State track: Monroe’s Ploeger achieves goal with medal

Monroe junior Rachel Ploeger (right) was seventh in the 3,200 meters during the Division II state track and field meet at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus on Saturday. MARC PENDLETON/STAFF
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Monroe junior Rachel Ploeger (right) was seventh in the 3,200 meters during the Division II state track and field meet at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus on Saturday. MARC PENDLETON/STAFF

After missing the podium by one spot last year, Monroe High School distance runner Rachel Ploeger was determined to get a medal this time.

The junior accomplished her goal, placing seventh in the 3,200-meter run at the Division II state track and field meet Saturday at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

Ploeger, who clocked a personal-record time of 11 minutes, 11.15 seconds, was one of three area individuals or relay teams in the two smaller divisions to earn medals on the final day of the state meet. She had settled for ninth last year, less than three seconds behind eighth place on an even hotter day than the 87-degree weather she ran through Saturday.

“It was everything,” Ploeger said. “I was just saying with my teammate before the race, ‘We need to get medals.’ I was just really excited and grateful I had the opportunity to come with my school and my coaches. I could see them over there (watching) and everyone was really excited for me.”

Beachwood’s Leah Roter broke from the pack early and won in 10:41.45. Ploeger said she just remained focused on staying with the second group, and even when she was passed along the final straightaway, she knew she had done well enough to get to the podium.

Ploeger was competing in just her fifth meet of the season after missing most of the year with a hip injury suffered while training on an elliptical during the winter.

“Just knowing how much work I put in over the winter … I was injured during the season so coming back from that, this being my fifth race, it felt good to be in good enough shape to really compete,” Ploeger said. “I know next year if I don’t get injured, I can do even better.”

The Cincinnati Christian girls 400-meter relay team of Jailah Long, Nia Everson, Serenity McCardle and Mariah Coffee also reached the podium Saturday, placing third in the Division III finals with a time of 50.24 seconds.

Everson, McCardle and Coffee had all been together last year when the Cougars made it to the nine-team finals, but did not finish the race. They entered this year’s state meet as the fourth seed with a 50.53 and improved on a sixth-place standing after prelims.

Badin senior Nick Rand, who was on the Ram’s 3,200-meter relay team that placed third on Friday, went home with his second state medal after taking eighth in the Division II boys 800 with a personal-record time of 1:56.47.

It marked his first individual medal, after he finished 14th in the 800 last year, but it was a close finish this time. After leaning about 10 meters too early at the wrong line, Rand just barely beat out Shelby senior Danny Friebel by 0.24 seconds for the final spot on the awards stand.

“It’s awesome,” Rand said. “Last year, it was fun to get the experience in. We got a lot of other state experience in indoor track and cross country and stuff like that, so to come here today and finish off the season with a good run and getting on the podium means a lot.”