VINCENT - The Warren Warriors will be well-represented at today's Division II, Region 7 track meet at Muskingum University in New Concord.
Boys coach Al Riffey will have nine athletes competing in the regional meet and Sally Maddox's Lady Warriors have seven girls trying to qualify for state.
The Warriors moved to D2 in track this season after competing at the D1 level in recent years.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Warren’s Raelyn Gardner runs in a relay race at the Warriors Invitational track meet earlier this season in Vincent. Gardner will compete in three events at the Division II, Region 7 meet today and Saturday for the Lady Warriors.
"I'm happy we're D2," Maddox said. "I think that's where our school fits. But the level of competition is still going to be strong."
The Warren girls will be led by senior Raelyn Gardner, who will compete in three events at the regional. Gardner was the Southeast District champion in the pole vault with a mark of 10 feet, two inches. That mark has her ranked second out of the expected regional vaulters, with only Piketon's Maddy Reed ranked higher at 10-6. Gardner's personal record in the vault is 11-1 and is a favorite to advance on to state for the second year in a row.
"Raelyn having gone to state last year, she's got the experience to qualify and go there again," Maddox said.
Gardner will also run in the 100 meter dash.
The rest of the Lady Warriors' qualifiers are a little more up in the air, so to speak.
Warren qualified a pair of throwers, Megan Rice in the shot put and Kayla Maze in the discus.
Both were fourth in their respective events at the district meet. Rice threw 32-7.25 in the shot put while Maze hit the 92-9 mark in the discus.
"Megan threw her best (at the district) to get here," Maddox said. "We hope she continues to improve."
For Maze, the regional meet will present a unique opportunity. A Muskingum recruit, Maze will get to compete on her future home turf.
Warren also qualified a pair of relay teams, the 4 by 200 team and the 4 by 400 team.
Gardner, Katie Rauch, Julia Hamrick and Natalie O'Dell ran the 4 by 200 in one minute, 52.84 seconds at the district to finish third.
Rauch, Hamrick, O'Dell and Casey Ontko finished fourth in the 4 by 400 with a time of 4:28.44.
"We're really excited about our relay teams," Maddox said. "The 4 by 2, we thought we had a chance. The 4 by 4 was a little more on the bubble. Those girls really rose to the occasion."
Riffey shares Maddox's optimism about the regional.
"The kids are in a good place," Riffey said. "They're continuing to build on what we've done all year. They're ready for the challenge."
The boys' 4 by 800 relay team of Matthew Neehouse, Colton Cantley, Sam Goodman and Brent Ash placed third at the district with a time of 8:24.34. That time is the third-ranked time going into the regional, so if they can match or best that mark, the odds of making it to state are very likely.
"They have a really good chance," Riffey said.
Those four athletes will all be competing in individual events as well. Goodman will run in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs. His 4:31.09 1600 time ranks third among the regional field. Ash will also compete in the one-mile, with his time of 4:33.44 ranking sixth.
In the 3200, Goodman was a district runner-up with a time of 10:04.29, which ranks third in the regional field. As it stands, Goodman has a strong chance of qualifying for state in three events.
Neehouse will run in the 800. The regional field for the 800 figures to be very competitive as the top time coming in (1:58.87) and slowest time coming in (2:06.59) are separated by about eight seconds. Neehouse's district time was 2:03.17, good for third.
Cantley will compete in the high jump. He cleared 5-10 at the district to take fourth place.
The Warriors will have a pair of pole vaulters compete at the regional. Cole Wigal was the district champ with a mark of 12-8 while his younger brother Lucas cleared 12-4 for third place at the district. Both are in the middle of the regional pack.
Riffey said his 4 by 400 relay team of Neehouse, Cantley, Justus Johnson and Mark McDermott might be "on the outside looking in." Warren will also have its 4 by 200 team of Neehouse, McDermott, Johnson and Cole Wigal competing at the regional.
McDermott was the district runner-up in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 42.07 seconds. With that time, he is ranked ninth.
Warren's final representative will be Chris Massey in the discus. He threw 134-1 to finish fourth at the district.
The Warriors competed in one of John Glenn's home meets at Muskingum earlier this season and that experience could come in handy at the regional.
"The reason we went to John Glenn was so the kids would have been on the track before," Riffey said. "They know what to expect there. We think we'll be okay."
Events begin at 4 p.m. today and resume at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.