COLUMBUS — Faith had faith.
Even as the Knights fell behind early in their 1,600-meet relay in the state finals, Nordonia senior Faith Banks wasn't worried. She had trust in the seniors around her, Carmen Licht, Aja DuVall and Lizzy Gurko, and in herself.
"At this point, I've been running with this team since freshman year almost, so I have faith with them that we're going to get back in the race," Banks said. "So yeah, I wasn't really too worried about it."
Banks knew best, as the Knights' 1,600 relay finished high up on the medal stand, taking third in Saturday's state finals with a 3:49.00.
It was a heck of a way to cap a heck of a career for Banks, who will run at the University of Cincinnati next year. After finishing second in the 400 a little earlier in the day with a 55.45, the senior found the strength for one last race.
It wasn't easy.
She had to make sure she didn't strain herself too much in that opening 400 against Pickerington Central's Jaydan Wood, who won the state title with a time of 54.18 seconds. Banks was runner-up at 55.45.
"I just knew I had to get out over [the first 100] and then not do too much on the back stretch, so I would have enough at the end because I was running against Jaydan Wood," Banks said.
"Faith was right there. She had a chance," said Knights head coach Scott Barwidi. "She ran a pretty good race. She was really looking to get a personal record, but I think overall she was pretty happy with what happened.
Banks dealt with two races in Saturday’s grueling heat with the help of a familiar marker: Twinsburg. In both the 400 and the 1,600 relay, she ran neck-and-neck with and eventually edged the Tigers.
"[Twinsburg's Nia Robinson] was in front of me in lane six of the 400, so I just knew that I was on pace," Banks said.
As she awaited her final race, the last leg of Saturday’s 1,600 relay state final, Banks hunched over at full attention, a near scowl on her face.
"Honestly, it's just, give me the baton, I'm ready to go," Banks said.
"We thought the girls could contend for the state title," said Barwidi. "We knew they were going to have to run extremely well, and they did run very, very well.
"We can live with third place. They’ve been third two years in a row now, and they were fourth two years ago and fifth the year before that. They were All-Ohio four times, and that’s pretty cool."
After her spectacular final leg, that game face was gone, replaced by a smile. That smile would soon be mixed with sadness, Banks said.
"I'm going to be so sad, because I'm going to miss running with my team," Banks said. "Senior year, last race in high school, I'm going to be really sad honestly."
"She had an amazing career at Nordonia," Barwidi said of Banks. "She really is dedicated to track and field and to her craft of running. She runs all year-round, even while she’s playing volleyball. She’s just such a quality young kid. We’re really going to miss her."
Overall, Nordonia finished eighth in the Division I girls team race with with 22 points, which finished Saturday at the Jesse Owens Memorial Track in Columbus. Gahanna Lincoln won the 64-team competition with 51 points. Twinsburg and Lancaster tied for second with 31 points apiece.
"We were thrilled with the girls’ overall performance," Barwidi said.
"Lizzy ran a personal best in her split. She had a fantastic career," he added. "She’s really dedicated to running and put a huge amount of time into being the best that she could be."
Meanwhile, DuVall finished fourth in the 200 with a time of 24.59 seconds.
"For Aja to go out and be fourth in the state of Ohio was quite an accomplishment," the coach said. "We knew she could do it. It was a great race.
"She executed a really, really good race plan. We realistically knew she wasn’t going to be able to beat the top two finishers, so we told her, ‘Let’s focus on running for third or fourth place. That’s right where we can be. And if we run well, we’ll be there.’ And she sure did."
Licht re-broke her own school record by finishing sixth in the 800 with a clocking of 2:11.29.
"Carmen ran a great race," said Barwidi. "In the last three weeks, she’s really embraced what Coach Martin, our distance coach, has told her the best game plan for her is – to go out and run 63-64 in the first 400 and then come back with a 68.
"What a career it was for Carmen. The most gratifying and the most exciting thing for her was finally getting to be All-Ohio individually. She’s been on several relays that have been All-Ohio, but I think her goal has always been to be an individual All-Ohio, too. And for her to be able to do that in her senior year was just … I was so happy for her."
Licht and DuVall teamed with classmates Katrina Eterovich and Jasmon Scott to finish 16th in the 800 relay with a time of 1:44.82.
Eterovich placed 18th in the 300 hurdles with a time of 48.30 seconds.
According to Barwidi, the loss of the six seniors will hurt his team next year.
"We’re going to lose a lot of experience and a lot of points out of our team," he said. "Those girls have carried us for four years. They carried us to four conference championships, a district championship, a regional runner-up, a regional championship … they’re a real special group.
"We’re going to have some work ahead of us as coaches and athletes to replace them. Really, you can’t ever replace them. You just put new kids in there."
Editor’s note: Correspondent Roger Gordon contributed to this story.