When the state track and field meet begins Friday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, few competitors will be more favored to win an event than Liberty Center senior Nick Demaline.
Demaline, who will be competing in the Division III meet, is the No. 1-ranked shot putter, not just in his division or the state, but in the nation.
His heave of 68 feet, 10½ inches at last week’s regional meet at Tiffin Columbian is the top effort at any outdoor high school meet in the United States this year.
“Actually, I still can’t believe it,” Demaline said. “I’m still on cloud nine. That was my dream coming into the season, to lead the nation in shot put. Once I hit that one, I knew I had it. I worked so hard for it and actually did it.”
For the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Demaline, the throw was more than five feet better than his own previous effort of 63-8. He said he had fouled several times to negate throws of more than 65 and 66 feet.
“My goal now is to win a state title first and then going after the big numbers,” Demaline said. “Some people may have a little too much swagger going in, but I think I do a good job of keeping myself down to earth.”
The all-time, all-divisions Ohio record of 71-7½ was set at the Division I state meet in 2010 by Dustin Brode of Canfield. The prior D-III record was set in 2009 at state, when D.J. Duke of Hannibal River went 68-8¼.
The runner-up distance at Tiffin was 17-5½ feet behind Demaline’s effort, and the next best result from the other three Ohio regionals last week was 57-2¾, or 11-7¾ short of the Liberty Center standout, who will continue his career at Western Kentucky.
Also representing the Tigers at the state meet will be standout junior distance specialist Brittany Atkinson, who was a regional champion in both the 1600 and the 3200-meter runs.
Atkinson — who has won two state individual cross country titles (2011 and 2013) in helping the Liberty Center girls to three consecutive D-III state team titles — was also part of the Tigers’ 3200 relay victory at last week’s regionals. Last season, Atkinson placed fourth in the state in the 3200 and ran the second leg on a third-place 3200 relay team.
She is pondering her strategy for state.
“I just want to do as good as I can to represent our community and our team the best I can,” Atkinson said. “I want to run as hard as I can and not have any regrets when I’m done. My [state cross country and track] experience is a big factor because it gives me a lot of confidence. I know what to expect and how to race.
“I’m not sure I’m going to run the mile . I might focus on the 3200. I’m pretty confident, but at the state meet everyone runs as fast as they can, and it’s really competitive. It’s hard to double up, so I’m not sure.”
Also heading to state is Liberty Center junior Andrea Weirauch, who was third at regional in the discus, and sophomore Olivia Kundo, who was fourth in the 800.
Archbold junior sprinter Levi Wyse qualified for state in four events. At the regional, he won the 100 (11.12 seconds) and 200 (22.42), was third in the 400 (49.99), and ran the anchor leg on a second-place 1600 relay team.
“My experience from last year [at state] helped me this year,” Wyse said, “and the experience I got as a freshman running the 1600 relay at state.
“My coach has been telling me to stay positive, but I’m a little nervous. I guess the 100 would be my best bet to place the highest.”
Other Archbold competitors will be senior Lincoln Parsley — second at regional in the 110 hurdles, the 1600 and 3200 boys relay teams — and a 3200 girls relay team.
A three-event qualifier is Toledo Christian senior Darian Westmeyer, who was second at the regional in the 100 hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles, and ran on a second-place 400 relay team.
TC sophomore Micah Johnson placed second at regional in the 400.
Also reaching state in both girls hurdles events is Evergreen senior Carly Truckor, who won the regional in the 300 hurdles (45.99) and placed fourth in the 100 hurdles. She was the 2013 Division II state champion in the 300.
Another two-event qualifier is McComb freshman Molly Leppelmeier, who won the girls shot put (40-1½) at regional and placed third in the discus.
Several other athletes head to state as regional champs.
Patrick Henry senior Zach Nye won the boys 110 hurdles (14.64), and Patriots senior Marcus Myers won the discus (170-0); Liberty-Benton junior B.J. Lawson won the long jump (21-8) four inches beyond runner-up teammate Chase Cook; and Van Buren senior Ted Simmons won the 800 (1:57.44). Among the girls, Gibsonburg junior Colleen Reynolds won the 400 (58.08).
L-B senior Dylan Cornwell was third in the pole vault.
Also advancing from Gibsonburg were juniors Kendall Reynolds (second in girls 100) and Tyler Hovis (fourth in boys shot put).
Representing Pettisville will be freshman Alexa Leppelmeier (third in girls 1600), senior Kyle Lantz (third in boys 1600), and the Blackbirds’ boys 3200 relay team.
Patrick Henry will have freshman Natalie Herder (third in girls high jump), and 400 boys relay team.
Holgate is sending two girls — freshmen Emma Willett (second in 1600) and Gabbi Willett (second in 3200).
Van Buren senior Rachell Resnik made state by placing third in the girls 800, and Fostoria St. Wendelin junior Sara Goddard qualified by taking second in the girls pole vault.
Woodmore senior Deric Anthony (second in boys 800) and Lakota senior Kevin Crowe (second in boys shot put) will also compete at state.