BEDFORD-Salem senior Paul Matak had not run in the 1600-meter relay for two years.
But in the biggest race of the season, when his team needed him the most, Matak was inserted onto the team and helped the Quakers to a fourth-place finish at Saturday's Bedford Division II regional and a trip to the state track meet in Columbus next weekend.
"It's such a great feeling to be able to come right in and help out like I did," Matak said. "I went to state when I was a freshman as an alternate, but I'm sure it will be a totally different experience this time around."
Matak was added to the team of seniors Ryan Bush and Blake Veglia and junior Daniel Rumsey to cover for the absence of sophomore Cameron Turney.
The Quakers, who qualified eighth, shaved nearly 4 seconds off their preliminary time to come in at 3 minutes, 27.42 seconds - the best time by a Columbiana County team this year.
"This race was so much fun," Bush said. "After qualifying the way we did, we didn't know what to expect. We just wanted to come out and be as aggressive as possible early in the race. It feels great to know I'll be able to run with these guys one more time."
Bush is the only returning member from last year's 1600 team that also advanced to state.
"I've been telling the other guys how great of an experience Columbus is," Bush said. "You go down there and everyone treats you like they already know you. The feeling of having thousands of people in the stands is incredible. I'm glad I'll be able to experience that with my teammates."
The relay success was hardly the only highlight for Salem. Anthony Shivers added to his dominating discus performance on Thursday with a first-place finish in the shot put. The senior's winning throw of 52-feet-10 came on his final attempt and was enough to edge out West Branch junior Andrew Filp. It will be the first state shot put berth for Shivers.
"Coming into the year, this was an event that my coach and I thought I had a good chance in," Shivers said. "It's nice to add this to the discus. Today I was able to finish strong, hopefully I can carry that over to next week and have a good finish."
Senior Ciera Trybend also had a good day, adding a second place finish in the discus to go with her second place in the shot put on Thursday.
It will be Trybend's first time advancing to state in the discus, after a sixth place finish in last year's regional. Trybend's throw of 134-5 outdistanced the third-place finisher by 19 feet.
"Nobody was really throwing past 130, so I knew I was pretty safe," Trybend said. It feels great to have two chances next week, I thought I had a good chance coming into the year, and I kept practicing hard. I was very confident coming into today."
Also punching a ticket to Columbus was Salem senior Zack Wukotich, who will be making his first trip after finishing second in the high jump (6-feet-6) .
"I came in expecting to finish fourth and surprised myself a little bit," Wukotich said. "It's a huge relief to have made it in my last try."
Wukotich will continue his career next season when he will jump for Mount Union and hopes the experience next week will serve as a positive springboard.
"I'm just going to go down there and try to soak everything up and enjoy being down there with my teammates," Wukotich said. "I think it will be a great experience as I get ready for college."
Also for Salem, Caleb Quinn finished sixth in the boys 110 hurdles (15.48) and Mallory Maher was seventh in the girls 3200 run (12:26.85).