State track: ‘I thought, dude, you’re not coming home without the gold”

There was only one way Riley Buchholz could shake his 800 meltdown in last year’s state track and field meet. That inglorious last-place finish grinded on the Beavercreek High School senior and wouldn’t let up.

“I looked at my medal rack and I thought, dude, you’re not coming home without the gold,” he recalled during Saturday’s Division I state meet at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

It took exactly one year, but Buchholz fulfilled that personal promise by going from last to first and winning the 1,600 meters.

Buchholz’s unlikely win was one of six by area D-I athletes, including record-setting Greenville pole vaulter Riley Hunt, to conclude the two-day, six-meet event.

Pickerington Central, featuring sprinter Denzell Feagin, swept all four relays and had three more individual winners to win its second straight boys D-I team title with meet record 87 points. That surpassed the previous best of 80 points Cleveland Glenville amassed in winning a 2004 D-I title during its celebrated Ted Ginn Jr. era. Feagin won the 100 and 200 and anchored the winning 400 and 800 relays.

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Boys D-I runner-up Toledo Whitmer was way back with 24 points. Centerville, again led by senior Yariel Soto, tied Madison (Lake County) for fifth (20).

Lakota East (65) won the girls D-I team title. Beavercreek, paced by Taylor Ewert and its deep distance unit, was fourth (33). Troy, led by Lenea Browder in the shot put and discus, was seventh (23).

In D-II, Cincinnati Indian Hill (48) won the girls team title and Oakwood (28) tied Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary for second. Shelby (57) won the boys title and Dunbar (33) was fourth.

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West Liberty-Salem (50) was a first-time D-III girls team winner. Springfield Catholic Central was third (34) and defending champ Minster fifth (25). East Canton (42) was the D-III boys winner. Fort Loramie (25) was sixth and Fort Recovery (23) tied for seventh.

Buchholz tucked into the pack and saved himself for most of three laps. A strong kicker, the careful pace worked to his advantage. He broke free with about 500 meters left and burned a final 57-second bell lap. No one could challenge him.

“From going from last place here last year to getting first, I couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Buchholz, who intends on running for Eastern Michigan. “In my head I knew I had it. I wasn’t cocky or over-confident, I just knew I had it. I ran it perfectly.”

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Buchholz will join most of the other senior winners for the Midwest Meet of Champions at Michigan State in Lansing on Sunday.

• Hunt reset her all-divisions state record by sailing over 13 feet, 7 inches to win the vault. The junior missed three attempts at 14 feet and vowed to eventually top that height and go even higher.

“That’s been my goal this year, go get over 14 (feet),” she said. “I have a couple more meets this summer to get it and my goal next year is to get over 15. I hit a new pole (Saturday) and I’m so ready for next year. I can’t wait to see what comes.”

Beavercreek junior Eileen Yang tied for third (12-0).

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• Browder, another talented junior, won the discus by 17 feet (162-10) after placing second in the event last season. The defending champ in the shot put, she was overtaken by Carrollton’s Alivia Bentley on her final throw. Browder responded with a final and winning heave of 47-5.25, beating Bentley by nearly two feet.

That was a repeat of last year’s state meet, when Browder also best the shot put field with her final throw.

“I’ve been waiting for this all year,” said Browder, who’s verbally committed to OSU. “It was time to rise up in the shot, just like last year.”

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• Ewert was the girls 3,200 favorite and delivered with an impressive and uncontested 11-second win (10:23.14). Teammate Savannah Roark was sixth. Those two joined Juliann Williams and Jodie Pierce in placing a somewhat disappointing third in Friday’s 3,200 relay (8:58.95). The Beavers posted the fastest regional win throughout the state by three seconds.

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• Wayne senior Zarik Brown made a noble effort in the three sprints. His bid for a rare sweep quickly ended with a fourth in the 100 (10.93). A favorite in the 400, he was second (46.95) to Worthington freshman Justin Braun (46.76). Brown concluded his celebrated Warriors career with a sixth in the 200 (22.20).

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Butler junior Dalton Shepler won the pole vault (16-6). Other top area boys placers were Miamisburg senior Colin Dillon, second in the 110 high hurdles (14.50) and Centerville’s third-place 800 relay (1:26.86).

Centerville sophomore Emma Bucher was fourth in the 1,600 (4:52.31).

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