COLUMBUS - For West Branch and Minerva, distance is key.
A score of Warriors and Lions competed in -distance events in the Division II state track meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
West Branch brought a trio of runners, including senior Drake Lohnes, who placed sixth in the 3200-meter run in 9 minutes, 36.02 seconds. Defiance senior Abel Flores won the event at 9:29.21.
It was the first time on the podium for Lohnes, who finished 13th last year.
"It was the last run of my career in high school," Lohnes said. "I just wish I could have went with him (Flores) more. Seeing those kids on the podium burns a little bit.
" I picked him out at the beginning of the race to stick with and I did. But in the last lap, he just slipped away. I could have finished the line and died and I wouldn't have cared."
Lohnes was among the leaders after several laps and beat his former personal best by an incredible 11 seconds. Despite the mark-setting performance, he could only watch as the rest of the field raced ahead of him as the laps became fewer.
"When they took off for their final sprint, it just wasn't there," Lohnes said. "I just did not have that kick. That's better than I have ever run, and that's something I just wasn't used to. My body could not have a kick the way I wish it would."
Only four other times have the West Branch boys ever scored at the state meet.
Lohnes also joined seniors Tyler Ware and Jerry Sanor and junior Dustin Greenawalt on the 3200 relay team that finished 15th (8:23.13) on Friday.
West Branch senior Connor Sharp was 16th in the discus (142-2) on Saturday.
West Branch freshman Haley Davis was 12th in the girls 1600 run (5:16.96). Coldwater sophomore Sarah Kenney won in 4:55.26.
"Those girls were just amazing," Davis said. "I just couldn't keep up with them."
Despite failing to take home a medal, Davis accepted the competition as a learning experience, especially since she has just started running track in the past year.
"It was awesome to be here," Davis said. "The whole thing was kind of nerve-wracking, but you just have to calm down and focus. I gave it all I had."
Davis also raced on the girls 1600 relay team with senior Kyla Sharp and juniors Erin Carver and Alexandria Tubbs that finished ninth at 4:03.74. Meadowdale won in 3:51.78.
Minerva senior Kaele Lightfoot placed for the third straight year in the Division III girls 800 run, takings seventh in 2:15.97. Lightfoot, the 2011 state champion, was disappointed with her result as she had stopped competing in other events to focus solely on the 800 for tournaments.
"After 550 meters they started to pull away," Lightfoot said. "My mind wanted to go but my body just didn't respond."
Lightfoot has dealt with extensive injury issues over her senior year, though she remained hesitant to pin them to Saturday's result.
"I had a bladder infection for the week of districts," Lightfoot explained. "My kidneys swelled and I wasn't sleeping too well. I just happened to turn a certain way while I was sleeping and pulled my muscle in my back. It bothered me a little bit this morning, but I'm not going to use it as an excuse. It bothered me last week and I won there."
It was the final race of Lightfoot's career, who will be running track at the University of Cincinnati in the fall.
"I'm not going to beat myself up about this," Lightfoot said. "It's just disappointing because I'm competitive and I like to win. But at the same time, I'm looking for big things to come out of Cincinnati."