COLUMBUS -- Scott Barwidi knew the Knights' Class of 2018 was going to be special.

With all of the records they were setting, and at times smashing, in middle school, it was just a matter of time before they excelled at the high school level.

As sophomores, a number of them made the trip down to Columbus for the state meet, and their junior year was no different.

Of Nordonia's five girls to advance to state this season, four were juniors, all represented in the Knights' all-junior 1,600-meter relay of Lizzy Gurko, Carmen Licht, Aja DuVall and Faith Banks. The quartet finished third with a time of 3:49.69, with personal record splits from Gurko and DuVall.

"We knew that they were extremely talented," Barwidi said. "They've just kind of stuck to our plan."

With such a deep reservoir of junior talent, Barwidi has been able to stoke up the competition, even telling Banks, one of the team's top runners, that her place isn't safe.

"I tell Faith every year, 'If you run 56 and I have four 55s, you're going to be the fifth,'" he said. "That may seem cutthroat, but it's one of those things that drives those girls. That competition between those girls really drives them to be the best they can be."

Beyond being fast, Nordonia's junior class is full of girls who are remarkably versatile. Last year, Gurko and Licht helped lift the Knights' 3,200 relay to state. This year, Gurko and Licht did the same for the 1,600 relay, with Licht also participating on the 800 relay that made state. Banks and DuVall also ran both the 800 and 1,600 relays for Nordonia.

Not to mention Banks, DuVall and Licht all qualified for state in individual events as well.

Banks did a remarkable job in the 400-meter dash, riding a late pass to a fourth-place time of 55.34 seconds.

"She's a very strong finisher in that race," Barwidi said. "She's an extremely determined individual and she has very strong expectations of herself and of what she can do and she puts herself in these situations and she comes through."

No less impressive was Licht, who finished 14th in the state in the 800-meter dash, while participating in Nordonia's 800 and 1.600 relays.

Not every runner can handle such a mix of events, each of which carries its own strategy, pace and culture, from the sprint-like 200 to the slower-paced 800, but Licht has demonstrated that ability throughout her time with the Knights. In fact, while she has ranged from 200 to 800 at the state level, she has also run the 100 and the mile for Nordonia.

"She's an extremely versatile young lady," Barwidi said. "She has some good speed and has the endurance to go with that, so she can bounce anywhere from the 100 all the way to the mile."

Same with DuVall, who placed 14th in the state in the 100 while running her fastest-ever split in the 1,600.

"She's a very, very versatile kid that can run a 100, 200 and 400 and do them at the state level," Barwidi said. "She was really the unsung hero there."

Joining the four juniors was freshman Lizzie Imrie, who made her state debut in the 4x200, which captured 13th with a time of 1:43.84.


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