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Rockets win first district track title in 29 years

Just when you thought things couldn't get any better for the Oak Harbor Rockets, they did themselves one better by winning a district championship in track and field. 

One week after winning their fifth consecutive Sandusky Bay Conference title, the Oak Harbor girls track team won the Division II District Title with 109 points, just ahead of perennial power Eastwood, which came in second at 108. It is the first district title in head coach John McKitrick's 16 years at the helm, and the first since 1985. 

Freshman Alexa Weis was the lone Rocket to win an individual event, finishing first in the 300 meter hurdles in 47.56 seconds. The 4x100 relay team of Allie Jett, Rebekah Rayburn, Cydney St. Clair and Karis DeWalt was also first, finishing in 51.02. Trinity Gephart finished second in the 3200 (11:57.62), racing in from third place just before the finish line to break the 12-minute line and finish with a personal record. Rayburn was second in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 2 inches. The 4x200 relay team of Jett, DeWalt, Rayburn and Athena Eli was second in 1:46.50.

Jett was third in the 200 (26.63), Ally Bloomer tied for third in the high jump (4-10.00), and other third place finishes were the 4x400 (DeWalt, St. Clair, Weis, Jett-4:09.66) and 4x800 (Gephart, Brenna Franck, Taylor Dunn, Makayla Wagner-10:16.99) relay teams. 

Four-place finishers included Eli (400-1:00.58), St. Clair Tori Schiets (100 H-17.10) and Jordyn Dunn (Discus-113-08). Others contributing points included Jordyn Thorp (6th in the high jump), Lexie Kadlubowski (6th in the pole vault) and Emma Barton (7th in the pole vault). The difference ultimately came in the final event with the 4x400 squad finishing in third place, two spots ahead of Eastwood's relay team.

"At the conclusion of the two-mile, my assistant coach told me we were only one point down," McKitrick said. "We were already trying to light a fire under the 4x400 team and they made it happen. (The team) has been able to figure out ways to win, they've put themselves in position to win at the end of meets. That's what makes it fun; it's nice when it comes down to the 4x400 relay. It's my favorite event. It was a fight with Eastwood."

McKitrick talked about some of the strategizing that goes with setting a lineup in the postseason. "In the last two or three seasons, we've had chances thinking about going in and winning the meet," he said. "The objective is trying to get as many people as possible into the regional meet. You might forego points in other events (to help pace the runners). We've done that quite a bit. We've thought, 'Let's not worry about points, let's worry about regionals.' At the end of the day, you want as many kids going to the regional meet as possible. Sometimes, common sense prevails, and you don't go for the championship. We knew it was going to be a good competition. It was great for our girls to win the district title." 

The Rockets, however, will not enter the regional meet at full strength. Sophomore Paige Velliquette, a sprinter, did not run because of an injury and Athena Eli, who qualified in two events before being sustaining a hamstring strain at the end of the 400. In addition to that, Allie Jett, the girls' Most Outstanding Performer at last week's conference meet, has also battled injuries, and sophomore Annie Quisno has missed much of the season due to an injured hip. 

The Division II Regional Track & Field Meet will be held at Lexington High School, located just outside of Mansfield. The events will take place on Thursday and Saturday.

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