By Rob Kiser
DAYTON — Call it a Piqua tradition — of sorts.
Six years after Kurt Grove won the Dayton Division I regional 800, Piqua junior Andy Mayse repeated the feat Friday meet.
And Mayse added a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 to qualify for state in two events — Piqua’s first qualifier since Grove.
“It feels good (to be going to state),” Mayse said. Maybe that (winning the 800) is a Piqua tradition.”
And Mayse would be the first to tell you the 800 is the last thing he expected to be regional champion in at the start of the year.
“Really, I was just thinking 3,200,” Mayse, who also excels in cross country, said. “Then, my times started dropping in the 800. “The 800 is such a new race to me. This is only third or fourth time I have run it.”
But, with a state berth in the 1,600 already secure — Mayse went out fast from outside and found himself in a battle with Sycamore’s Miles Menyhert halfway through the race.
“We had talked to Andy (Mayse) about when Kurt (Grove) ran at state he got boxed in and what a shame that was and to make sure something like that doesn’t happen,” Piqua coach Scott Kaye said.
Mayse made sure of that.
“My intent tonight was to do well in the 1,600 and see what I could do in the 800,” Mayse said. “I was starting in lane seven so I didn’t really know where I was until we merged and I had a good first lap.”
It was still the two of them going to the final 100 meters when Mayse kicked past Menyhert for the win.
“I really thought my best chance was in the 1,600,” Mayse said. “But, you have to go where the race takes you. There is no sense finishing fourth when you can win. My kick in the 1,600 has gotten a lot stronger this year, so I think that has helped me a lot in the 800. You are always worried about people coming from behind, but I thought I could win.”
Kaye was not surprised.
“Every time we were going to run the 800 this year, it just didn’t work out with the schedule,” Kaye said. “But, we knew that was his best race.”
Mayse had started the night with a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 in 4:23.0.
“The main goal was to get to state and I did that,” Mayse said.
The race had started out similarly to district with Mayse leading on the inside and Tippecanoe’s Mitchell Poynter running on the outside.
On the second lap, Poynter decided to change things up and move in front of Mayse and went on to finish second.
“I couldn’t hold him off anymore,” Mayse said. “That was great strategy on Mitchell (Poynter’s) part. I give him credit.”
Kaye said the night went exactly the way he had hoped.
“Andy’s (Mayse) time was a little bit slower tonight than last week (in the 1,600),” Kaye said. “I think he ran the race to finish in the top four. Then he went out to win the 800 and he did it.”
As excited as Mayse was after the race, his thought was on his team as well.
“I hope this will show other kids what you can do if you work hard, that you can get to state,” he said. “I really hope this will encourage kids and get more kids out for the program.”
Mayse would like nothing more than two trips to the podium next week at state.
“For sure,” he said. “The 800 — that is just a completely different race than the 1,600. That is just get out and go and keep going. The 1,600, I have much stronger kick this year.”
Mayse elected not to run the 3,200 Friday night.
He will run in the state meet at Jesse Owens Stadium Saturday, with the 1,600 at 5:15 p.m. and the 800 at 6:05 p.m.
“I think there are a lot of runner happy he wasn’t in that race as well,” Kaye said about Piqua’s school record holder in that event. “He ran a 1:55 in the 800 tonight. He has such great conditioning to be able to recover that quickly (after the 1,600). You could see two school records next week at state.”
And start a new tradition for Piqua distance runners.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.