COLUMBUS, Oh - The 2022 State Championship was the final meet for Head Track and Field Coach Chuck Kyle '69, the seniors and the OHSAA season. To be the 50th and final team under coach Kyle representing Saint Ignatius and the pressure was an honor and a responsibility, contributing to enormous motivation and pressure to perform every day. For four years, at every meet, whether JV or Varsity, we as runners know that we represent not only ourselves but the entire roster, the coaches, the school and our faith. Even as first-year students in JV meets, with a crowd of 15 people watching, our team, parents, coaches and school are always there, expecting our very best in each performance.
Every runner on the 2022 State Team for the Wildcats started at these meets, just as the future 2025 State Team began to this year on Gabor Track on Thursday afternoon, with coach Kyle calling the meet over his handheld microphone. Building and growing over four years make the journey from Wasmer Field to Jesse Owens Stadium for an incredibly long but rewarding ending.
Each of the three meets of the postseason has seen a further reduced version of the full breadth of the Saint Ignatius Track and Field team. Only the varsity lineup competed at districts; those who qualified from there survived to regionals. Only a handful of the Regional team advanced to the biggest stage, the State Championship. Most of our athletes' seasons ended at the final JV meet in May, then almost all others at districts and regionals, but ending the seasons at States were just eight Wildcats in five races: the 4x800m, 110h, 300h, 3200m and 4x400m.
Running at States is a genuinely nothing-to-lose experience. Athletes run at the peak of their fitness at their most tapered (rested) levels all season. You're fresh, almost new and you want to go after it with no punishment or elimination for a bad race but everything to gain from a magnificent performance. That's what it took in 2016 and in 2001 for the Track Cats to be the State Champions and it's what it took in 1993, 1994, 2009, and 2015 for the Cross Country Cats to be the State Champions. All the runners have these years memorized, the school records for every event, who's won state titles in the past as a Wildcat at these meets, and who each guy believes will be the next.
The newly crowned regional champions in the 4x800m toe the line for the first event on the track on Friday, ready to compete in what is always Ohio's most excellent distance event. Unfortunately, the day was not for the Wildcats in this event, finishing 15th at a time of 8:09. Ben Showman, Alex Paliga, Sean Uhran and John Corrigan came together late in the season as a squad, but after titles at Districts and Regionals, the Cats did not have one last race in them.
Damon Frabotta, also a regional champion, but in the 110m High Hurdles and 300m Low Hurdles, successfully qualified out of both of his preliminary races on Friday with marks of 14.31 and 37.91, respectively, to enter the finals seeded fifth and fourth.
The final Friday prelim for the Wildcats was the 4x400m, when Damon Frabotta, Ben Showman, Samurai Chung and Max Muresan qualified for the finals with a blistering 3:19.12 to earn the third fastest seed in the finals.
The Wildcats entered Saturday still scoreless but with five opportunities to score. Damon Frabotta ran first in the 110h final. After an incredible season of wins, fast times, and consistency, Damon struck the third-last hurdle, stumbled, fell back, rebounded and crossed in 14.70 to take ninth place. Shortly after, Damon came back in the 300h final and after coming through the first 200m tied for fourth, made up a massive gap in the last 100m to finish in third place in the state. Damon scored six points in this second-final race as a Wildcat.
In the 800m, John Corrigan ran with the hope of stopping Canfield's Nick Plant from taking down Saint Ignatius' very own Marc Sylvester's '01 State Meet and state record time of 1:48.97. John, just a junior, had nothing to lose in his first 800m State Final and planned a strategic race. John came through 400m in around 57 seconds at around last place. Running the final 300m "fast, faster and fastest" pushed John to 11th place and a final time of 1:56.55, just short of All-Ohio honors by .82 seconds. John is the fifth highest returning runner in this race and will be back and better for next year.
The fourth race of the day for the Wildcats was the 3200m, where Sean Uhran, with, as he put it, "the slowest PR by far in the race," competed. Most of the pack of 18 came through 1600m still together, but Sean was working with a small group just off the back. With the first mile of 4:38, Sean was on pace for a massive personal best with a prior PR of 9:30. Sean split 2:25 and 2:24 for his following half-mile splits, closing with his second fastest lap of 70 seconds to finish 12th place out of 17, finishing "not last" and pulling off his upsets. Sean ran a PR of 9:27 in one of the fastest OHSAA 3200m finals.
In the last race of the day and the year, the 4x400m team from Saint Ignatius finished as runner-up in the state. Damon Frabotta ran a great first leg and handed off just behind the leaders to Ben Showman, who ran an aggressive first 200m to take the rail spot and then held on, handing off in first place to Samurai Chung. With Thomas Worthington on his heels, Sam split one of his fastest times of the year but handed off about 10m behind. Max Muresan did everything he could and closed the gap to half the distance with 150m to go, but from there, he couldn't gain any more ground and the Cats finished in second to earn eight points.
The Cats finished with 14 points and tied for 14th place in the state. After a stellar month of May with two invitational victories and District and Regional Championships, the team needed a few more qualifiers and performances at the State Meet to win the title. Coming up in the program truly is some fantastic talent, with three of the Wildcats' state finalists returning and other young runners with terrific potential. Thank you to the coaches, parents and fans; this team will be back next year!