State means ‘the world’ to Lakota East duo

Lakota East's Carly Spletzer (second from right) and Kelsi Harris qualified for state in the 3,200-meter run. Greg Billing/Contributed

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Lakota East's Carly Spletzer (second from right) and Kelsi Harris qualified for state in the 3,200-meter run. Greg Billing/Contributed

HUBER HEIGHTS – Lakota East seniors Carly Spletzer and Kelsi Harris started running together in junior high. Now, six years later, the duo can think of no better way to finish their careers together than at the Division I state track and field championships.

Spletzer and Harris both qualified for the state championships in the 3,200-meter run with a solid 2-3 finish at the D-I regional meet Friday night at Wayne High School. The top four individuals in each event automatically qualified for the state meet. Two at-large bids from the four regional meets also qualified.

“Last year was tough (with the season canceled) but senior year going to state means the world to us,” Harris said.

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The top four runners separated from the pack in the closing laps. Spletzer shadowed Lebanon senior Faith Duncan for the majority of the eight laps around the track, staying a couple steps behind. Duncan’s kick on the final lap allowed her to win in 10:55.98 with Spletzer second in 10:57.81.

Harris, meanwhile, had her own battle going with Centerville senior Emma Bucher. Harris finished third in 11:05.38 to Bucher’s 11:06.44.

“It feels amazing, especially coming off Wednesday when our 3,200 relay team got an at-large bid,” Spletzer said. “It left us on a high and coming into today we just wanted to qualify individually. We want to finish our senior years on a high note.”

The 3,200-relay team of sophomore Jocey Willis, senior Leighton Heiner, Harris and Spletzer qualified during Wednesday’s regional action with an at-large time. The D-I state championships are Friday and Saturday at Hilliard Darby High School.

Spletzer also qualified for the 3,200 as a freshman and finished 13th overall. Both Spletzer and Harris competed several times at the D-I cross country state championships and helped the Thunderhawks to a runner-up finish in 2019. A handful of the same faces were in the 3,200 on Friday.

“Division I especially in our area has been so tough,” Harris said. “Coming here we’ve always had, for me at least, a hard time getting out of this region just because there are so many talented girls. Coming out here and being able to beat some of the girls I’ve looked up to for a while, even though we’re all in the same grade. They’ve been great competitors for so long. Being able to do something I’ve wanted to for so long is definitely an amazing experience.”

Friday’s meet was demanding both physically and mentally. A steady and persistent rain started falling about 20 minutes before the start of the running events. The rain lightened up near the end, but temperatures in the 50s started dropping faster.

“In track this time of year you expect it to be super hot,” Spletzer said. “Honestly for me it was a nice surprise coming in with the cooler weather.”

“I think we both came in prepared,” added Harris. “Our coaches do a great job preparing us and having us ready physical and mentally.”

Also on Friday, Lakota East senior Azariyah Bryant won a regional title in the 100-meter dash. Bryant won in 12.20 to edge Wayne teammates Ginna Cameron (12.18) and Jasmine Kennerson (12.51).

“They’re great runners but I’m glad they’re strong like that because if anything it helps push me and helps me get a greater performance. I’m grateful,” Bryant said. “It feels great. Just try to remain humble through it. It’s a great experience. It feels good.”

Senior teammate Annika Kinley added a regional title in the high jump with a winning effort of 5-05 for the Thunderhawks.

Also winning a regional title was Ross freshman Myah Boze. She scored a victory in the 300 hurdles in 45.22.

For the boys, Fairfield senior Jaydan Mayes had the area’s lone D-I boys regional championship, soaring 23-04.25 in the long jump during Wednesday’s portion of the meet.

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