Woodridge wins Division II state boys track title

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Members of the Woodridge boys track and field team hold up their first team state championship trophy during the Division II OHSAA State Track and Field Tournament at Pickerington High School North, Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Pickerington, Ohio. [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.

Woodridge’s Zayd Elkurd celebrates after placing fifth in the boys 4x400 meter relay race to clinch the Bulldogs’ first boys state title in school history during the Division II OHSAA State Track and Field Tournament at Pickerington High School North, Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Pickerington, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

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

"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."

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."

Woodridge's David Fritz, right, hands the baton off to Aaron Dutt as they compete in the 4x400 meter relay race during the Division II OHSAA State Track and Field Tournament at Pickerington High School North, Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Pickerington, Ohio. [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.

In the Division II girls team race, Woodridge finished eighth with 22 points. The Bulldogs were anchored by three All-Ohio finishers.

Freshman Reese Reaman took third place in the 1,600-meter run. She finished in 5:01.14 behind two Oakwood runners.

"I just kind of made my move a little too early in the last lap," Reaman said. "I think we raced really well."

After she missed qualifying for the final in the 100 hurdles, sophomore Anna Rorrer made up for it with fourth-place finish in 300 hurdles in 45.01 seconds.

"I think the pressure was greater on me after the 100," she said. "I think I ran pretty well, but it wasn't my best race."

Finally, a change in race strategy worked for junior Izzy Best in the 800-meter run.

Rather than charging to the front as she did at regionals, Best ran a measured first lap and then ran past several foes to finish fourth in 2:15.

"My coaches really wanted me to stay in control this time," she said. "I was looking at the clock when I came by. When I saw the time, I knew they would come to me. Those girls up top were amazing."