COLUMBUS — Drew Roberts wasn’t going to let his dream slip away, not after everything the Mapleton senior has been through.
Roberts overcame a two-second deficit on the final lap to strike gold at the Division III state meet Saturday, winning the 3,200 meter run in 9 minutes, 25.74 seconds.
His journey to the top of the state podium was fraught with more dark moments than he cared to recount, but all the struggles of the past nine months made Saturday’s championship moment that much sweeter.
Roberts suffered a stress fracture in his left foot midway through the cross country season. His comeback attempt at the district cross country meet ended less than a mile into the race.
“I couldn’t do it. I was just so out of shape,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t run from the end of September until early-December. I wondered if I would ever come back to the level I was running at before I got hurt.
“There were times when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run again. There were dark times, but every minute of struggle and pain was worth it to get where I’m at today.”
Roberts, Ayersville’s Noah Fisher and Worthington Christian’s Taylor Vallangeon began to separate themselves from the 17-man field with three laps remaining. Fisher surged to the lead with about 600 meters remaining and opened a two-second lead as the gun sounded for the final lap.
“That point was the crucial, deciding point. Do I go after him or do I get second?” said Roberts, who turned in his fastest split of the day (63.77 seconds) and the eighth and final lap. “Then (Vallangeon) caught up to me and I said, ‘I’ve got to go. I want this so bad.’
“I could tell I was picking up meters on him. I was going to leave it all out there. There was that one moment that was really crucial and I’m glad that I made the decision I did.”
Double Podium: Hillsdale’s Jordan Taylor reached the podium in both the 100 and 200 Saturday. The junior was seventh in the 100 in 12.94 seconds and took eighth in the 200 in 26.51.
Taylor earned at-large bids in both events after finishing fifth at the regional meet. She wasn’t sure if she would qualify until the Ohio High School Athletic Association made it official.
“I felt pretty confident that my 100 time would be good enough. My 200 time was kind of iffy,” Taylor said. “It was a relief when I got the word.”
Taylor then qualified for the finals in both events during Friday’s preliminaries. She ran a school-record 12.61 in the 100.
“(Friday) was definitely my better day,” Taylor said after the finals of the 100. “I kind of stumbled out of the blocks. That put me behind everyone and I had to catch up. It wasn’t my best.”
Making her first state appearance, Taylor was a little overwhelmed by the crowds at the state meet.
“I’ve never heard so many people screaming at once,” Taylor said. “Once I got used to it, it was a good feeling.”
Front Runner: Crestview’s Ross Kuhn, who came in seeded 17th in the 1,600, found himself in unfamiliar territory midway through the four-lap race Saturday morning. The sophomore led after 800 meters before finishing on the podium in eighth place.
“It’s a heck of an adrenaline rush,” Kuhn said of running with the lead. “You get out there and you start thinking you could win this this thing.”
Kuhn was also a member of Crestview’s eight-place 4x800 relay team.
All Smiles: Crestview’s Reagan Garrett earned a podium finish in the girls discus and established a new personal record in the process. The sophomore uncorked a career-best throw of 129 feet, 8 inches on her third attempt of the day.
“I wasn’t expecting to get seventh,” said Garrett, who beat her previous PR by three feet.
Garrett qualified for state as a freshman, finishing 15th.
“I wasn’t as nervous, and I could talk to some of the other girls,” she said of her return trip. “I’m looking forward to next year.”
Soaring Redbird: Loudonville’s Cora Forbes surprised even herself with a fifth-place finish in the high jump. The junior cleared a personal-record 5 feet, 3 inches on her third and final attempt after clearing a then-PR 5-2 on her third attempt moments earlier.
“I didn’t expect top five at all,” Forbes said. “It feels awesome.”
Loudonville teammates Emma Hinkle and Stephanie Kline were also in action at state over the weekend. Hinkle finished 15th in the 3,200 run in 12:05.26 while Kline was 10th in the 300 hurdles (46.77).
Triple-Placer: Ashland senior Lyndsey Karcher went out in style, earning three podium finishes in the seated 100, 400 and 800 races. Karcher took third in all three events, finishing in 24.70 in the 100, 1:31.40 in the 400 and 3:10.63 in the 800.
State Competitors: Ashland pole vaulter Declan Rohr also participated at the state meet. The sophomore finished 16th with a vault of 14 feet.
The Mapleton girls 4x100 relay team finished 17th in 51.46.