Woodridge wins Division II state boys track title

Michael Leonard
Akron Beacon Journal
Members of the Woodridge boys track and field team hold up their first team state championship trophy after the Division II state track & field meet at Pickerington High School North on Saturday. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

PICKERINGTON — Thanks to 10 state titles in boys cross country since 2006, Woodridge's running prowess is known state wide.

That said, the Bulldogs had not been able to translate that distance dominance into a state boys track team title.

Until now.

Woodridge claimed the Division II boys track and field title Saturday by the slimmest of margins, edging Cleveland Glenville 43-42.5 at the state meet at Pickerington High School North.

"It's special because we were going to have a very good team last year that didn't get to run," said Woodridge coach Scott Mercer. "We had to rely on a lot of juniors to do well this year. Only two of the guys here had state experience in track."

Much like last week's regional meet, the team race came down to the 1,600-meter relay. The Bulldogs entered the final event with a 6.5 point lead over Glenville.

Unlike regionals where Woodridge won the 1,600 relay, the Tarblooders won the race in 3:19.98.

Woodridge’s Zayd Elkurd celebrates after placing fifth in the boys 1,600-meter relay race to clinch the Bulldogs’ first boys state title in school history during the Division II state track & field meet at Pickerington High School North on Saturday. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

The Bulldogs knew, however, that a fifth-place finish would guarantee them the title. Senior Zayd Elkurd passed two teams in his anchor leg to claim fifth place in 3:25.33.

"We knew what we had to do to win," Mercer said. "Ryan [Champa] has to come back from a tough run in the 1,600 and he won. Zayd won the 800 and then did what he does. You can't leave it in the hands of two better runners."

"It means a lot, not just with the runners and coaches," Elkurd said. "The whole community supported us. We wanted to do this for them."

Elkurd's effort in the relay could be his final organized race, as he does not plan to run in college.

The senior known as "The Closer" began his afternoon by winning the 800-meter run in come-from-behind fashion. Elkurd hit the gas in the second lap to win in 1:55.23.

"I learned from the 4x800 that I didn't want to get caught and boxed in," Elkurd said. "It's a lot of work coming to fruition."

Despite coming in fourth place in the 1,600-meter run in 4:22:33, Champa said it was not his best race.

However, the senior who won the Division II cross country individual title in November, scored his own "distance double." A brisk final lap allowed him to win the 3,200-meter run in 9:31.03.

Champa's win in the penultimate event gave the Bulldogs their first lead.

"My teammates were telling me I needed to win in order to get past Glenville," Champa said. "For me, it was 10 points [for winning] or nothing. It feels really great to get the double."

Woodridge's David Fritz, right, hands the baton to Aaron Dutt as they compete in the 1,600-meter relay during the Division II state track & field meet at Pickerington High School North on Saturday. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Distance runners weren't the only Bulldogs to shine Saturday.

The day began with Woodridge senior Angelo Regec earning his first All-Ohio place in the discus. He earned four points for Woodridge by finishing in fifth place with a throw of 163 feet, 2 inches.

"I was happy with what I did," Regec said. "I game in here seeded fifth and I finished fifth. I just tried to earn as many points for the team as I could."

Elsewhere in the discus, Manchester junior Josiah Cox earned his second All-Ohio honor in as many days. A Hawaiian-shirt enthusiast, Cox finished just behind Regec, taking sixth place with a toss of 155-7.

"It's awesome and humbling to be here competing with these guys," Cox said. "They're just crazy with how well they're throwing. Hopefully, I can come back next year and do better."

CVCA's Drennan Akins, left, leans forward to narrowly win the 1,600-meter race during the Division II state track & field meet at Pickerington High School North on Saturday. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

On a day full of dramatic finishes, perhaps the most dramatic came in the open 1,600 from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy junior Drennan Akins.

With one lap left in the 1,600, McDermott Northwest's Lander Smith had a sizeable lead and looked to have the race under control. Akins had other ideas.

"I was thinking of a team workout we had on Tuesday," Akins said. "I told myself 'I can do this.'"

Akins closed the gap to about 10 meters heading into the final stretch and ran the last 100 meters at a sprint. He said he didn't know he could catch Smith until the final 15 yards.

"I saw him start to slow down there and I just went for it," Akins said.

With Smith celebrating, Akins crossed the line in 4:16.72, edging Smith for the state title by just. 02 seconds. It was a personal record for Akins.