COLUMBUS — Chris Zuercher was so excited he wasn’t sure who to hug Saturday afternoon, so Shelby’s track coach embraced anyone within arm’s length.
The Whippets were about to ascend to the top of the podium to collect their Division II state championship trophy and Zuercher, who was an assistant when Shelby won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004 and suffered through the heartache of the cross country team’s third-place finish last fall, couldn’t contain himself.
“Gosh, I’m just at a loss for words. I’m sorry,” Zuercher said. “For those distance guys, cross country was rough. We were going in as favorites and I think that was probably the best team in the state.
“To have a distance sweep at state, I don’t know if it’s ever been done before.”
Shelby’s remarkable distance crew of Sam Logan, Sam Swanger, Caleb Brown and Blake Lucius got the party started Friday with a dominating win in the 4x800 relay. They kept the good times rolling Saturday when Brown won the 1,600 meter run in 4:16.56 and the 3,200 meter run in 9:29.58 and Lucius raced to gold in the 800 (1:53.58). Logan, who has battled illness all spring, was third in the 1,600 (4:19.17) and fourth in the 3,200 (9:38.60).
Uriah Schwemley, who won a Division II high jump crown last spring, finished third this year to deliver more valuable points.
Shelby piled up 57 points, well ahead of runner-up Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (42). The 57 team points were the most by a Division II champion since Dayton Dunbar scored 64 in 2015 and more than Shelby’s state-championship teams of 2003 (52) and 2004 (41) accumulated.
“All I wanted to do was score points for the team,” Brown said of his brutal double victory in the two longest events in high school track. “With the experience I’ve had, I felt like if I had a little time to rest up I can do well in the two-mile.”
Both Brown and Logan showed some fatigue in the 3,200. They languished near the back of the 18-man field early in the race before slowly moving up. Remarkably, both Whippets ran their fastest split on the eighth and final lap.
“My legs were really exhausted from the mile,” said Logan, a senior. “Another thing was I wanted to go out with a bang. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling. I was feeling good the last 400 and just took off.
“I can’t really describe how it feels. Especially being my senior year. It’s a nice way to go out.”
Another of Shelby’s talented seniors, Lucius went to bed Friday dreaming of the victory.
“I was playing the race inside my head,” he said. “I visualized every situation I thought I would be in.”
Schwemley wasn’t thrilled with his finish, but was glad to pick up points in the chase for the team title. He missed twice at 6-2 and learned 6-6 —his winning height last year — on his third and final try.
“It wasn’t the best day today. I wasn’t jumping well to start off with,” he said after the high jump concluded Saturday morning. “The good thing is our distance guys are insane, so we got a chance (at the team title).”
Schwemley turned out to be prophetic.
“We wanted to bring something special home to Shelby,” Brown said. “To be in the same (conversation) with the 2003 and 2004 teams is incredible.”