By Rob Kiser
The Covington boys track and field team will have one returning podium finisher from a year ago when the Division III state track and field meet gets underway Friday at Jesse Owens Stadium — and hopes to add to that this year with a number of competitors with state experience.
Junior pole vaulter Jett Murphy leads the way.
Murphy finished fourth at state last year, clearing 14-4 and hopes for even bigger things this year.
Murphy comes in tied for the fourth best qualifying vault at 14-4.
He is one of three CCC vaulters at state, with regional champion Brock Shellhaas of Ansonia and Blaine Brokschmidt of Miami East.
“This is a tougher year, but the goal is to get higher on the podium,” Murphy said. “Definitely I think it helps being over there and having success. Vaulting against Brock (Shellhaas) and Blaine (Brokschmidt) all year just makes us all better. I want to get at least 15, I was really close at 14-8 last week and I think I can get it.”
Covington coach Kyle Moore expects Murphy to do well.
“Even though Jett (Murphy) finished third at regionals this year and won last year, I think he is vaulting better than he was last year,” Moore said. “I think vaulting against some of the top guys in the state all year has benefited him. The competition is tougher this year, but I think he can continue to climb up the podium.”
Junior Zach Parrett is tied for the sixth best qualifying height in the high jump, clearing 6-2 at regionals.
“I think if Zach wants to podium, he needs to get through at least 6-2 clean,” Moore said. “Even though there aren’t a lot of guys with big heights, there are a lot of guys in that 6-2, 6-3 area. Even though it is his first time there, I am sure Zach will be relaxed.”
The 1,600 relay team (Zane Barnes, Gray Harshbarger, Jayce Pond, Nathan Lyle) is right on the border of making finals with the 10th fastest qualifying time of 3:26.41.
“Three of us were over here last year and we brought the other guy over as an alternate,” Pond said. “We know what to expect. We want to make it to finals and see what we can do.”
Lyle, the anchor, thinks the relay can still lower its time.
“I think the competition (at state) pushes you and makes you faster,” he said. “We can definitely lower our time.”
“Three of the four guys were over there last year,” he said. “Even though they wanted to make finals last year, I think they were happy to be there. I think this year, they want to make finals. And last year, I felt like they ran their best race at regional. This year, I don’t think they have run their best race yet.”
Junior Cade Harshbarger returns in both the 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediate hurdles.
His times of 15.21 and 40.48 respectively are the 11th fastest qualifying times in both events, but he ran under 40 in the 300 hurdles in regional prelims.
“The goal was to get to state,” Harshbarger said. “Now, that I am at state, you can always run faster times. I would like to get under 40 again. It is going to help having been over there (at state last year). You just have to push yourself.”
Moore thinks Harshbarger has the potential to do very well.
“I think Cade (Harshbarger) is a year bigger and stronger,” he said. “That will benefit him, especially in the 300 hurdles. He doesn’t have the 4×100 to run anymore, so that is going to help him in the 300 hurdles.
“His goal should be to make the finals in the 110s. He can definitely podium in the 300s. He is capable of being a top five guy.”
The running event preliminaries are Friday morning, with the two fastest times in each heat and the next five fastest times advancing to Saturday’s finals. Murphy vaults at 4 p.m. Friday.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.