By Chris Chaney
As the Ohio high school track and field community convenes in Columbus, Ohio only the best athletes from around the state will be competing at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. This year, that includes five athletes from Clermont County.
Bethel-Tate’s Jake Robinson, Clermont Northeastern’s Jenna Mummert and New Richmond’s Pierce Burnam, Olivia Behymer and Hannah Hall all advanced out of last week’s regional meets held in and around Dayton to earn spots in Columbus.
The New Richmond girls’ track team appears to have the best shot to place an athlete atop the state podium with both Hall and Behymer among the top qualifiers in their respective events.
Hall, who set the district tournament and school record two weeks ago in the high jump clearing 5-feet-5 inches, one-upped herself at the regional meet, clearing 5-feet-6 inches, which places her with the best qualifying jump in the state heading into Friday morning’s state final.
“Hannah is probably the most solid, confident athlete that I’ve ever coached,” Lady Lions head coach Terri Flamm said. “Even her bad days are good days. To be able to compete like that every day at different levels makes a big difference in what you can do.”
Hall was up at Denison University, outside of Columbus, on Monday and Tuesday where she will attend college practicing for the state meet while she prepared for fall classes as well.
Back in New Richmond, Hall’s teammate and classmate Behymer qualified for the regional meet in three events, but only managed to reach state by virtue of her best one: the 400-meter dash. Behymer has finished on the state podium twice in the event, placing sixth in 2011 and fifth in 2013.
This year, Behymer is eying the top spot.
“You never know what she’s going to do next,” Flamm said of her sprinter. “When you think that she’s done it all, she steps it up and goes a little bit further. She’s been incredible.”
Behymer has been working alongside fellow senior Pierce Burnam who advanced to the state meet in the 300-meter hurdles, his best event.
“(Burnam) knew he had the times he needed coming into the regional,” New Richmond boys’ head coach Shelby Pride said. “This has been his event, the thing that he’s worked the hardest at for the past couple of years and it started with him focusing on the school record. Once he broke that at districts, his time plummeted greatly from a 40.61 to a 39.9 and that’s huge.
“He knew what he had to do and he went out and competed well.”
Pride said with the rest of the team finished for the season and school out, Burnam and Behymer have been training together at New Richmond since they are running similar distances.
“We’re not doing anything over the top, because at this point they’re peaking,” Pride said. “We’re just trying to keep them very level.”
Clermont Northeastern’s lone state qualifier, Jenna Mummert, will have a familiar foe on her radar at state as the Lady Rocket high jumper has been looking up at Hall all season.
Mummert finished behind Hall at the district and regional meets, but has steadily increased her jumps through the postseason, beginning with a 4-foot-10 clearance at the Southern Buckeye Conference Meet, up to a 5-foot-2 jump at districts and 5-foot-5 jump at regionals.
The sophomore is peaking at the right time and is looking to surpass her conference rival on the state’s biggest stage.
Finally, Bethel-Tate’s Jake Robinson will represent the Tigers in Columbus, competing in the long jump. Like the other four Clermont athletes, Robinson is peaking at the right time, setting personal records at both the district and regional meets.
“(Robinson) really came into his own last year and jumped over 20-feet twice,” Bethel head coach David Schellenberger said. “Then this year, he’s jumped seven or eight times over 20-feet, so it was really a matter of time before he had a really great jump and it happened to come on his fifth jump at regionals.”
Robinson jumped 21-feet-6 inches to finish fourth at the regional and punch his ticket to Columbus where his goals remain consistent.
“With him jumping on Friday morning at 9:30, right away we’re practicing at 9:30 to help him know what it feels like to get out of bed, get breakfast and have to go jump to get him ready for Friday.
“Other than that, we’re working on the same stuff. We worked on a longer step (Tuesday) so that if he pops a good jump (early), he can pop an even bigger jump.”
All five athletes will compete on Friday, June 6 with Hall, Mummert and Robinson competing early in the day and Burnam and Behymer competing in their preliminaries around 3:30 p.m.
For more information on the state meet, log on to ohsaa.org and for up-to-the-minute updates on how the five local athletes are doing, follow @ClerSunSports on Twitter.