BELPRE - Belpre's track teams both finished second in last week's Ohio Division III South District meet at Oak Hill, but more importantly combined to earn 21 qualifying spots in the regional meet today and Friday at Fairfield Union in Lancaster.
Leading the Golden Eagle contingent is senior Dakota Hoffman - a state qualifier last year who finished eighth in the long jump - while freshman Cray Sistrunk in the mile and junior Taryn Carr in the hurdles "both have a chance" to make it to the state, said Belpre boys head coach Chris Palmer, along with the boys 4 by 200 and 4 by 400 relay teams as well as the girls 4 by 100 and 4 by 200 teams anchored by two seniors, Allison Gherke and Sarah Walker.
"But you can never tell," added Palmer. "If some of our people make it (to the state). we'll be excited. We just hope everything goes well, but as long as they all do their best, we're happy with their effort."
Senior Ryan Leasure is on all three of the regional qualifying boys relay teams - 4 by 100, 4 by 200 and 4 by 400. "I had confidence we'd make it (to the regional) in all three," said Leasure, who runs the third or fourth leg in each one.
"There'll be a lot of good teams at the regional this year, but if we have a good day, it's possible that we could move on. It's going to be tough, but I think we can do it. The 4 by 200 is our best shot, but our 4 by 400 team is really good as well."
Although on the 4 by 200 and 4 by 400 relays as well, Hoffman still thinks the long jump is his best bet to get back to the state this year. "The long jump is always what I've hung my hat on, because I've been more confident in that," said Hoffman, who Palmer noted "has experience" with the pit at Fairfield Union.
"The pit there is tough; it's a little bit uphill, which is a lot different," said Hoffman. "So you really need to get some height too when jumping in that pit, but I know that going in.
"The competition is still high though, so it won't be that easy to get to the state again and I'll be be super nervous, but I'll do my best."
In the 4 x200, "we're pretty fast and have a shot to make it to the (regional) finals at least, and then you never know," said Hoffman.
Gherke is slated to run in the regional in the 100, 4 by 100 and 4 by 200 relays, and 300 hurdles after last year reaching the regional finals in 4 by 100, 4 by 200, long jump and 100.
She hopes "I can make it " to state "in the 100, but don't know if I will or not. But I'm really hoping for our 4 by 200 team, because we normally go further in our 4 by 200 team than any other relay."
Gherke, who said she "just feels quicker this year," was at the state meet as an alternate as a freshman, but never since. "So I would be so excited to go (to the state) as an individual or on one of our relay teams."
Walker will be competing in the regional in the 4 by 100, 4 by 200 and long jump. "I think our best chance is probably in the 4 by 200; we're really hoping to go to state in that," she said. "We ran a 1:56 in the 4 by 200 in the regional last year, but have run a lot better this year, so are hoping to go farther this year."
In her first year as a long jumper, Walker would like to get to the state as a senior because "it would be something to look back on. Not everybody gets that chance to go to the state. But if I did get there, I think I'd rather do it as a team, so there would be more people to share it with."