Track at its best
There is nothing like watching a state track meet - the best of the best.
The two days in Columbus show why sports are so important in our society.
Covering the Ohio State Track and Field Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University is a study in every emotion the human body can endure, along with a threshold of pain that can be mesmerizing to watch.
There is joy, exuberance and pain all in a span of five minutes.
There is relief, disbelief and astonishment, along with surprise, disappointment and pleasure.
The eight athletes who find themselves standing on the podium to earn all-Ohio honors have gone through six races to get there.
They survived and advanced five times to get to the final nine.
That is really hard to do.
It means sprint relay teams had to be really good five times, which is 15 baton exchanges, for the right to run for a state championship.
That is one reason why I really hate the way West Virginia runs the state meet. There should be Friday qualifying in every sprint event.
There is no reasonable explanation why there aren't qualifying runs in the 100, 200, 400, both hurdles races and the 4x1, 4x2 and 4x4 relays.
The worst part of the West Virginia meet was the some 13 false starts called.
That is an unacceptable number.
There were zero in Ohio.
Zero in 84 starts.
I really hope the West Virginia track officials have a honest, hard discussion in their next meeting why there were that many false starts.
Back to Ohio ... In the Division III boys 4x100, two teams had terrible exchanges and finished eighth and ninth. Those squads went into the finals with the second- and fifth-best qualifying times.
Passing the baton is a huge part of being a really good relay team and that's why coaches work and work and work on those exchanges.
The state meet is about those kids who stayed extra time in practice to work on their steps, their handoffs, their starts, their finishes.
It's about the kids who have it figured out, but do it again just because.
The great thing about track is that the stopwatch or the tape measure tells the tale.
Indian Creek's Whitney Martin stood on the podium in two events.
Catholic Central's Monica Rigaud and Moriah Vosteen stood on the podium three years in a row in their same respective individual event.
Oak Glen's Kelsey Chambers won three individual events when she had never been an individual state champ in three previous state meets.
Do you know how hard that is?
There are times when the state champ in an event does not qualify the next season.
The state champ.
I have seen a lot of strange and wonderful things at the Ohio and West Virginia state track meets in the past eight years.
I have seen tears of joy and happiness.
I have seen faces of exuberance and one of utter shock.
I have seen crashes, near misses and brilliant efforts.
I have been blessed at each of the 16 state meets I have attended and all in different ways.
It's great to talk to kids who reached goals, made the final, stood on the podium, became state champs.
This year there were two really great moments - along with seeing all the smiles as kids stood on podiums.
First, seeing Chambers' face and reaction as she crossed the finish line of the 800 to win her third state individual title and fourth of the meet.
Second, standing with Edison's Ashley Borsch on the infield as she awaited hearing the names of the nine finalists for the girls 300 hurdles.
The joy that overwhelmed her when she heard her name was a blessing for me to witness.
"I can't comprehend this," she said as tears welled up in her eyes.
The emotions changed 24 hours later and she tweeted, "I can't comprehend today at all."
That is sports in all its glory. It's about how you handle disappointment.
It's about how you handle adversity.
It's about your character when things do not go your way.
Sports is a great teacher for kids.
And more adults should learn from it.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." - James 1:2-6
(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)