By Jamie Baker
It will be another stellar field as 15 schools from northwest Ohio come to town Saturday for the 35th annual Liberty-Benton Track and Field Invitational.
The meet has been one of the top small-school track invitationals in the state over the past decade.
Athletes that competed at the Liberty-Benton Invitational last year ended up winning nine Division III state championships at Jesse Owens Stadium and this year’s group of athletes may be no different.
There will be plenty of marquee events in the boys meet.
“Pandora-Gilboa’s Sam Spallinger is a great athlete and he and Cory-Rawson’s Sean Sewell should make for a real battle in the sprints,” said Liberty-Benton boys track coach Jack Quisno, whose team will be seeking its sixth straight L-B invite championship. “But the toughest event and the one I’m looking forward to is the long jump. It’s going to be a real buzzsaw at our district and four of those guys will be here.”
Liberty-Benton’s Ryan Cook was seventh at state last season and enters the meet with a season-best jump of 20-73/4. Three other competitors, Spallinger (21-9) a returning state qualifier and the defending champ in the event, Columbus Grove’s Drew Barto (21-4) and Sewell (21-0), have all already posted jumps of 21-feet or more this year.
Liberty-Benton’s defending Division III 800-meter dash state champ, junior Seth Butler, will run the 800 for the first time this season after undergoing knee surgery a few weeks ago He’s scheduled to compete in the 800 and 1,600-meter runs and 1,600 relay for the Eagles.
Two other athletes to watch are Cory-Rawson’s Lucas Horstman and Carey’s Corey Harrold.
Horstman, a third place finisher at state last season in the 110 high hurdles, will face some stiff competition in his specialty from Cook, Leipsic’s Jason Butler and Liberty-Benton’s Justin Hyde.
Harrold, a returning state placer in the discus, will be the favorite in the throws. He shattered the Blue Devils’ school record in the shot put last weekend with a toss of 55-3.
In the girls meet, Liberty-Benton will be a heavy favorite to defend its team championship.
The Eagles are coming off impressive performances the past three weekends winning easily at the Lakota, Ottawa-Glandorf and Fostoria Booster invitationals.
Senior Whitney Goller has made a big splash for the Eagles. She was a four-time winner at Fostoria last weekend and will be one of the competitors to watch in the hurdles Saturday.
Goller’s the defending champ in the 100 hurdles but will have plenty of competition in the 300 low hurdles, though, with three-time state placer Kayla Brown of Riverdale also competing.
Last year’s Most Valuable Athlete, Bluffton’s Bonnie Stratton, is also back. The defending Division III 100 and 200-meter dash state champion, will run both of those races and anchor the Pirates’ sprint relays.
McComb’s Shelby Wilson (800) and Katie Borgelt (1,600) and Liberty-Benton’s Brynn Chaskel (3,200) are also returning champs in the running events. In the field events, Liberty-Benton’s Kate Saums (high jump), Arlington’s Taylor Beck (long jump) and McComb’s Samantha Bryan (shot put, discus) are defending champions.
The meet gets underway at 9 a.m. with the field events. Preliminary races begin at 10:30 a.m. with the running event finals slated to start at 1:30 p.m.
Here's the latest edition of The Courier Track Honor Roll