Wildcats go the distance in 3,200, qualify for regional

It’s not a knock on past runners, but the Springfield Wildcats boys track team has always been known more for dashes than distance. The Wildcats, though, are starting to close that gap.

Springfield’s 3,200-relay team entered the Division I district meet at Piqua High School on Wednesday with the sixth-fastest time out of 12 teams. The Wildcats needed to pick up the pace to finish among the top four and advance to next week’s regional meet.

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Did they ever. The Wildcats dropped 12.05 seconds off their seeded time – and dropped 10 other teams, too – to finish second in 8 minutes, 17.95 seconds. Only Vandalia Butler was better with a winning time of 8:14.09.

Springfield was fourth on the final lap heading into the backstretch, trailing Northmont and Bellefontaine by a few steps. Butler was too far head to catch and fifth-place Tecumseh had too much ground to make up. That made it a three-team race for second.

“I saw the two guys pass me,” sophomore anchor Cameron Elliott said. “My coach was (on the backstretch) telling me to push it. Get on the outside. I just did it for my team. That’s all I could think of. I finished it.”

Entering the meet the Wildcats best time was 8:30. It’s been a steady process all season to improve the program’s middle distance efforts. The Wildcats delivered on Wednesday.

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“I think we work hard in practice. We push each other,” said sophomore Drew Heims. “We use each other’s momentum to go faster.”

There was no slowing the Wildcats with a regional berth up for grabs. The Wildcats can’t say for certain how long it’s been since a boys 3,200-relay team qualified for the regional tournament. They just know it’s been awhile.

“This is a great accomplishment and what we’ve been looking for this entire season, just to make it to regionals,” junior Dane Klosterman said. “We really have to push to get ourselves into regionals. We pushed ourselves a lot and got second place.”

“I hope we do the same thing we did here,” added sophomore Vincent Fisher. “Drop our time by a lot, keep a good lead and stay up front. Hopefully we can get first place.”

Springfield boys coach Mike Davis said the Wildcats coaches focused on going the distance this season. Practices consisted of 400s alternating with 800s every other day.

“It’s exciting,” Davis said. “We have about seven kids who can run the 800 fairly well, five of them exceptionally well. We’re excited they’re buying into the 400 and 800.”

Tecumseh, meanwhile, finished fifth in 8:28.88. The Arrows came in as the fifth-seeded team. Catching the Arrows – which traditionally has a strong distance program – was a goal for the Wildcats.

“Tecumseh was kind of a target for us all year. That was kind of a benchmark we wanted to run,” Davis said.

“We felt like they were capable of it. It’s just putting it together at the right time. And they’re young. It’s getting their confidence up. Getting them to believe in it and getting them to go out and run hard. Our main motto was let’s put together a performance when it counts, which starts with district.”

The 3,200 wasn’t the only event that saw Springfield make a big leap. Junior Raymons Cole went 22-04 in the long jump to win the district title. He won by 9.75 inches over Sidney runner-up Josiah Hudgins.

Also qualifying for the regional meet were Tecumseh’s girls 3,200 team of freshman Laine Adams, junior Gena Diller, senior Mackenzie Pauley and freshman Emma Kelly. Arrows senior Simon Herbert finished third in the pole vault in 12-10.

The district meet resumes Friday at Piqua High School with the track finals and remaining field events. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional meet Wednesday and Friday at Wayne High School.

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