The 400-meter dash, considered by many the toughest event in track, has been known to bring athletes to tears.
It was no different for Greenon High School freshman Delaney Benedict on Friday. But hers were tears of joy.
Benedict out-dueled two-time defending conference champion Jamari McDavid of Kenton Ridge down the stretch to win the Central Buckeye Conference championship. Her winning time of 57.93 was 0.23 seconds off the school record. McDavid finished in 59.04.
Greenon coaches Todd Jones and Greg Fenwick put Benedict in the 1,600 relay about three weeks ago. Her response?
“No. I was like, the 400 is basically a death mission for your body,” said Benedict, who had been running the 100 and 200. “I did not want to run it.”
Benedict relented and responded with an opening leg in 59 seconds. Fenwick told Jones they needed to get her into the open 400.
“She’s learning how to run this event,” Jones said. “Now it’s going to be even better because she’s won. We’ve been training the last three weeks running this. When she gets to that curve, she puts it in overdrive and she can go.”
Benedict, who ran a 58.24 in her CBC preliminary heat Tuesday, knew McDavid was the runner to beat Friday. Benedict started in lane four. McDavid was on the outside in lane 7. They distanced themselves from the pack and battled down the backstretch. Benedict knew at the final turn she had the advantage.
“It was on the curve,” she said. “I knew she was three lanes out from me and had a wider curve to run than I did. As long as I got to the straightaway first I knew I had her.
“She’s one heck of an athlete. I was very nervous, but I calmed down telling myself I was running this for me, my team and my coaches, my whole family. I just wanted to represent for them.”
Benedict’s friends and teammates mobbed her after the finish line in celebration.
“My coaches and all my teammates have been very supportive. They push me a lot to do better,” Benedict said. “It was wonderful. I hate to say this, but I kind of got teary-eyed as I crossed the finish line I was so happy.”
• McDavid didn’t leave empty-handed. The Cougars senior won the 100 (12.42), 200 (25.89) and long jump (17-11.75). She capped her CBC tournament career with 12 individual league championships. McDavid was named Kenton Trail Athlete of the Meet for the girls.
• Tecumseh’s 400 relay team of Kiya Dennis, Hailey Beel, Audrey Diller and Jasmine Hassell set a meet record in 51.23 seconds. Bellefontaine held the record since 1996 with a 51.30.
• Northwestern’s Ryan Cleland knocked 16 seconds off his personal best in the 1,600 run to finish first in 4:31.21, edging teammate Justin Prack by 0.03 seconds. Prack, who finished second in the 3,200, was named co-athlete of the meet in the Mad River Division.
“I thought I had him but I had to double check the time,” Cleland said of the finish. “Having him beside me is like having my best friend. … I knew I was on a PR pace and maybe I can lengthen it out. Go as hard as I can. I managed to beat him but he could have pulled it out, too.”
• Kenton Ridge senior Cal Phillips was named co-athlete of the meet for the boys in the Kenton Trail Division.