United arrives just in time for the podium

COLUMBUS – In what turned out to be a strange day at the state track and field meet, United had to race just to make to the race on time.

The 3200-meter relay team became the first United girls relay team to stand on the podium, while the United boys in two events in the Division III state meet Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The 3200 relay team of seniors Emily Guappone and Chloe Bortmas, junior Allison Parks and sophomore Maggie Briceland finished fourth with a time of 9 minutes, 41.13 seconds – the second best in school history. The Eagles finished just four-hundredths of a second behind third-place Liberty Center. Russia won in 9:36.12.

Despite the stellar finish, United barely made the start of the race. The relay team was racing across the infield as the other teams took their positions, apparently forgetting when their race started.

“We almost missed it,” Guappone said. “It was scary, but it didn’t give us time to get nervous. We went out there and we just had to run.”

Unlike most track meets that give calls for events, the state meet is run on a time schedule. With the girls 3200 relay being the first event of the day at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the Eagles didn’t realize the meet was close to starting until the other teams began lining up.

Though this mistake was ultimately a harmless one, it harkened back to last year’s state meet, where Guappone slipped at the start of the 3200 relay and the Eagles finished 12th.

“We were here to prove that we could do what we had to do,” Guappone said. “We ran amazing.”

Guappone, Parks and Briceland ran on the relay team last year. Bortmas, a converted sprinter, ran on the relay team for just the third time.

“I came in 2011 as an alternate,” Bortmas said. “It just served as a drive to come back and run with them.”

United sophomore Riley Fillman advanced to Saturday’s finals in the 300-meter hurdles as well as the 400 relay along with Alex Phillips, A.J. Bokanovich and Michael Martin.

United’s relay team was fourth in its heat and eighth overall in 44.28 seconds. Lima Central Catholic posted the top time (43.23).

The top two in each heat plus the next five fastest times advance to the finals.

“Today we ran a lot slower than we usually do,” Martin said. “I think we were kind of nervous.”

It was the first trip to Columbus for the entire relay team, and after advancing to the finals, they consider it a success.

“It’s amazing,” Bokanovich said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is what we worked all season for.”

United continues its quest to best the 1990 state runner-up time of 43.27. The current squad’s best of 43.75 was achieved at Navarre regional semifinals.

“It’s all about going out there and running our best,” Martin said. “We’re trying to get the record for our school. We’re not too far off of it. Hopefully we can beat the record, but our main goal is get on the podium.”

Fillman also competed in the 300 hurdles and long jump on Friday.

He was second in his heat and fourth overall in the hurdles (39.31) Warren JFK’s Chad Zallow has the top time (38.09).

“I’ve got to push myself,” Fillman said. “I’m hoping to get down in the 38s.”

The long jump, however, was a different story. After placing first at Navarre regionals with a jump of 21-feet- 11 1/2, Fillman fouled on each of his three jumps Friday. His Navarre jump would have been good for fourth place at Columbus.

“Today had its ups and downs,” Fillman said.

United will compete in three events this morning when Parks runs in the girls 1600 final, while Fillman goes in the 300 hurdles along with the 400 relay.