State Track and Field: Emmanuel Christian foursome eyes relay title

The Emmanuel Chrisitan boys  4x800-meter relay team of (l-r) Jason Channels, Gavin Ford, Jay Connor and Jacob Kittles competes at the Division III state meet on Friday and Saturday. CONTRIBUTED
The Emmanuel Chrisitan boys 4x800-meter relay team of (l-r) Jason Channels, Gavin Ford, Jay Connor and Jacob Kittles competes at the Division III state meet on Friday and Saturday. CONTRIBUTED

SPRINGFIELD – In 2016, Emmanuel Christian Academy qualified five athletes in two events to the OHSAA state track and field championships. One of those teams was the 4x400-meter relay that finished fifth at the Division III meet.

This year’s team has picked up that baton for a run at the state title on Friday and Saturday.

“They’ve kind of looked at that team and they want to finish what they started,” ECA coach Chris Lundquist said. “We watched their state meet race, we’ve talked about what they’re game plan was and we’ve been comparing ourselves to them all season long. … This team really wants to be on top of that podium.”

Senior Jason Channels, juniors Justus Channels and Vernon Raines and sophomore Cornell Glaze have at times held the state’s top time in the event with a personal best 3:28.

“They’ve been running really strong all year,” Lundquist said. “Honestly the biggest challenge we’ve had this year is we can’t get anybody to run with them. … They’re kind of getting tested for the first time now. I’m excited to see what they can do.”

ECA sends a program record eight boys to the state meet in a record four events. The Lions also qualified in the 4x800 relay with Jason Channels, juniors Gavin Ford and Jacob Kittles and freshman Jay Connor. Justus Channels also qualified in the long jump and senior Nate Shuler in the high jump.

“We have 50 boys in our high school. The fact we have eight boys going to the state meet is pretty good,” Lundquist said. “They just take to coaching. They listen. If I told them to run the race backward they’d do it. What we say they go out and they execute.”

The 4x800 relay turned in a surprising season for Lundquist. Jason Channels was a late addition to the team, joining after the Lions won the Clark County championship. He said he’d try the event and turned in a 2:04 in his first 800 effort.

“We knew if we wanted to get to the state meet we had to get faster,” Lundquist said. “But we didn’t have anybody (until Channels volunteered).”

Connor, a soccer player, was recruited to run track by Lundquist. He started out as a 4x100 and 4x200 runner before adding to the 4x800 team’s success.

“At the beginning of the year we thought the 4x8 was going to be a weak event for us,” Lundquist said. “I honestly thought it was going to be an event where I put four people in and let them go run.”

In the long jump, Justus Channels set a personal best at the regional meet with 21-1.

“He’s been hovering around 20 feet all year long then he popped that one off at regional,” Lundquist said. “He’s got a ton of talent. He’s a gamer. When the big meet is here he’s going to perform. That’s the way he’s been all year.”

Shuler is a contender in the high jump often clearing 6-2 in practice, but struggling with consistency at that height in meets.

“You put the bar there and something happens mentally and it gets harder to jump that high. He can do it. It’s a matter of executing with the bar there,” Lundquist said.

The state track and field meet is being held at three different sites to meet previously encouraged coronavirus guidelines. The Division I meet is at Hilliard Darby High School, the D-II meet is at Pickerington North High School and D-III is at Westerville North High School.

“They’re a little bummed out we’re not running at Ohio State,” Lundquist said. “We were all kind of looking forward to that. At the end of the day the state meet is the state meet. They just have to go out and execute. A track is a track. … They’ve got lofty goals so we’ll see where they end up.”

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