Bates Wins Lone Solo Geauga State Title in Track
June 9, 2022 by Rich Kelly

It happens every spring in Ohio's high school track season: if things are running anywhere close to normal, which has not been the case the past two seasons, huge crowds gather at Jesse Owens Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University to celebrate student-athletes' dreams as they compete to be the best in their events in the state.

It happens every spring in Ohio’s high school track season: if things are running anywhere close to normal, which has not been the case the past two seasons, huge crowds gather at Jesse Owens Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University to celebrate student-athletes’ dreams as they compete to be the best in their events in the state.

Athletes in all three Ohio divisions culminate their efforts in this event. Records are set, personal bests are achieved against top competition, and it’s hard for athletes not to have a lot of fun.

Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Lion runner Brian Bates paced some serious events for Maple Leaf readership this year to become the only first-place title winner from our county. But all area athletes put on winning performances, even if they didn’t come home with a state title.

Bates ran a spectacular race in winning the 800 meter run for the Lions in Division II. The junior ran in the middle of the pack for much of the first lap. Then, on the home stretch of that first lap, he moved to the outside and began passing those ahead of him. That put him into position for a dominating effort on the last lap that expanded his lead, and he finished ahead of everyone else on a hot and humid day that didn’t start out that way.

Bates’ winning time of 1:53.49 was a personal best, and the energy that comes from winning such a prestigious race was not lost on him as he awaited his position at the top of the medal podium on the stadium’s infield.

His effort, especially when he made his big move to get near the leaders on that first lap, was like watching a horse in the recent Kentucky Derby split open the area between runners, move to the outside, then claim the lead for good.

“I knew this was going to be some great competition coming in,” Bates said. “Finally, on the end of that first lap, I just decided to make my move and see what happens. I got an opening in the middle of the pack and went after it, and I was able to get outside cleanly and get the lead. These are some great runners, so I just knew I had to put my best effort into it all the way, and it really feels great to be state champ. I’ve thought about it before, but wasn’t sure I could do it. Now I did, and it is such a blessing for me.”

Among the other Lions athletes who also qualified for state, Tim Herczog made it into the 400 meter dash, as did the NDCL 4×400 relay team on the boys side. The team could only finish in ninth place, but considering the competition, that is still a lot to be proud of.

Chardon had some athletes competing in the Division I efforts that ended the day. Karl Dietz had a fine meet in the 400 meter dash. The talented sophomore’s time of 48.62 put him firmly in third place as he earned a place on the podium.

Hilltopper Caden Dawson, a senior, capped a great season by qualifying in the 300 meter hurdles. He ended up in position 16 with a time of 40.18.

Chardon had senior Luke Danison running the 3200 for the boys, and sophomore Rae Kawalec did likewise for the ladies. Neither challenged seriously for the lead in their events, but as conditions grew hotter late in the day, it was obvious that everyone was having issues dealing with the heat. Danison finished in 17th place with a time of 9:34.06. After about 10 minutes of just relaxing and rehydrating with some cool water, he was able to smile and assess what he had just accomplished.

“This was really a tough race for me,” he said. “I was able to stay pretty close on the first couple of laps, but it was just so hot I had some problems as I went along. That said, it’s a great honor to be able to run at this level, so I can use this as a stepping stone for college next fall. I will be going to Stetson University. They don’t really have a track team, just cross county, but sometimes they send runners to track meets just to compete, so I’m really looking forward to moving on.”

Kawalec, very much like Danison, was totally gassed at the end of her race. Finishing number 16, her time of 11:50.3 was a lesson in hard work. She didn’t have much energy to take the lead, nor to challenge for it, as the top runners got beyond the heat early and finished strong to earn state honors. Kawalec is still learning what it takes to run long distances, so the next two seasons will be hers for the taking.

“Our team is really pretty young,” she said between sips of cool water. “It’s really good to be able to run in so many meets like I have. I’m still learning what it takes, so I’m just trying my best. Coaches are helping me more, and it’s a great honor to be able to run at this level.”

In Division III, Cardinal senior Kralyn Rutkowski was the only local competitor. Her efforts in the high jump set her up well for a podium appearance. She ended up in the five spot with a jump of 5-2.

Hawken’s athletes were not at Jesse Owens Stadium in great numbers, but those who were there left a lasting impression on many fronts. The relay team in the 4×100 race topped the field in prelims, and improved on its time by a third of a second to take the state title with a time of 41.66. Juniors Dominic Johnson and Christian Anderson combined with seniors Andrew Bukovnik and Jordan Harrison to apply pressure from the first shot to the final leap.

Harrison was superb in finishing second in the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.70, and he added to his resume with a fourth-place finish in the 200 with a 21.79 effort. He was pushed by teammate Christian Anderson, a junior who pushed himself to the maximum but fell just short of making the finals in both short sprints, who ran a 10.86 in the 100 and 22.63 in the 200.

Harrison’s assessment of how it all happened was clear.

“We just ran out best today against some really fast people,” he smiled while waiting in the tent for awards to be issued. “We ran hard, our handoffs were really solid, and hard work really paid off.”

Hawken sophomore Nick Garcia-Whitko got a taste of his first state competition with an 11th-place finish in the boys 1600.

Hawken girls also made their presence felt, especially Makayla White, who finished her high school career on a high note.

“I’m really happy to be here with these great runners and athletes,” she said as she caught her breath. “It’s hard to imagine, before getting here, about how great all the people are who get here.”

White claimed third-place finishes in the 100 and 200 meter dashes to establish herself as one of the top athletes in the meet. She ran a 12.05 in the 100 and 24.89 in the 200 to reach podium ceremonies.

Leila Metres, a sophomore runner in middle distance events, got a huge dose of what may happen in her future with a 57.27 effort in the 400 meter run, good for fifth place and a place on the podium.

Chagrin Falls also had some success in the running events. The Tigers team of Bella Rodomsky, a freshman, along with seniors Claire Coffey, Azzura Opperman and Rose Hoelzel, came in third with a solid effort of 9:23.36. Hoelzel solidified her career in both middle and long distance running with a ninth-place effort in the 1600 meter run in a time of 5:03.98.