot put during Friday’s first day of competition. Ahrens’ best toss was 51 feet 9.25 inches, which earned sixth place in the Division II state event.
“I’ve never had this feeling before,” Ahrens said. “It’s a first time for me placing at state. I wish I had it more when I was younger, but it’s a great feeling.
“I feel like I could have done a little better. I was trying to go after our school record of 52-10, but I fell just short of that. I’m still happy I made podium,” he added.
Seniors Kyle Jones and Luke Shellhaas also competed at state for the Tigers. Jones placed 15th in the long jump (19-11.5), and Shellhaas finished with a no height in the pole vault.
On the girls side, sophomore Lucy Prakel was the highest-finishing individual for Versailles. She placed third in the pole vault with a height of 12 feet.
“My two goals were to place in the top three and to jump 12 feet,” Prakel said. “I achieved both of those so I am super happy about that.”
She also doubled PR’d with 11-8 and 12 feet, but it wasn’t looking god during warm-ups, her coach said.
“She started out rough having some trouble with her step, but she was able to power through that and got back on her big pole and finished with some really nice jumps,” Versailles coach Adam Schwartz said. “She definitely got some confidence from getting over 11-4 on her first attempt, but then she missed at 11-8 and then was clean over 12. Once she got passed 10-6 I think she started to settle into the meet. She started jumping like she knows she can.”
The girls also had three relay team competing in finals events on Saturday. The 1,600 relay foursome of seniors Kenia McEldowney and Ellen Peters, junior Liz Watren and sophomore Lindsey Winner had the best finish of the Tigers’ relays, placing third in 4:00.42 . They were in fifth after Friday’s qualifying race.
The 800 relay squad also moved up from its qualifying position. The foursome of seniors Cassie Peters and Ellen Peters, junior Liz Watren and freshman Ali Moran qualified eighth and moved up two spots to standing on the podium in sixth place with a time of 1:44.77.
The 400 relay team also made the podium in eight place. The Tigers had qualified for finals in ninth place. The foursome of senior Ellen Peters, junior Ava Moran, sophomore Lucy Prakel and freshman Ali Moran crossed the finish line in 49.74 seconds to earn the final spot on the podium.
Also for the girls, senior Kenia McEldowney placed 16th in the 800 run with a time of 2:22.22.