By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — It was a day for records for the Covington track and field teams Saturday in the Division III state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Stadium.
And it ended with a burst to remember from senior Rayna Horner to lock up some hardware and add to the Buccs state championship trophy.
Covington entered the girls 1,600 relay trailing second-place Malvern by eight points.
Covington needed a win to lock up the second-place team title.
Horner chased down Jessica Stamp of McDonald and Lindsey Bishop of Liberty-Benton to win the 1,600 relay in a school record-time of 3:56.71 and give Covington second-place with 32 points. Minster won the team title with 57.
“When I saw Rayna (Horner) make that move, I knew we had it,” Covington girls track and field coach David Tobias said with emotion in his voice. “Because, I knew she would run a smart race (and finish in front).”
It made state champions of Horner, Breanna Kimmel, Paige Boehringer and Morgan Lowe.
“Just let me got on record and say, yes I thought we would win a state championship in this race,” Horner said about the foursome who had finished seventh a year ago. “Honestly, I would rather get the baton in third — than in last or first. It is a much better position to run from.”
Sophomore Morgan Lowe had held that third position on the third leg.
“That’s what I wanted to do,” Lowe said. “If you can’t get the lead, you might as well give her the baton in a good position like third.”
Senior Breanna Kimmel and junior Paige Boehringer couldn’t believe what they were witnessing.
“When I saw her take the lead at the 200-yard mark, I was like yes, yes, we are going to win,” Boehringer said. ” I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing. I think our thoughts from the start this year were we were going to win.”
For Kimmel, in her fourth year at state, winning a state championship in her final race was almost a sense of relief.
“I was just so happy because I realized we were going to win,” Kimmel said. “I am glad we switched the order because I couldn’t have run an anchor leg like that. It just feels really good to be a state champion.”
Covington almost had another state title in the girls 800 relay.
Tori Lyle teamed with Horner, Lowe and Kimmel to finish second in 1:44.51.
Kimmel nearly chased down Jessica Drown of Fremont St. Joseph on the anchor leg and held off Lucia Cannata of Gilmour Academy by six-hundreths of a second.
“It felt great to finish second,” Lyle said. “There was some thoughts about winning, but we still ran an amazing race to finish second. It is a great way to end my career.”
Horner also had a third-place finish in the 400 in 57.56.
“Yes and no,” Horner said about how she felt about the race. “I was running against some of the best 400 runners in any division. I ran a good time.”
Cade Harshbarger made his final race one to remember.
Which is all he really wanted.
“After the 110s, I knew the 300s (hurdles) was my last race so I better make it a good one,” Harshbarger said. “And I did.”
After finishing sixth in the 110 high hurdles in 15.03, he took third in the 300s in 38.91, a new school record.
”It feels pretty good,” Harshbarger said. “I progressed every year from not making finals to making it on on podium once last year and making it up there twice this year. I brushed the first hurdle (in the 110s) and finished sixth again. In the 300s, I saw one guy out of the corner of me eye at the end and just leaned. That got me the school record.”
Covington boys coach Kyle Moore was glad to see Harshbarger get the school record.
“For Cade (Harshbarger) to lean not only to get third but get a school record, that is impressive,” Moore said. “He wanted to get a school record in one of the races today and he did that.”
Covington boys also put two relay teams on the podium.
The 1,600 relay (Gray Harshbarger, Andrew Cates, Tyler Freeman, Nathan Lyle) finished sixth in 3:26.76 and the 800 relay (Alex Shaffer, Gray Harshbarger, Lyle, Freeman) finished eighth in 1:32.60.
“The 4×200 we just put together late in the year and to get up on the podium, that’s a bonus,” Moore said. “ The 4×4 I thought they ran really well. For Gray (Harshbarger) and Nathan (Lyle) to get up on the podium two years in a row, that’s great.”
The team had watched Jett Murphy win a state title in the pole vault Friday night.
“To overcome several knee surgeries and win a state title, that just shows you can do anything,” Lyle said. “So, I would say it motivated us. It is a great way to end my career. The 4×2, we never expected anything like this.”
Harshbarger said he learned from last year’s trip to state.
“I think experience was a big factor,” he said. “I think having been here before helped a lot.”
And for the girls, the experience of bringing home hardware was special.
“I think for Breanna and myself, it is more nostalgic,” Horner said about the second-place team finish. “Because we are seniors and we knew this was our last trip to state.”
And with a state championship in their final race, it couldn’t have ended in a better way.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.