COLUMBUS — Minster’s girls track and field success ranks among the best in Ohio High School Athletic Association history. The program has won 13 team state titles and has earned multiple other podium finishes since the first girls state meet was held in 1975.
That history was well known by Margaret Hemmelgarn growing up. Hemmelgarn, now a sophomore, saw Minster athletes add to the tradition in 2018. The Wildcats won the Division III state title that season while Hemmelgarn was in sixth grade.
“I remember I told my mom in the stands that I was going to run here one day,” Hemmelgarn said. “I was really sure. That’s been one of my goals since.”
Hemmelgarn met her goal and competed in the Division III state meet on Friday morning at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University. She helped the Wildcats get off to a strong start — one of a couple of strong starts by area squads.
Fort Loramie’s boys and Minster’s girls track and field squads started strong thanks to strong performances in 4×800 relays. The 4×800 relays were the only track finals held Friday; all other track events were preliminaries. All field finals were held Friday.
After trailing early, Minster surged ahead and finished first in the girls 4×800 relay in 9:28. Fort Loramie finished second in 9:34.
Fort Loramie’s boys squad led throughout its 4×800 relay and finished first in 7:53, seven seconds ahead of second-place East Canton.
The Redskins entered the event with five teams seeded above them.
“Our record this season was only an 8:03, but we knew we could get under 8:00, even though we’d never actually physically done it,” Fort Loramie senior Colten Gasson said. “It just kind of took all of us believing in each other, believing in ourselves and being confident, strong runners.
“Coming into this, we knew we didn’t have the top seed, and we were okay with that. Sometimes it’s better to be the underdog.”
Gasson ran anchor on the relay, which also included his twin brother Colin Gasson, junior Frank Rethman and senior Trey Ranly.
The same four will compete in the 4×400 relay on Saturday after finishing fifth in the 4×400 relay preliminary race on Friday in 3:28.27.
Both Gassons said they were happy they are able to compete together in one last meet this week.
“It’s just been awesome, having someone there to run with you every day, day and night, nonstop,” Colin Gasson said. “We’ve been pushing each other, battle each other out for the top spot. It’s been awesome.”
Fort Loramie’s girls squad entered Friday’s 4×800 relay as the third seed but was able to surge ahead and finish second by six seconds to Minster.
“We’re a really small team, and before we went into this, we just said, ‘Let’s give it our all,’” Fort Loramie senior Claire Rethman said. “We weren’t worried about time, we weren’t worried about our place. I said, ‘If you guys just give me your best, that’s all we can ask. We have really good team chemistry, which helps.”
Rethman anchored the relay, which also included freshmen Mylee Shatto and Lauren Moore and sophomore Colleen Borchers.
All three of the underclassmen complimented Rethman on leading the squad this season.
“It’s been a great experience,” Moore said in a group interview after Friday’s race. “It’s been a fun year, and (Rethman is) a big reason.”
Shatto echoed the sentiment and said Rethman would be missed, but Rethman responded: “You guys are going to do so much better next year and be more confident, and I’m excited to come back and watch you guys hopefully get a state championship.”
The gold medals in the event on Friday were captured by Minster. Hemmelgarn teamed with Cameo Cedarleaf, Chaney Cedarleaf and Taylor Roth in the relay.
The Wildcats were the top seed entering the meet.
“We knew we had a really good chance to win it, and we knew we just had to work together as a team, put our whole hearts and souls out there, and see where it got us,” Hemmelgarn said.
Chaney Cedarleaf, a sophomore, was the No. 3 runner in the relay after her older sister Cameo, a junior. They also compete in cross country and swimming
“We’re close, obviously, and we’ve already had a lot of seasons together,” Chaney Cedarleaf said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to experience it with her.
“… But we’re really all so close as a relay team. To be able to experience this as a team is awesome, and I’m just so proud of each and every one of us.”
Minster and Fort Loramie weren’t the only West Central Ohio girls 4×800 relays to perform well. Coldwater finished third, West Liberty-Salem finished fifth and New Bremen finished ninth.
“We want to win, but we want the people from our area to be right behind us,” Hemmelgarn said. “It’s always so cool to see people from the area, people from the (Midwest Athletic Conference), to do well. It’s cool to be up there (on the podium) with them. We love it.”
It’s the first state meet held on Ohio State’s campus since 2019. Spring sports were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and state meets were held at Columbus- area high schools last year due to Ohio State barring large events on campus due to the pandemic.
She was happy to finally take the track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Friday and meet her goal set four years ago.
“After not getting to (compete) here last year because of COVID, it’s been incredible this year getting to run here,” Hemmelgarn said.