Kyle Lach of St. Francis leads the pack in winning the 1600-meter run at the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet. Lach also won the event at the district.
Running for long distances is not for everyone.
Then there are those who seem driven to go the distance.
Maumee's Willy Fink (1600, 3200 meters), Napoleon's Steve Weaver (1600, 3200), Northview's Alison Work (800, 1600) and Wauseon's Taylor Vernot (1600, 3200), just to mention a few, are leaders of the pack in area distance runners.
They will be competing in regional competition this weekend looking to secure a trip to the state track and field championships June 1-2 in Columbus.
Fink, a fourth-place finisher in the 1600 at the D-I state meet a year ago, is considered a favorite set in the 1600 and 3200 at the regional in Amherst. He swept the 1600 and 3200 at the district with times of 4:19.74 and 9:38.36.
Bowsher senior D'Angelo Wilkes-Sharpley and St. Francis junior Dan Lenart were state-qualifiers for the 800 a year ago.
Wilkes-Sharpley's district winning time of 1:55.54 was better than his 10th place finish time of 1:56.52 at state last season. He started the spring slowly, due to an injury.
Wilkes-Sharpley understands he can't afford any missteps at this point in the season.
"I really just want to go out and win," Wilkes-Sharpley said. "But I've got a lot more [pressure] on me this year. I've been looked at this year as the guy to beat and that's tough."
Lenart ran second to Wilkes-Sharpley at the district with a time of 1:56.44. He placed 13th at state a year ago with a 1:56.52.
D'Angelo Wilkes-Sharpley of Bowsher won the 800-meter race at the TRAC championships and the district.
St. Francis sophomore Daniel Siebenaller and junior Kyle Lach each earned a district title after winning the 3200 (9:57.44) and 1600 (4:22.48), respectively.
Running daily alongside Lenart, Siebenaller and David St. John, who was second to Lach in the 1600, has served the Knights distance runners well.
Lach and St. John, a freshman, motivated each other to finish 1-2 at the district.
"We actually planned that out," Lach said.
Work may not have planned to enter the girls regional as a district double-event winner, but she did after crossing the finish line first in the 800 (2:12.59) and 1600 (5:15.54). The senior's meet-record time in the 800 was faster than her finish two years ago when she placed eighth (2:14.86) at state.
Alexandra Aughenbaugh also hopes to qualify for state after winning the 3200 (11:12.91) at district.
In Division II, Weaver -- the defending state champion in the 1600 -- is one of the best distance runners in Ohio in any division.
The senior, a district meet triple-winner at Fostoria -- 800 (1:55.25), 1600 (4:19.22) and 3200 (10:03.40), heads back to the regional in Lexington as a top favorite.
Swanton's Ric Roe is also running with confidence and appears to be peaking at the right time. He broke 10 minutes (9:59.36) to win the 3200 at district at Eastwood, shortly after winning the 1600 with a time of 4:30.33.
Roe is running the best he's ever run in his life. He believes a decision to alter his workout routine this spring from past springs contributed to him winning his first district titles.
Taylor Vernot, a Wauseon freshman, set a meet record at the district in Oak Harbor in the 1600 and also won the 3200.
Ironically, he took a "less is more" approach with becoming an overall better distance runner.
"I've trained differently for this season," Roe said. "I dropped my miles and started running less miles, but more harder miles."
Roe has cut about 40 seconds off his 3200 time compared to last year, and he's erased five seconds off his time in the 1600.
Also, he's adjusted the way he mentally approaches races.
"I've started thinking more in my head to just pace and run harder," Roe said.
Vernot and Wauseon teammate Tessa Herring have had their sights on Columbus since the opening weeks of the season.
Vernot appears to be peaking at the right time in the 1600. The freshman paced her way to a personal-best and meet-record time of 5:10.83 to win at the district in Oak Harbor. She also won the 3200 in 11:31.67.
Vernot has spent hours conditioning and training to give her the strength and stamina to seriously compete in both events.
"I listen to my teammates cheering for me when I'm running and I just try to keep telling myself to keep pushing," Vernot said.
Hessing enters the regional as a frontrunner after turning in a solid time of 2:18.77 to win the 800 at the district.
In Division III, Toledo Christian's Olivia Smith, Delaney Phelps and Krista Wood have experienced a successful run up.
All qualified for at least one individual event for the regional at Tiffin. Smith advanced by finishing first in the 800 (2:18.77). Phelps won a district title with meet-record time of 5:10.18 for the 1600. Wood is looking to make it to state in the 3200 and 1600 after placing first in the 3200 at district (11:33.06) and third in the 1600 (5:17.93).
Contact Donald Emmons at; firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade
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