United brings home medals

COLUMBUS – For United, there were awards all around.

The Golden Eagles left the Division III state track meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Saturday in tremendous fashion, with all eight competitors receiving at least one medal.

Junior Allison Parks got another one by placing fifth in the girls 1600-meter run, while boys 400 relay team of freshman Alex Phillips, senior A.J. Bokanovich, junior Michael Martin and sophomore Riley Fillman took seventh place.

Parks raced to a school-record 5 minutes, 5.19 seconds in her third straight state finals. Hawken’s Alexandra Markovich took first place at 4:57.88.

It was the second medal of the the weekend for Parks as she joined seniors Emily Guappone and Chloe Bortmas and sophomore Maggie Briceland on the 3200 relay team that placed fourth on Friday

“Whenever I get that lane three,” Parks said. “I almost always get boxed in. I was trying to stay with the lead, but they were very good. They are great pace setters. I just had to work my around while not tripping up anybody.”

Parks reached the podium for the first time in 2012, when she placed seventh in the 1600 with a time of 5:08.83. She managed to climb her way up the podium this year.

“It feels pretty good,” Parks said. “I like that I’m going up instead of down. I must be doing something right. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens next year.”

The boys 400 relay team went under 44 seconds for the third time in the last two weeks at 43.92 seconds. Lima Central Catholic won the relay at 42.71.

“Our time has gotten better and better all year,” Bokanovich said. “All of us were confident by the time we got down here. We worked so hard for this.”

United was attempting to break its school record time of 43.27 set by the 1990 state runner-up squad. That was United’s only relay team to place at state before two did this weekend.

The current Eagles reached a team-best 43.75 at the Navarre regionals. While the Eagles weren’t able to top that, the day was still considered a success.

“That’s the only disappointment,” Bokanovich said. “Just to make it to states is a big thing for all of us.”

Fillman also competed in the 300 hurdles and took a tumble – literally. At the halfway point in the race, Fillman fell while attempting a hurdle, causing him to finish ninth at 44.70. The incident concluded a rough weekend for Fillman, who also fouled out of the long jump on Friday.

Still, he was among the eight Eagles who received medals at the state meet.

Even United girls coach Nancy Miller didn’t leave Columbus empty-handed, as she received a career achievement award.

“We had a great weekend,” Miller said. “I think our kids really invest ourselves in the track program. They enjoy track as a sport. Once you’re successful, it breeds success and more kids want to come out and run.”

Miller has coached 27 years in track, including the last 16 at United. She has led the United girls to six county titles. The award, part of the Ohio High School Athletics Association’s “Respect the Game,” is an annual award given out to a coach who has shown a diligent past of sportsmanship and integrity over the course of her career.

“Track is a different animal,” Miller said. “It’s an event where they perform by the clock. It really isn’t anything about coaches, subjectives or choice. It’s very fair. It makes it an easy sport to coach.”