A number of Wildcats rode into the sunset on Saturday in front of a capacity crowd at Jesse Owens Stadium at The Ohio State University.
Nine Wildcats competed at the 2019 OHSAA Track & Field Championships – Nick Saul, John Mayer, Steve Zucca, Matt Blouch, John Wetula, Jack Kennedy, Henry Cook, Dominic Devengencie, and Dan Drellishak. Of those nine Ignatians, four will not be back next year, off to bright futures in college and beyond.
Thus, Saturday was an emotional day for several members Saint Ignatius track & field squad. But as Andrew Biehl astutely observed, there's no better way to go out than racing in front of thousands of cheering fans.
John Wetula is one Wildcat who will be missed after a special senior season.
The West Parker enjoyed an incredible season, capped off by appearances in three events in the State Meet. His journey began on Friday evening on an ominous day in Columbus. Rain and lightning forced the postponement of Division I racing until later in the evening, but Wetula did well. The senior qualified for the finals of the 110m hurdles and did well in the 300m hurdles with a time of 39.91, even though it did not clinch him a spot in the finals.
Wetula also combined with another senior, Jack Kennedy, along with juniors Henry Cook and Dominic Devengencie in the 4x100. Luck was not on the side of the Wildcats in this relay. The Saint Ignatius quartet clocked in at 42.78, just .03 off of qualifying for finals. The near-miss on the photo finish did not dampen the weekend's mood for the Wildcats, though.
Two seniors and two juniors also combined to compete for the Cats in the 4x800. Seniors Nick Saul and Matt Blouch combined with juniors Steve Zucca and John Mayer to rep the Clevelanders in the relay. The quartet did well, but not quite well enough to earn a spot on the podium. The foursome tallied a time of 7:54.95, placing 10th.
Wetula, Saul, Zucca, and Drellishak all competed for the Wildcats on Saturday. Day two of the State Meet proved to be more favorable for racing, though quite hot at times. You'll usually take the heat over rain and long delays.
Drellishak enjoyed a great start in the pole vault. The junior surpassed 13' and 13'6" easily in his first tries. He missed on his first attempt at 14', but surpassed it on the second try. The height of 14'6" proved to be more difficult. Drellishak just missed on his first two attempts, and not by much. The misses set up a do-or-die jump. An ominous sign appeared in the lead-up, as one of his fellow competitors had his pole snap on the approach. Drellishak did not have his pole snap, but the fates did not have a make in the cards. After making 14'6" at Regionals, Drellishak fell short in Columbus. But three misses do not take away from an excellent season for the junior. Look for him again next year – he'll be even better with Joe Zebrak '87 mentoring him.
The Wildcats did not race again until about 4:45, with Division III and Division II playing out on the track. Wetula took the track for the 110m hurdles in the Wildcats' first of three finals.
The hurdles races can be absolutely thrilling, with fast times and paper-thin margins of victory. Saturday's 110m hurdles event proved to be no different. Though every competitor raced slightly slower, it was still a great race. Wetula snatched sixth, rolling in with a time of 14.73. The event ended a great career for the senior.
"It wasn't the cleanest race by anyone, but it was a tight [race]," said Wetula. "I'm pretty happy with how it went."
Wetula called it an honor to rep the Cats in three events.
"It's the greatest thing I've ever done," Wetula said. I'm very emotional right now with my career being over, but it was definitely worth it, and I would do it all over again. I'm so thankful for my coaches and the process of getting here, along with my teammates and all the fun we had over the years. I'll remember the people and the relationships I built with my teammates and coaches. I'll never forget it."
Saul followed suit by finishing his Saint Ignatius career in style. The distance runner did well in the 1600m, despite the heat. The senior notched a time of 4:24.20, landing him 15th in the event. Saul will be missed by both the cross country and the track & field teams next year.
Zucca will be back next year for the Wildcats, and showed off incredible promise this season. The junior broke out over the course of the spring for the track & field squad, and showed his bright star in the 3200m run. The lengthy two miler can be a tough one on a hot day, but Zucca seemed to gain steam over the course of the race. Zucca regressed some to a time of 9:25.39, but that's understandable since the Wildcats taper for Regionals, and his time last week was a personal record by 12 seconds. Zucca still made it to the podium, finishing eighth to finish the day for the Wildcats.
Looking at the team results, Pickerington Central ran away with the title with 87 points, Whitmer (24), Olentangy Orange (22.50), Lexington (21), Madison (20), and Centerville (20) rounded out the top five.
Congrats to the Wildcats' track & field squad on a great season.