Robbins has high hopes

COLUMBUS – West Branch high jumper Zach Robbins battled Salem’s Zack Wukotich throughout the 2013 track season. When he watched Wukotich finish second at the state track meet, Robbins thought he could do it after Wukotich graduated.

“That kind of egged me on to take his spot,” Robbins said.

Robbins did on Saturday as he was the state runner-up in the Division II high jump by clearing a personal-best 6-foot-9 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

“They had a nice little friendly rivalry,” West Branch boys coach Tracy Orwick said. “And he did with Louisville this year. That helps. It lights a fire.”

“That’s why we try to bring as many kids with us as alternates,” Salem boys coach Todd Huda said. “It give them a taste of what it is like. Maybe they’ll work harder to get here next year.”

Robbins improved by 7 inches this year after going 6-3 as a sophomore and 5-10 as a freshman.

“He’s one of a kind,” said junior teammate Jake Zinni, who finished fifth in the discus Saturday. “It’s insane how much lift he has and how much he has improved.”

“I didn’t expect to go that much higher in one year,” Robbins said.

Robbins nearly cleared 6-10 as he finished second to Columbus Linden McKinley sophomore Jeffery Floyd.

“He’s one of those kids who handles competition well,” Orwick said. “He doesn’t get rattled by it.”

Now Wukotich is a nationally-ranked high jumper for Mount Union, which won the NCAA Division III championship last month. And Robbins is one of the the top high jumpers in the state as a junior. Only Floyd and Division I state champion Emmuel Durden of Holland Springfield jumped higher than him at the state meet.

Robbins said he saw Wukotich at two of West Branch’s meets at Reilly Stadium this season.

“He gave me a couple of pointers and told me, “Good job,'” Robbins said.

He’ll give him another ‘Good job’ the next time the two meet.

Parks side

United senior Allison Parks gave it everything she had in her fourth and final state track meet Saturday.

She broke her school record in placing eighth in the Division II 1600-meter run (5:03.35) as five runners broke 4 minutes, 56 seconds. She didn’t have anything left for the 800 meters as she finished 16th (2:34.78).

“I heard some funny comments in the crowd (during the 800),” Parks said. “They weren’t nice. ‘Come on United. How did you get here?”

They weren’t deserved. She ranks as United’s top runner ever, setting five school records while winning 13 Columbiana County titles and 13 Inter-Tri County League titles.

She is the first United athlete to score at state three straight years and her four medals are the most in school history. Don’t forget two podium finishes at the state cross country meet.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to my coach (Nancy Miller) and dad (Rodney Parks),” she said. “They deserve it for what they put up with me.”

State notes

The high places by Robbins and Zinni gave the West Branch boys their best finish ever in the state team standings.

The Warriors tied Chagrin Falls for 17th place with 12 points.

“Two of our field events placed,” Orwick said. “It’s nice to be able to take a breath.”

West Branch junior Josiah Ross also raced at state in the 300-meter hurdles on Friday.

“I think we’ll see all three here next year,” Orwick said.

The Salem boys and United girls have the area’s longest winning streak by getting someone on the podium six straight years.

The highest state finisher for the West Branch boys before Robbins was a pair of fourth-place finishes – by Jeremy Stephens, Bernie Berger, John Lisi and Joe Lisi in the 1995 Division II 400 relay (43.42) and by Jim Boals in the 2006 Division II discus (165-5).

The West Branch boys have had only seven state placers ever, including two over the weekend.

Junior Riley Fillman can match Parks next season as he has placed at state the last two years. Fillman finished sixth in the Division II long jump (21-6 1/2) as the highest finisher by a Columbiana County athlete this year.

It was a beautiful, but warm weekend for the state meet on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s not state unless it’s blazing hot,” Parks said.