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Golden Eagles impressive in Oak Hill Relays win

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FLYING FINISH: Oak Hill's Sammy Sommers strides his way to finish the Golden Eagles win in the sprint medley relay Saturday in the Oak Hill Relays.
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OFF AND AWAY: Oak Hill's Brittany McCorkle is off and running after receiving the baton from Elizabeth McDivitt in the sprint medley relay race during the Oak Hill Relays.
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EXCHANGE: Oak Hill's Mollie Gamble gives the baton to Dillon Mitchell in the 4x800 relay race during the Oak Hill Relays on Saturday.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

CONVERSE — As relay track meets go, the Oak Hill Relays owns one of the most unique formats.

The annual event includes specialties of distance and sprint medley relay races along with a shuttle hurdle race that features runners going in two directions at once, but the meet is co-ed, boys and girls competing together in the same races and field events in pursuit of one team title. 

"It breaks up the norm of what you have at some of these events," said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner. "We're going to (Indianapolis) Southport next weekend and going to be your more traditional boys with boys, girls with girls, two different team champions.

"We've always liked to have this event where its combined and the kids take pride in running together and winning together," he continued. "You have to remind them the morning of that this isn't just about you, you can win your individual event, but you get nothing for it unless the other three people pull their weight. Just a different atmosphere, a a different motivation and it's a nice thing to have this time of year especially on a good weather day to compete at a high level."

And the Eagles did compete at a high level, winning the event with 154 points. Bellmont kept things interesting most of the day and finished runner-up with 129 in the 12-team event. LaVille (75), Delta (71) and Culver Academy (61) rounded out the top-five.

In each individual event, all the teams entered two boys and two girls, and the combined times or distances of the four determined the event winner. Three relays (4x100, 4x800 and 4x1,600) featured an upperclass (seniors and juniors) race along with an underclass race. Two boys, two girls, one winner. 

In all, 18 events were contested, Oak Hill won 10, finished second in five more and scored points in every one. 

Senior Sammy Sommers was part of four first places finishes and earned the boys MVP. Junior Mollie Gamble was in three winning events, turning a significant deficit into a lead for the Golden Eagles when she took the baton in the 4x800 and 4x,1600 races, and was named girls' MVP. 

"She was behind in both of those events when she got it, we kind of look at her and say you're Mollie Gamble," Brunner said, of his 2018 cross country state medalist. "In a meet like this when you get the baton people should take notice and you should - not that your teammates aren't capable - but you should be the difference, the person that takes control of the event. She was able to do that today in a couple of relays after a two mile she ran basically by herself."

Gamble teammed with Grace Geller, Dillon Mitchell and Macallister Cheek in the 4x1,600 (21:18) and with Dodson, Mitchell and Colin Harts in the 4x800 (9:25) upperclass race. Gamble won the girls 3,200 (11:56) and was one of three individual event winners. Cheek won the boys 3,200 (10:25) to edge teammate Sol O'Blenis (10:29). Kinzie Robey (12:38) filled out the quartet and registered the event's fastest total time. 

"I know she wasn't happy with her two mile but she came back and ran a really good leg in the 4x8 to help us win it then when she got that baton in the 4xmile we were behind probably 10 seconds," Brunner said of Gamble. "She made that up for us going away in one lap then ran away from the field to get her third win of the meet. She's going to have to be that front runner and do it in multiple events when we get to bigger meets and its kind of that next step for her."

 

Gavin Holz won the pole vault and stopped at 12 feet (two feet more than 2nd) because he had the event won.

Sommers continued his impressive spring season by helping Oak Hill win the combined long jump, finishing third with a leap of 22-feet, 5.25-inches, and the 300 hurdles, where he second in 40.9 seconds.    

Sommers, Tahj Johnson, Zoe Revennaugh, Lexi Grumpp were the long jump winners while Gabe Overmyer, Carlee Biddle and Dodson (51.5, 2nd individual) won the 300 hurdles.

Taylor King, Biddle, Overmyer and Sommers won the Shuttle Hurdles (1:10) and Sommers anchored the winning SMR (1:41) team of Mason McKinney, Elizabeth McDivitt and Brittany McCorkle.

"Sammy was victorious in all four events he was in, Mollie had three firsts, Ireland Dodson was also part of four first place winning groups and Tahj was part of three so we ended up having pretty good all around," Brunner said. "At the worst we were fourth in an event and didn't have two of our better athletes in Caiden Lake (taking a college visit) and Adrianna Trexler (basketball all-star game) even at the meet.

"Sammy wasn't feeling well woke up with fever but he pushed through, " he added. "With what him and Tahj did (Friday) night, Tahj ended up breaking 50 seconds three times (in less than 24 hours). A pretty good weekend overall."

Sommers and Johnson traveled to Lafayette Jeff on Friday evening to compete in a sprinter's showcase and both excelled. Sommers finished third in the 110 high hurdles while Johnson, a junior that was runner-up in the state 400 meters last season, won the showcase 400 in 49.2 seconds running into a stiff head wind over the closing 100. 

"Sammy has gotten bigger and stronger and Tahj is kind of in the same boat. They're not necessarily grown me yet but they're getting there," Brunner said. "Sammy's confidence right now and his drive in the hurdles is at a whole different level than what it has been in the past.

"In those conditions, there was nowhere easy to run at all, and it kind of took your breath away too when you hit it," Brunner said describing the wind on Friday . "It boosts confidence when you can run that fast knowing that wind was a major contributor. Then turn around to just help the team out and drop two 49.1 in relays, it shows the athlete (Johnson) is, the competitor he is and the level that he's at."

 

Other winners for Oak Hill on Saturday included: the 4x400 upperclassmen  team of Luke Vanbibber, McCorkle, Dodson and Johnson (3:56); the 4x800 underclass team of Jacob Winger, Selah Jackson, Robey and O'Blenis in 9:26; and the 4x500 middle distance team of Revennaugh, Jacob Winger, Johnson and Jackson in 5:26.

"When we're doing workouts and practicing, the hurdlers are all together, the distance group all together and throwers are all together," Brunner said of his boys and girls teams. "We don't have the opportunity to separate a whole lot. That's an advanatage for us maybe some other programs don't have. A day like today where they're combined, more so in the relays than the individual events, it breeds a little more team camaraderie. 

"Overall it was a total team effort and that's what you want in a meet like that," he added. "If we weren't getting first we were getting second and getting a lot of medals. Kids were competing together and won as a team so it was nice."