By ANDREW WILLIAMS
The 200 meter dash is not often the most talked about event at a track meet.
It doesn’t have the excitement of the relays or the “wow” factor of the pole vault. It’s what could be called a “tweener” distance, falling between the always-hyped 100 and the rugged test of the 400.
And while it may not have the allure and flair of its short-distance counterparts, there are occasions when the 200 brings together the best competitors in both events to provide a truly exciting 23-second show.
One of those rare occasions will occur today during the running finals of the Division III district meet at Liberty-Benton.
In a loaded field of competitors, six of the eight athletes running in the 200 final are area standouts. But only four will advance to next week’s regional meet at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
“It’s so strong of a field,” Bluffton senior Isaac Little said of the 200. “I think it’ll be good though because everybody’s going to be running fast so everyone’s going to have someone to chase. It’s going to be definitely a real tight field in finals.”
Little, the Northwest Conference champion in the 100 and 200, ran a 22.77-second race to post the fastest preliminary time Thursday and edge teammate Noah Stratton’s mark of 22.81.
Stratton placed seventh in the 400 at last year’s state meet and finished 0.02 seconds behind Little at last week’s NWC championships to take second in the 200.
Ada’s Matthew Wilcox recorded the third-fastest time in 22.85. The senior was a state-qualifier in the 400 a year ago and will also race in the finals of the 100 and 400 today.
Cory-Rawson’s Mason Warnimont qualified with a time of 22.91 and Columbus Grove sophomore Baily Clement earned a spot in the finals with a mark of 23.17. Warnimont, who is the Blanchard Valley Conference champion in the 100 and posted the fastest preliminary time in the 100 Thursday, will seek redemption today after false starting in his preliminary heat of the 200 at last week’s BVC meet.
Waynesfield-Goshen’s Luke Hall (23.40) and Upper Scioto Valley freshman Austin Sloan (23.43) notched the sixth and seventh fastest preliminary times, respectively.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence to demonstrate the depth of the 200 field, though, is that Liberty-Benton senior Chase Cook finished with the eighth-best time (23.48) to grab the last spot in the finals.
Cook, who has been slowed this season by a hamstring injury and who will run at the University of Akron, placed in four events at last year’s state championships, including taking sixth in the 100 and fourth in the 200.
“I feel like I’m a freshman again because all these times are so fast,” Cook said with a smile. “The 200 is really deep this year. I did so well last year in the 200 and I come out this year and all these guys are running faster than me.”
It isn’t just that the older guys have gotten faster either. In addition to the four seniors in the finals, there is one junior, one sophomore and two freshman.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” Clement said of advancing to regionals. “I’ve beat some of the kids before, other times they’ve beat me. I’m going to have to run a good time.
“It helps a lot because I still have two more years. Next year a lot of those guys are going to be graduated, I’ll have a good chance to get out.”
Another one of the area’s up-and-coming speedsters is Warnimont. The freshman isn’t backing down from the stiff competition presented by the established runners he’ll be up against in today’s final. He said those guys are only making him better.
“There’s a lot of competition here. I’ve raced them all at different times,” Warnimont said. “Having that competition makes me want to work. It makes me want to stay in track and be at the top. Beating seniors and upperclassmen is a good feeling and knowing that there’s someone there to push me is good.”
To put into perspective how strong the 200 field is at the Liberty-Benton district, of the 32 runners who qualified for the finals in the 200 across the four Division-III district sites that feed into the Tiffin regional, just six recorded a time of less than 23 seconds. Four of those times belonged to runners at the Liberty-Benton site.
The average time of the eight finalists at L-B was 23.102 seconds, compared to Fremont (23.443), Ayersville (23.653) and Bucyrus (23.925). The difference between the top time at L-B (22.77) and the final qualifying time (23.48) was 0.71 seconds. Bucyrus checked in with a difference of 1.0 second, Fremont was 1.14 seconds and Ayersville 1.47.
“It’s great competition, even just for a district,” Cook said. “We usually have one of the top districts in the state and then usually the best regional in the state so it’s always good.”
While the competition is stiff, most of the runners admit they enjoy how hard they have to train knowing who they will likely have to beat to advance deeper into postseason action. Since most of them are area guys, they have gotten used to running against each other over the years and noted that they all make each other better.
“There’s a lot of great guys in the 200,” Stratton said. “I know a lot of them too, they’re great guys, fun guys to race against. Knowing that these guys are right down the road pushing as hard as you are, you just have to have that in the back of your mind at practice when you’re training. You need to work as hard as you can in practice just to prepare yourself for the meets.”
Said Wilcox: “We had a really strong field last week at the conference meet. I ran against Noah and Isaac again and a few of those guys. It’s awesome because I’ve seen them all year and all they do every week is just prepare me for the next level. Being exposed to them all year really does help in the long run.”
Based on the preliminary times, it appears that a sub-23-second race will be necessary to advance to the regional meet.
Two hundred meters is approximately 218.7 yards, or 656.2 feet. To run that distance in 23 seconds, competitors will have to travel more than 9.5 yards, or 28.5 feet, per second. That roughly translates to 19.4 miles per hour.
Whoever can eclipse those numbers will likely punch a ticket to at least one more week of competition. Don’t blink, though. The boys 200 final might just be the most exciting 23 seconds of the afternoon.
“The 200’s just an all-out sprint,” Stratton said. “You’ve just got to run as hard as you can.”
By ANDREW WILLIAMS