Wounded Cougs win district; Grover and Ruffener set records

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NORTH ROBINSON — 2021 state champion and Crestview graduate Ross Kuhn was just there to watch from the infield.

But there were times on Friday when his dad, Tim, the boys’ track coach, was probably half tempted to squeeze him into a Cougars formation held together by duct tape, wire and a assortment of rabbit feet.

“We limped across,” he said.

And, again, they could not be caught.

Even though All-Ohio sprinters Tanner Moore and Adison Reymer only had two good legs between them and were used sparingly, the rest of the team backed them up as Crestview ran away with their third straight Division III championship. .

Behind three-time winner Tommy O’Neill and a mighty punch in pitchers Noah Stuart and Wade Bolin, the Cougars racked up 132 points for yardage runner-up and host Col. Crawford (74). Seneca East (69), South Central (57) and Bucyrus (41) round out the top five.

The Crawford Girls, a top contender for a state title, paced by superstar Katie Ruffener, easily repeated as district champions by a 171-67 margin over Riverdale, with Carey (66), Crestview (60) and Lucas (57) completing the top five.

“I really don’t keep track of any of that, to be honest,” Kuhn said, referring to Friday’s hat-trick by his boys. “I just worry about the performance of the guys. We try to put them in place and if things move, they move. If we win, great, but you don’t care about having as many people as possible at the regionals.

“I’m super proud of how they’ve held together. It started badly when we lost Adison and we had to shuffle the cards very quickly.

Moore has been hobbled all season and Reymer has been dealing with a recalcitrant hamstring which he aggravated again during warm-ups. Moore only raced in the fourth-place 4×100 relay team that clinched the final regional qualifying spot. Reymer somehow answered the 100 bell, finishing fourth for a regional spot, then was done for the night.

To the rescue came freshman Everett Smith. He raced the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 third place, working with seasoned veterans like O’Neill and fellow seniors Connor Morse and Gabe Smedley.

Crestview's Tommy O'Neill won the 1600 meter race at Friday's Division III District Athletics meet.

“I was proud of the way (Smith) stepped in and handled the nerves and got on those stints and helped them through (to regionals),” Kuhn said. “Reymer dumped him in the 100 and made it to regionals, but he was definitely working. We’ll have to see what we can do with him (in the future).

The competition got off to a better start for Crestview on Wednesday with the 4×800 team of O’Neill, Smedley and freshmen Logan Friges and Cooper Brockway winning in 8:22.19. That same day in the shot put, Bolin (50-9.5) and Stuart (48.05) finished one-two.

On Friday, Stuart won the discus (164-8) and Bolin third (152-0), while O’Neill swept the 800 (2:00.76) and 1600 (4:43.25). Crestview also earned a second-place finish from Moore in the high jump and third from Shawn Bailey, a 14-foot jumper.

“It was a brave performance from the guys,” said Kuhn, who the Cougs will look to repeat as regional champions this week in Chillicothe. “And Coach (Nick) Manges is one of our unsung heroes. He’s done a phenomenal job with Wade and Noah. They wouldn’t be where they are without him.

Crestview also had a champion on the girls side in Morgan Welch. She won the 800m in 2:24.27 and was third in the 1600m.

Lucas' Shelby Grover competes in the long jump at the Division III district meet, setting the new meet record.

A real treat for anyone in attendance was the first showdown of the year between Ruffener, an Iowa State clerk, and Lucas’ junior Shelby Grover.

Ruffener, who set the DIII state record in the 100 hurdles earlier this season with a 13.98, won that race and the 300 on Friday with meet record times of 14.29 and 44.67, respectively. She tied her own competitive record in the 100s and broke a 20-year mark in the 300s previously held by her cousin, Wynford legend Amber (Rall) Groves. Ruffener also won the 100m in 12.9.

Grover was just behind Ruffener in both hurdles and beat her in the long jump, setting a meet record with her jump of 18-6.5. Ruffener was second (17-9). Grover added a second first by winning the 200 in 26.81.

“(Ruffener) works year round (on track) and is very good at everything,” said Grover, who is All-Ohio in three sports (volleyball, basketball and track). “I gave up club volleyball (to focus on the track) and it’s paying off.”

Her record jump means she has improved by more than two feet since last year, when her best was 16-6.

It was going to take something spectacular to beat Ruffener…and his cousin. The aforementioned Amber (Rall) Groves held the previous mark of 17-11.5 since 2003.

“I was hoping to get 18 (feet) and break the record,” Grover said. “As soon as I heard the 18, I got excited. The 6 (inches) was just a bonus for me.

“Now I’m leaving for 19.”

St. Peter’s had a pair of champions in senior John Harris in the 110 high hurdles (16.22) and junior Peyton Bodnar in the 200m (23.47). Harris moved from the third seed after the preliminaries to the first, but had to slip away early and missed seeing his teammate win the two to cap a busy day which also saw Bodnar qualify for regionals with a second place in the 100 and a third place. finish in the 400s.

Although he set a personal best in the 400m with a time of 50.39, it was this race that frustrated Bodnar the most. South Central teammates Carson Music (49.63) and Trey Beverly (49.87) both broke the meet record in this event.

John Harris of Mansfield St. Peter's clears a hurdle in the 110 yards hurdles during the Division III district meet.  He would go on to win a district title with a time of 16.22.

“I was first in the preliminaries and I thought I had a chance to be first (in the final),” Bodnar said. “It was half adrenaline and half anger that led me to finish first in the 200m.”

Bodnar was coming off an MVP performance at the Mid-Buckeye conference meet, where he helped coach Dan Schlitt’s Spartans repeat as champions by winning four events.

“My block start (in Friday’s 200) was good,” said Bodnar. “I’m used to messing up the blocks. Last year in 4×2 we were supposed to go state but I missed the block start and we finished fifth. Today when I came into the curve I knew I had it.

Bodnar finished second in the 100m to Plymouth junior Caiden Allen, who was a district runner-up last year. His winning time was 11.53.

“I can definitely go a lot faster,” said Allen, whose PR is 11.1.

He’s been on a mission since finishing seventh at the Crestview Invitational.

“It was a bad race for me,” he said. “I was doing the high jump and when I ran to do the 100m, I had to jump (without warming up) and run. It didn’t go too well.

“I don’t think I’ve been beaten since. It drove me a little crazy. I knew I had to activate it.

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