Ross Kuhn

Crestview's Ross Kuhn and Canton Central Catholic's Max Grillo sprint for the finish line on the closing lap of the 4x800 relay during the opening day of the Division III state track and field championships at Westerville North's Jim McCann Stadium on Friday.

WESTERVILLE — Ross Kuhn and his Crestview teammates emptied the tank Friday at Jim McCann Stadium.

Kuhn anchored Crestview’s 4x800 relay team to a runner-up finish on the opening day of the Division III state track and field tournament at Westerville North High School. The senior spilled across the finish line with a personal best split of 1:53 as Crestview finished in 7 minutes, 58.90 seconds, a split-second behind state champ Canton Central Catholic (7:58.39).

Crestview was an afterthought when Kuhn took the baton from Tommy O’Neill, but closed a huge gap on the opening lap and took the lead until about 50 meters remained.

“I think I made up anywhere from 3 to 5 seconds,” said Kuhn, who collapsed onto the track moments after crossing the finish line and had to be helped to the podium by his teammates. “I PRed by 4 seconds, which is a lot for an 800.

“We got second in the state. It’s pretty special.”

Evan Gibbs ran the opening leg before turning it over to Gabe Smedley, who, like Kuhn, also qualified for state individually in the 800 run. Smedley began to pick his way through the field, but the Cougars were still in the middle of the pack when O’Neill took the stick from Smedley with 1,600 meters to go.

“We knew it was going to be a tight race. The top three seeds all were within a second of each other,” O’Neill said. “We were far behind, but we made it up and gave ourselves a chance at the end.

“We know if we are near the front, Ross will take care of his business when he needs to.”

The 4x800 was the only running final Friday, but several area athletes put themselves in state title contention with strong showings in the preliminaries. The finals will be held Saturday afternoon, preceded by the remaining field events.

St. Peter’s Donavon Duncan advanced to the finals in both the 110 meter hurdles and the 300 hurdles. Duncan ran a 14.94 in the 110s and is seeded second behind Columbiana Crestview’s William Hardenbrook (14.78). Duncan is seeded fourth in the 300 hurdles after finishing in 40.48 in the prelims. He will be joined in the finals of the 300s by Crestview’s Chase Shifflet, who was sixth (40.60).

Colonel Crawford’s Katie Ruffener will run in the finals of both the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. She had the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100s (14.72) and qualified second in the 300s (45.51).

Lucas’ Shelby Grover grabbed the second and final at-large qualifying berth in the 300 hurdles, finishing in 45.57. The top-two finishers in each of the three preliminary heats qualified automatically for the finals. The remaining two finals bids were awarded to the next two best times. Grover finished ninth in the 100 hurdles in 15.40, missing an at-large qualifying berth by one-tenth of a second.

Crestview’s Tanner Moore won his preliminary heat of the 100 in 11.22 to qualified third for the finals. Moore also anchored Crestview’s 4x200 relay team, which qualified fifth in 1:31.72. He was joined by Adison Reymer, Evan Hamilton and Rashaun Barber.

Crestview’s 4x100 relay team and 4x400 relay team missed qualifying for the finals by fractions of a second. The 4x100 team of Reymer, Hamilton, Shiffley and Moore was ninth in 43.85, three-hundredths of a second behind eighth-place finisher and finals qualifier Arlington (43.82). The 4x400 team of Gibbs, Hamilton, Kuhn and Smedley was 10th in 3:28.72, about a half-second away from qualifying for the finals.

Still, with Kuhn and Smedley running in the 800 finals Saturday and Moore (100), Shifflet (300 hurdles) and the 4x200 team guaranteed of podium finishes, the Cougars could find themselves in the hunt for a Division III team title.

“We've just got to keep trying to get points where we can to help the team win a state title,” Kuhn said. “There’s a real opportunity for us to do something special.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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