By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — The Russia girls 3,2000-meter relay team climbed a little higher on the podium Friday in the opening race of the Division III state track and field championships at Jesse Owens Stadium on the Ohio State University campus.
And Molly Kearns enjoyed that “cool” feeling
The foursome of Lauren Heaton, Shaelyn Goubeaux, Kearns and Grace York improved on last year’s fifth-place finish, taking fourth in 9:32.86.
Kearns was the only who didn’t run on last year’s relay and had said she was looking for the cool feeling of climbing up on the podium.
“It was really cool,” Kearns said. “You know where the Russia fans are and you can hear them screaming. It was great.”
Heaton, who had run anchor at regionals, got the Lady Raiders off to a fast start, putting them in the top five and they stayed there the rest of the race.
“The goal was to get up on the podium,” Heaton said. “It was a good race. We ran well.”
Goubeaux held that position, handing the baton to Kearns with Russia in fourth place.
“We wanted to give Lauren (Heaton) a little extra time to get ready for the 400,” Goubeaaux said. “We knew she would get us off to a great start and Grace ((York) would run a strong anchor. I just wanted to keep that position. You can hear the Russia fans screaming and that pumps you up.”
Kearns was running close to the fifth and sixth runners, but had a strong kick on the third leg to open a gap for York.
“That’s not the way it usually works with me,” Kearns said with a laugh. “It is the state meet. It is the final 4×8 of the season. You might as well give your all.”
York ran a strong anchor to keep the Lady Raiders in fourth.
“It has been awhile since I have run anchor,” York said. “It was kind of exciting to be part of that. The crowd kind of pushes you.”
It was a good warmup for Saturday for Kerns and York, who will run in the 3,200 and 800 respectively.
“They already have one medal, they might as well get two,” Goubeaux said with a smile.
They couldn’t ask much more from the start.
“We came in seeded fifth and we were fourth,” Kearns said. “We got a PR for the year. You always want to go out running your best and we did that.”
Heaton advanced to the finals of the 400, taking second in her heat of the 400 in 58.05.
Lynsey Shipley of Portsmouth and Michah Johnston of Toledo Christian were the heat winners.
Johnston was clocked in 56.47 and Shipley finished in 57.85.
It sets up a matchup of past state champions in the race.
Heaton won the race in 2014, while Johnston is the defending champion.
“Today was (just about positioning for the finals),” Heaton said. “Micah (Johnston) and I are good friends. I look forward to the challenge. I have one last race. I am going to give it all I got.”
Heaton just missed making the finals of the 200, with the 10th fastest time of 26.16. She finished fourth in her heat.
Lehman’s Alanna O’Leary just missed qualifying for finals in the 400, finishing with the 11th fastest time.
She was sixth in her heat with a time of 60.37.
O’Leary also finished sixth in her heat of the 200 in 26.38.
Covington’s Breanna Kimmel finished eighth in her heat of the 100 in 13.04.
In field events, Russia’s Emily Bohman finished 13th in the pole vault, clearing 10-6; while Miami East discus thrower Megan Kinnison finished 13th with a throw of 120-11.
Versailles senior Haley Winner’s career has been filled with success, including state championships as well as numerous trips to the podium.
So, Winner was all smiles after earning two more opportunities Friday.
Winner anchored the 400 relay (with Liz Watren, Cassie Peters and Ellen Peters) to the seventh fastest time for today’s finals with a time of 1:45.05 and started the 1,600 relay (with Emily Langenkamp, Watren and Cassie Peters) to the eighth fastest time, 4:03.79.
“Hopefully, we will have two more chances to run,” Winner said with a smile after the 1,600 relay. “The last two years, because of injuries, I haven’t been able to do a whole lot of running. So, to make it to finals in two events is great.”
And as always, Winner was thinking of her team.
“They take nine to the finals,” Winner said. “The goal is to be in the top eight in both races. Cassie (Peters), Emily (Langenkamp) and Liz (Watren) have never been on the podium. I want to give them that opportunity. It has been a lot of fun and it is my final two races.”
The 400 relay (Cassie Peters, Ellen Peters, Jenna Frantz, Winner) came up short with the 13th fastest time of 51.01.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.