COLUMBUS — Whether it’s academically or athletically, Otsego senior Cole Gorski is No. 1.
On May 25, Gorski gave a speech at Otsego’s commencement ceremonies as the valedictorian of his class with a 4.21 grade-point average.
On Friday at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, he became the Knights’ first state track and field champion in more than 20 years by clearing a personal-record of 16 feet, 2 inches in the Division II boys pole vault.
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“It was just a great competition,” said Gorski, who will pole vault at OSU next year. “There were three guys jumping at 15-10, so the adrenaline was pumping. It was a good time. I just jumped well today.
“I’ve psyched myself out before in big meets like this, but every time I started to psych myself out today, I just thought about my form, and what I needed to do and not do. That kept my head straight.”
For good measure, with the pressure of the pole vault competition out of his way, Gorski also managed to qualify for today’s 100 and 200-meter dash finals, running the eighth-best time (10.94 seconds) in the 100 and the third best (21.76) in the 200.
“Making the finals in the 100 and 200 is pretty awesome, and winning the pole vault is the cherry on top,” Gorski said. “I definitely think winning the pole vault before I ran took some stress off. It’s a relief winning.
“But I still want to come out [today] and do well in the 100 and 200, and represent Otsego and our community in front of my coaches, family, and friends.”
On Gorski’s mind throughout the day was his former pole vault coach, Tim Downey, who died two years ago after a battle with brain cancer. Gorski keeps Downey’s photo in his wallet, and the coach’s influence close to his heart.
Delta junior Tyler Fraker cleared 14-10 in the pole vault to join Gorski on the medals podium in fifth place.
Another Division II state champion was Genoa senior Logan Bryer, who battled the recent effects of strep throat to emerge as the shot put champion.
Bryer’s winning effort went 55 feet, 8 inches.
“Just making it here, to me, was a good goal,” said Bryer, who will throw at the University of Kentucky next year. “But, obviously, I wanted to win. I didn’t have the best performance I wanted, but winning today and battling through everything I did this week made me a state champion.
“It feels great. All the hard work and not playing football my senior year made it all worth it.”
Other D-II placers Friday included the Eastwood boys 3200 relay team, which ran a time of 7 minutes, 55.79 seconds to place second; and Eagles junior Devin Snowden, who placed fourth in the long jump at 21-8½.
“It felt good,” Snowden said of his long jump effort. “It was my third year trying. I made it here my freshman year, and last year I missed. I was fifth at regionals. But it feels good to get back here and make it up on the [medals] podium.
“My first jump was my best one. I was consistent after that but never any better. It means a lot to me. A lot of great people have stood up on that podium.”
Snowden also qualified seventh for the finals in the 300 hurdles (39.39) and ran the anchor leg on Eastwood’s 1600 relay team, which qualified third (3:21.84).
Eastwood’s runner-up 3200 relay team included senior Gabe Fredericks, juniors Noah Smith and anchor Tim Hoodlebrink, and freshman Logan Baugher.
“Starting off the first leg [Fredericks] didn’t do as good as he wanted to, and when he handed off we were in like seventh place,” Hoodlebrink said. “But we just kept on moving, and by the time Noah Smith gave it to me, we were in second.
“The only thing I could think of was trying to catch the first guy. I knew as long as I stuck close to him, we would finish in second place. I don’t know if I made up any ground, but I just ran as fast as I could.”
Joining Snowden on the 1600 relay were Hoodlebrink, senior Joe Salinas, and junior Brennan Seifert.
In the girls Division II competition, the only field-event placer was Eastwood senior Brittany Brittian, who took eighth in the discus with a throw of 121-9.
Four other individuals and three relay teams also placed among the top eight in Friday’s preliminaries to reach today’s finals.
Liberty-Benton sophomore Michaela Butler ran first in both the 100 (12.01) and 200-meter dash (25.05). Butler was a state champion in the 200 last year and took second in the 100.
The sprinter also helped the Eagles’ 400 relay team qualify in fifth place in 49.89 seconds. She was joined by seniors Katie Hyre and Megan Peplinski, and sophomore Kelsey May.
“In the 100, I was fresh, and I felt really good because I was prepared and warmed up really well so I was loose,” Butler said. “I ran really well and was able to ease up a little bit at the end. In the 200, I was a little bit tighter because I ran the [400 relay] with our team.
“I don’t consider myself a veteran yet, but I think I know what I’m capable of doing. I’m confident I will give it everything I have.”
In the 400, Rossford freshman Regan Clay qualified sixth in 56.73 seconds, and Wauseon sophomore Seneca Wyse was eighth in 57.31.
The other individual qualifier was Napoleon sophomore Peyton Lee, who was third in the 100 hurdles in 15.01 seconds.
Oak Harbor will send its 800 relay and 1600 relay teams to today’s finals.
The Rockets’ 800 team of juniors Allie Jett, Rebekah Rayburn, and Karis DeWalt along with sophomore Athena Eli, qualified seventh in 1:44.39.
The Oak Harbor 1600 team, which was sixth at 4:01.92, included Jett, DeWalt, Eli, and senior Cydney St. Clair.