BEDFORD - When it comes down to the road to the state track meet, experience and leadership are what makes the toughest competitors. That's why we have the seniors.
West Branch's Drake Lohnes and Salem's Ciera Trybend found themselves in familiar positions as they each earned return trips to the state meet after advancing in the Division II Bedford regional finals on Thursday.
Lohnes along with seniors Tyler Ware and Jerry Sanor and junior Dustin Greenawalt led the West Branch 3200-meter relay team to a fourth-place finish in a time of 8 minutes, 6.19 seconds. Lohnes finished 13th in the 3200 run in Columbus last season.
"The coaches expected me to be a leader," Lohnes said. "There's two other seniors on this team, but they were unable to get to states in years past. I've made it here to regionals all four years, so it was kind of my job to get these guys mentally prepared."
The Warriors have been dropping 13 seconds off their district effort and 6 seconds off their previous best.
"I really can't tell you why that is," Lohnes said. "We had a really good week at practice. Our best guys are running two minutes flat for two laps. The seconds we've dropped we're the ones we needed to cut. Down at states, we're going to need a cut a few more seconds to get on the podium."
Trybend returns to Columbus after placing 10th in shot put last year and in record-setting fashion.
She finished second by breaking her school record with a toss of 41-5 1/2, just an inch and a half behind Garrettsville Garfield sophomore Edie Svonavec.
Trybend plans to rely on her experience to move up the leaderboards in her final high school meet next Saturday.
"It's bittersweet," Trybend said. "It's nice to know that I'm going to start up again next year at Youngstown State, but it's upsetting. You grow close to the girls you're throwing against, your teammates and your coaches."
West Branch sophomore Lea Bock fell just short of reaching state. Her toss of 36-1 took fifth place, one spot away from a state berth.
"I didn't do bad, but I would've liked to have done better," Bock said. "I was nervous and I knew I would have to throw my best to make it out, and it just didn't happen. It was a great experience though. There's some very good competition and that gets you ready."
West Branch's girls 1600 relay team of Erin Carver, Alexandria Tubbs, Haley Davis and Kyla Sharp qualified for finals with the sixth-best time of 4:09.15. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's placed first with a time of 4:02.37.
None of the other area girls advanced to Saturday's regional finals.
West Branch's Alexandria Tubbs finished 10th in the 400 dash (61.54), while teammate Emily Thiel was 10th in the 300 hurdles (49.45).
The Salem girls had three relay teams compete Thursday. The Quakers' 3200 relay team was 13th in the finals (10:24.79), while the others did not get out of the preliminaries as the 400 relay was 12th fastest (51.32) and the 800 relay was 14th fastest (1:49.59).