By Charlie Warnimont
TIFFIN — Collin Grothaus and Dakota Vogt have been unbeatable this season in their specialities, the pole vault and discus, respectively.
They remained that way Wednesday afternoon at the Division III regional track and field meet in Tiffin. However, they were not the first Columbus Grove boys to lock up a trip to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus next week. That honor went to the Bulldogs’ 3,200 Relay team.
The Bulldogs finished third to earn a trip to the state meet next Friday in Columbus. The three events were the only state bids the Bulldogs locked up after the first day of the regional meet at Frost-Kalnow Stadium. Columbus Grove has a good chance to lock up more bids Friday when the meet concludes as several events advanced to the finals from the semifinals.
After a seventh-place finish at the regionals last season in the 3,200, the Bulldogs were looking for a little bit of redemption this year. Paced by their senior standout runners Jake Graham and Alex Shafer along with strong legs by sophomore Colton Grothaus and freshman Alex Giesige, the Bulldogs accomplished that feat as they finished third in 8:18.34, which is a PR for the team this season.
“We missed out last year and I was hoping to get back here and get another chance to qualify,” Shafer said. “This feels great. We were really hoping to avenge what we did last year. We started off good and were able to get it done.”
Graham had the Bulldogs in the lead after the first exchange before runners from Liberty Center and Pettisville moved in front. Columbus Grove never dropped out of the third spot as Giesige kept pace with the anchor runners from the top two teams to get the state qualification. Giesige just moved into the anchor role last week at the district meet but put aside any nerves he may have had as a freshman to help the team.
“It feels great being a freshman and everything to make state,” Giesige said. “I was real nervous but I pulled through; we all did. I was hoping the guys would keep us in the top four and they did. There was some pressure on me but I put it aside to help the team.”
Vogt, a senior, was looking to make a return to state in the discus and he did just that as he won the regional title in his speciality with a top throw of 162-9. Although his winning throw was less than what he normally throws, he is happy to be making a return trip to state.
“This wasn’t one of my better days but somehow I came out with the win,” Vogt said. “I’m looking to throw farther next week. That’s all that has mattered all season long for me. I felt some pressure to return (to state) because there are a lot of good throwers here. I was pretty calm but I was rushing it in the ring, which is why I didn’t throw as far.”
Vogt was hoping to get teammate Trevor Schroeder down to Columbus in the discus this year. That effort fell short as Schroeder finished sixth with a top throw of 145-11. Schroeder will have another chance to lock up a state bid Friday when he competes in the shot put.
Grothaus didn’t have to work very hard to earn his trip to state as he made just two vaults before winning the competition. Grothaus entered the competition at 12-10 and cleared it on his first attempt, then cleared 13-2 to win the event as no one else could clear that height.
“I cleared 12-10 and then I could relax a little bit and get in a couple of more vaults before running the 300 hurdles,” Grothaus said.
After winning the event, Grothaus moved the bar to 14-0 and cleared it on his second attempt. He then cleared 15-0 on one try before trying to set a new regional record at 15-8. Grothaus had the height on each attempt but was unable to successful clear the bar.
“I had the height tonight, but lacked the speed and I was a little winded having to run the hurdles,” he said. “Next week, I will have a little longer break between the hurdles and pole vault and hopefully I can get that height and more.”
Sophomore Brandon Cotrell finished seventh in the pole vault as he cleared 12-10.
Grothaus will have a chance to pick up a second state bid in the 300 hurdles Friday after he qualified seventh in the semifinals running a 41.58.
Derek Rieman advanced in both hurdle events Wednesday as he has the third-best time in the 300 hurdles at 40.61 and he has the second-best time in the 110 hurdles at 15.34.
On the girls side, senior Cassie Stechschulte and sophomore Annie Schramm were looking to lock up state bids but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Stechschulte finished sixth in the high jump as she could only clear 5-0. Schramm finished 14th in the shot put competition.
On the track, Bulldog sophomore Sydney McCluer kept alive her hopes of advancing in four events as she moved on in both hurdle events and both relays she ran.
McCluer ran a 15.93 for the fourth-best time in the 100 hurdles and she has the fifth-best time in the 300 hurdles at 47.17. In between those events, McCluer joined Raiya Flores, Stechschulte and Julia Wynn for the seventh-best time in the 800 Relay in 1:48.33. In the 400 Relay, the foursome of Flores, Wynn, Jessi Smith and McCluer have the fourth-best time at 51.04. Wynn advanced to the finals of the 200 dash with the eighth-best time in 26.65.
The regional finals get underway at 5 p.m. with the remaining field events, while the running finals start at 6 p.m.
The Grove boys lead the team standings after the first day with 31 points as Liberty-Benton is second with 21 points.