PICKERINGTON — For area athletes who have been fortunate enough to make it to the regional meet, the competition gets tougher and tougher. The one foe most participants don’t count on is Mother Nature.
Gusty winds and threatening skies teased and tormented the athletes from Mount Vernon and other schools all through the Division I, Region 3 Championships at Pickerington North High School on Wednesday.
“The wind took everything today,” said boys discus finals winner Lucas Ferguson of Mount Vernon, who threw 172 feet 4 inches. “It wasn’t really a very good day. My throws felt decent coming off, but then they flopped over, every single time. [The wind] got most people. Some people got a good release off once or twice, which kind of gave them a good throw, but even those could have been better.”
Ferguson compensated for the relentless wind by changing the point of release.
“I got a little lower on one of my throws,” he explained.
For Ferguson, the first-place finish is one more step toward his goal of state champion in the discus.
“I’ve just got to work a lot on releases all next week, but it should go pretty good,” said Ferguson. “I got third [at state] last year, so I just plan on winning it this year.”
Ferguson’s 10 points puts the Yellow Jackets tied for fourth in the boys team standings after Day 1.
For Mount Vernon’s Jhazmyn Anderson, the variable, gusty winds must have made it seem like her 400-meter preliminary (58.51) run was uphill all the way.
“It was a lot more tiring than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “There was a little bit of a head wind on the backstretch. It didn’t help my time too much. At least, I got in the top four, so I get to run on Friday in the finals. My legs are dead.”
With the runners listlessly coming off the final turn, it was apparent the winds were not playing favorites.
“We were all tired,” said Anderson, adding, “I also think that we are just getting tired toward the end of the season.”
For some, the wind was less of a problem and more of an annoyance.
“The wind on the backstretch was pretty fierce,” said Mount Vernon’s Thoren Lindsey, after setting the Jackets’ 400-meter dash school record with a run of 49.97 in the preliminary round. “Coach has been working us pretty hard the past couple of weeks. It’s my second time coming to regionals, and my first time coming in a single event. Last year, we made it in the 4x400 and ended up going to state. This year, hopefully, I can do the same thing in the 400. I’m shooting for a 48, hopefully, on Friday. If I do that, it should solidify [my chances] going to state.”
If anything is tougher than the 400 in windy conditions, it may be what Danae Rockwell faced in the 300-meter hurdles preliminary.
“The winds hit me in the face, coming around the corner,” said Rockwell. “I really wasn’t ready for it. I really pushed the first 150, so I had nothing left. You really tighten up because you use a lot of muscles to get over the hurdles. The strongest girls [are in front] when they clear the last ones out there.”
Rockwell turned in a time of 47.87 seconds in the 300 hurdles. Fortunately for Rockwell, she made Friday’s finals in the 100-meter hurdles with time of 15.32 seconds.
“It’s been really cool,” she said. “I’ve got four events, so I’ve been trying to carry on like the younger classmen, so there’s a lot of pressure. It’s my senior year, so I want to do the best I can.”
Rockwell was also part of the Yellow Jackets’ ninth-place 4x100 team. She, along with teammates Courtney Burke, Katie Curry and Heather Wantland, turned in a time of 50.74 in the preliminary round.
“There’s a lot of tough competition here,” said Wantland. “We’ve been really prepared and we have some really strong teams and we’re really young. If we can keep on moving up, then, by our senior year, we should be pretty good.”
Wantland, a sophomore, is delighted with her team’s showing.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Wantland. “It was kind of thrown together at the last minute, but it was pretty exciting to get here. We were hoping to make it this far.”
In the 4x400 relay, the Jackets were 11th in the preliminaries with Anderson, Curry, Devlin and Rockwell completing the run in 4:07.61. In the 4x800 meters, Mount Vernon’s team of Sarah Baker, Zoe Leonard, Celia Leonard and Esther Nzishura finished ninth in the finals with a time of 9:57.
In the high jump finals, Jessica Roden of Mount Vernon was ninth, clearing 5 feet.