Just when you thought things couldn't get any better for Oak Harbor’s girls track program, they did themselves one better by winning a district championship.
One week after winning their fifth consecutive Sandusky Bay Conference title, the girls team won the Division II district title with 109 points, just ahead of perennial power Eastwood, which came in second at 108. It is the first district title in coach John McKitrick's 16 years at the helm, and the first since 1985.
Freshman Alexa Weis was the lone Rocket to win an individual event, finishing first in the 300 meter hurdles in 47.56 seconds. And the 4x100 relay team of Allie Jett, Rebekah Rayburn, Cydney St. Clair and Karis DeWalt was also first, finishing in 51.02. Trinity Gephart finished second in the 3,200 (11:57.62), racing in from third place just before the finish line to break the 12-minute line and finish with a personal record, and Rayburn was second in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 2 inches. And the 4x200 relay team of Jett, DeWalt, Rayburn and Athena Eli was second in 1:46.5.
Jett was third in the 200 (26.63), Ally Bloomer tied for third in the high jump (4-10), as were the 4x400 (DeWalt, St. Clair, Weis, Jett — 4:09.66) and 4x800 (Gephart, Brenna Franck, Taylor Dunn, Makayla Wagner -- 10:16.99) relay teams. Four-place finishers included Eli (400 — 1:00.58), St. Clair Tori Schiets (100 hurdles — 17.1) and Jordyn Dunn (Discus — 113-8).
Others contributing points included Jordyn Thorp (sixth in the high jump), Lexie Kadlubowski (sixth in the pole vault) and Emma Barton (seventh in the pole vault).
The difference ultimately came in the final event with the 4x400 squad finishing in third place, two spots ahead of Eastwood's relay team.
It's a significant accomplishment for the entire club, especially the seniors, Gephart, St. Clair, Kadlubowski, Hannah Glass, Coral Petersen and Kaylee Hallett-Szymanski.
Gephart, who finished in second in the 3,200, less than one second ahead behind the third place finisher, helped the Rockets to two extra points, which was ultimately the difference, when she raced ahead of one of her competitors just before the finish line, a microcosm of just how close the competition was between Oak Harbor and Eastwood.
"It really is exciting," Gephart said of winning districts. "We knew we had the chance. We were missing some key contributors with Paige being hurt and Athena not running all her events. It was definitely the icing on the cake. Just knowing how hard we've worked and how much it's paid off, it's awesome. I think, too, that it gave the underclassmen a taste for how it feels and an eagerness for them to continue this.
“At districts, a lot of people's mindset is to get in the top four and qualify, but it's about wanting a little more and trying to beat your competitor. It's crazy how it comes down to one point like that and it makes the victory that much better."
McKitrick found out that his team had a chance to win the meet just before the final event.
"At the conclusion of the two mile, my assistant coach told me we were only one point down," McKitrick said. "We were already trying to light a fire under the 4x400 team and they made it happen. (The team) has been able to figure out ways to win. They've put themselves in position to win at the end of meets. That's what makes it fun. It's nice when it comes down to the 4x400 relay. It's my favorite event. It was a fight with Eastwood."
McKitrick talked about some of the strategizing that goes with setting a lineup in the postseason.
"In the last two or three seasons, we've had chances thinking about going in and winning the meet," he said. "The objective is trying to get as many people into the regional meet. You might forego points in other events. We've done that quite a bit.
“We've thought, 'Let's not worry about points; let's worry about regionals.' At the end of the day, you want as many kids going to the regional meet as possible. Sometimes, common sense prevails, and you don't go for the championship. We knew it was going to be a good competition. It was great for our girls to win the district title."
The Rockets, however, will not enter the regional meet at full strength. Sophomore Paige Velliquette, a sprinter, did not run because of an injury and Eli qualified in two events before being sustaining a hamstring strain at the end of the 400. In addition to that, Jett, the girls' Most Outstanding Performer at last week's conference meet, also battled injuries, and sophomore Annie Quisno has missed much of the season due to an injured hip.
The D-II regional meet was at Lexington High School, and competitors finishing in the top four of their respective events will advance to the state tournament in Columbus this week.