COLUMBUS — Seth Butler is the best.
The Liberty-Benton senior claimed the Division III boys 800-meter run for the third straight year to highlight the day for area athletes at the 103rd OHSAA state track and field championships at Jesse Owens Stadium Saturday.
Despite winning the event for the third year in a row, Butler was still a bit disappointed.
“I came down here for a reason and weather or not I was going to go for the record,” said Butler, whose race was delayed an hour because of severe weather that swept through the Columbus area.
“I came out here to get the record, that was the main goal but it‘s always good to win as well. Three wins is not something that happens a whole lot, so I’m happy.”
The record Butler was after was the Division III meet record of 1:51.54 set by Yellow Springs’ Sam Borchers, when Butler was a freshman and finished fifth at state.
Butler, who was scheduled to compete in the 1,600 Saturday but scratched in the event to focus on the 800, rolled across the finish line all alone in first place in a time of 1:52.57, 1.03 seconds behind Borchers’ mark.
Butler had some unexpected company for the first 500 meters of the race as Cincinnati Deer Park’s Micquelle Burton was hanging tough behind the reigning state champ.
But Butler, who will continue his track career at Colorado State, kicked it into a different gear and was eventually able to put some distance between himself and Burton over the final 200 meters.
“I felt pretty comfortable for the entire race, although I knew we went out pretty fast in that 200,” Butler said. “I was surprised they were able to hang on as long as they did through that first 400 I had to make my move if I was going to go for the record. I took off and luckily I was able to pull away from them.”
Butler’s teammate, sophomore Dakota Conkle, may be next in line to win a state championship for the Eagles.
He made the most of his state meet debut by finishing third in the 110-meter high hurdles in a time of 14.74 seconds.
Just minutes after standing on the third step of the awards stand, he was already thinking of bigger and better things down the road.
“I don’t think anyone thought I would be in this position. I didn’t even make it to districts last year. I think I surprised a lot of people, third place is good, but it’s not first place,” Conkle said.
“I have two more years and this summer, after football practice in the morning, I’m going to go to the track and work on my hurdles.
Hopefully, I can become a two-time 110 state champ hurdler.”
For Pandora-Gilboa senior Sam Spallinger Saturday was a bittersweet ending to a stellar track career.
Count him as the greatest track athlete his school has ever produced. He finished his career Saturday with a second-place finish in the 400 with a time of 48.94. He trailed only Allen East’s Jacob Cook who won the race in 47.77.
In 12 state meet events over the past three years, Spallinger racked up three seconds, a pair of third and two fifth-place finishes.
The silver medals he won in the 400 and long jump over the weekend weren’t exactly what he was hoping for.
“It’s kind of frustrating getting silvers. I know most people’s goal is just to make it here. It’s a good achievement to get here but you have to keep it in your mind that it’s not good enough just to be here, you have to do your best,” Spallinger said.
“I feel like this meet, I didn’t really do my best. It’s more important for me to say I didn’t perform well this weekend and suck it up, man up and admit that I’m not perfect and I didn’t have a good meet.”
Spallinger is already looking forward to next year and a chance to excel on an even bigger stage in college at Miami University.
“It’s good to know it’s just my season that’s over, it’s not my career,” Spallinger said.
“I’m really looking forward to going to Miami and competing at the college level. My next goal is to make the Olympic trials my sophomore year in the long jump. I’m going to take three weeks off, get in the weight room and start getting my stuff ready for college.”
Leipsic senior Derrick Schroeder just missed a spot on the awards stand as he ended up ninth in the Division III boys 1,600 with a time of 4:33.4.
Bluffton’s Lucas Harnish was 14th in the Division III 800 in 2:01.29.