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Belpre’s Eli Fullerton wins a pair of state track championships

Photos by Jordan Holland Belpre's Eli Fullerton celebrates winning the Division III state championship in the 1600 meter run Saturday at Westerville North.

WESTERVILLE — When the Division III state track meet was finished Saturday at Westerville North, Eli Fullerton was absolutely spent.

It was all worth it, though.

The Belpre senior gave everything he had in the 1600 meter run and 3200 meter run, and the result was a pair of state championships. He became the seventh Golden Eagle ever to win a state track title, and the first since Ashley Reynolds in 2006 (high jump).

“I’ve dreamed of this since I started running in seventh grade,” Fullerton said. “Came very close the past couple years. I was able to cap it off today in my last high school meet and it was all worth it.”

Fullerton ran the 1600 in 4 minutes, 16.07 seconds, then about an hour later completed the 3200 in 9:27.14.

Belpre's Eli Fullerton celebrates winning the Division III state championship in the 1600 meter run Saturday at Westerville North.

In the 1600, he took his first lead early in the second lap, but runner-up Braden Yingst of Lima Perry (4:17.01) stayed with him as the two went back and forth most of the race.

“I tried to take the lead in the second lap, but I had a couple people stay with me,” Fullerton said. “At the start of the third lap, some one took the lead from me, and I decided to kick with 300 to 250 (meters) to go. It worked out perfectly.

“I knew it was going to be very close but I knew I had another kick at 200 left so I was just really relying on that.”

Fullerton secured the lead down the stretch and spread his arms open in celebration as he crossed the finish line. He took the podium, got his first-place medal then had to recuperate with another big race looming.

“I’m going to elevate my legs, do a leg drain, drink lots of water, maybe a little snack and then just really try to focus,” Fullerton said following the 1600.

Belpre's Eli Fullerton hugs athletic director Stephanie Evans after winning the 1600 meter run state championship Saturday at the Division III state track meet at Westerville North.

Fullerton was still feeling the effects of running the fastest mile of his life when the 3200 began.

“Start of the race, about the first 200 my legs were toast,” he said. “I had a plan going in to try to take it from the gun and that was not going to work. So, I just stayed with the pack as long as I could and prayed I would have a big enough kick to get the win.”

He did.

Fredericktown’s Thomas Caputo, who edged Fullerton for the state cross country championship back in the fall, was in the front pack most of the race along with Anna’s Hayden Schmidt. Fullerton, however, took charge in the final lap.

“Thomas Caputo made a move with about 700 meters left, so I tried to stay with him. Right around 5 to 400, I was like, ‘OK, if I’m going to have a chance to outkick him I probably need to go now.’ I made a move and it worked out perfectly.”

Belpre's Eli Fullerton competes in the 1600 meter run Saturday at the Division III state track meet at Westerville North.

Schmidt (9:30.44) finished as the runner-up while Caputo (9:34.58) came in third. Finishing in 10th place was Fullerton’s teammate, Blake Rodgers. Rodgers clocked in at 10:10.64, and though he missed out on a top eight finish, the Belpre freshman has a bright future ahead.

“For him to be there as a freshman is awesome,” said Belpre coach Ryan Leasure. “He’s such a good runner, and now he’s got some experience under his belt. It’s time to take a couple weeks off and then prepare for cross country. He’s going to be a great runner for the next three years.”

Fullerton joined Reynolds, Steve Henderson (1998, high jump), Beth Reck (1992, shot put), Dick Tredway (1952, 120 hurdles), Marion McIntire (1952, pole vault) and Perry Moore (1952, 220 hurdles) as the only state champions in program history.

“I’m super proud of Eli,” Leasure said. “Him and (distance) coach Peyton (Cochran), what they’ve done this whole entire year has been amazing. He went out and showed why he’s one of the best runners in the entire state.

Shenandoah nabbed a pair of state runner-up finishes Saturday.

Belpre's Blake Rodgers pushes himself down the final stretch of the 3200 meter run Saturday at the Division III state track meet at Westerville North.

Max McVicker placed second in the 300 hurdles with a time of 40.09, while Shakur Payton was second in the high jump at 6 feet, 5 inches.

Payton tied with Tri-Village’s Layne Sarver at 6-5, but Sarver won the tie-breaker as he had fewer misses.

McVicker also earned All-Ohio status in the 110 hurdles, where he placed eighth with a time of 16.06.

Over at the Division II meet at Pickerington North, Warren’s Millie Ryan earned All-Ohio honors for the second day in a row. After placing fourth in the discus on Friday, she came back Saturday and finished sixth in the shot put. Her top throw was 39-2.75

Also competing for Warren was Allison Werry. She finished 15th in the 800 meter run with a time of 2:24.85.

Morgan's Odessa Smith runs in the 100 meter hurdles Friday at Pickerington North.

Morgan’s Odessa Smith competed in four events Saturday and became All-Ohioan in three of them. She placed individually in the 110 hurdles (fourth, 15.37) and the 300 hurdles (eighth, 46.32), and also was on the 4×100 team which placed seventh (50.22). That relay team also included Sierra Gandee, Emily Pinkerton and Josie Knierim.

Smith competed in the long jump as well, where she was 15th with a mark of 16-6.5.

Knierim earned all-state status in the 100 meter dash. She placed eighth in the event after crossing the finish line in 12.95.

Shenandoah's Max McVicker runs in the 300 hurdles Saturday at Westerville North.

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