(Posted June 8, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Four Madison County athletes qualified to compete at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) State Track and Field Tournament. Two of them, both freshmen, made the podium as top-eight finishers in their respective events.
The meet, held June 3-4 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on The Ohio State University campus, brought together the state’s best runners, jumpers and throwers. This year marked the 47th annual state meet for girls and the 114th for boys.
Madison-Plains pole vaulter
For Lillian Finke, it was a first-time trip to the big show, and she made the most of it. The Madison-Plains freshman placed sixth in the pole vault with a mark of 11 feet and set a new school record in the process. The previous record was 10-8, set in 2003 by Ashley (Dennison) Meade, a two-time state champion who now serves as a coach at Madison-Plains.
“I’ve wanted 11-0 since January. My personal record going into state was 10-8. I was so excited. I’ve been waiting for that for forever,” Finke said.
The young athlete began pole vaulting five years ago and trains and competes year-round with the Buckeye Pole Vault club. She credits her interest in the event to her family. Her maternal grandfather was a top-10 vaulter in the country in his high school days. Her father and sister also competed in the event.
The state meet wraps up a season for Finke that saw her winning every meet through the conference championships and placing third at both district and regionals.
“It’s quite an accomplishment coming in as a freshman and making it all the way to state, then getting on the podium,” said Madison-Plains head girls’ track coach Joanie Boyle. “She’s worked hard through the year. Her name will be a name everybody recognizes in the pole vault arena.”
Looking ahead, Finke’s goals are to clear 11-6 this summer and 12-0 by indoor track season and to return to state next year.
Another freshman jumper, Andria Pollazek of London, also made the podium at state. She competed in the high jump, clearing 5-2 to tie for eighth place in Div. II.
Pollazek’s post-season run started with a championship title at the Central Buckeye Conference (CBC) meet. She then broke the school record at districts, clearing 5-4 to beat Cindy McCarty’s mark of 5-3 set in 1986.
At regionals, she tied for sixth place. The top four finishers from each region automatically advance to state, but OHSAA also sends the two athletes with the next two best jumps from across the state. Pollazek tied for the second at-large bid with her jump of 5-2.
“When I heard about the at-large bid, it was exciting to know my season wasn’t over,” she said.
She described the state experience as exhilarating and nerve-wracking because she was competing against older athletes with more training. She made it work, though, and is looking forward to next year.
“I want to clear higher heights and place higher at state. At the big meets, I mainly want to have fun while knowing what I have to do and seeing all my friends I’ve made throughout this past year,” she said.
“One of the great things about Andria is that she made a whole lot of friends along the way,” said London track coach Joseph Montoya, noting that Pollazek makes a habit of hugging and high-fiving her competitors. “Developing that camaraderie was a huge help for her, and she got the love and encouragement back.”
London 800-meter runner
Another London athlete who competed at state was junior David Stukey, who placed 14th in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:00. While it wasn’t the result he was hoping for, he still came away from the meet and the season with a positive attitude.
“He started training in November with the goal of making it to state and onto the podium. He fell short, but right after the race, he was pointing at the podium, saying, ‘I’m going to be up there.’ In his head, he was already preparing for next year,” Montoya said.
Stuckey won all of his 800-meter races through the regular season and at the conference and district meets. He qualified to run the 800 meters and 1,600 meters at regionals but chose to concentrate on the 800 meters. In his second-place finish at regionals, he set a new personal best time of 1:56. One of his goals for next year is to beat the school record of 1:54.
“This year as a whole was cool, seeing so many fans in the stands,” Stuckey said, proud of London’s CBC team championship and second-place team finish at regionals.
As for the state meet, he said, “Just being able to race at the Jesse Owens Stadium was a great experience overall. Even though my race wasn’t great, it was great to have so many friends and family there supporting me.”
Besides the 800-meter school record, Stuckey said his sights for 2023 also are set on the 1,600-meter school record and a spot on the state podium, hopefully the top spot, in the 800. He also performed well in the 3,200-meter run and the 4×400 relay this year, so goals for other events might hit next year’s radar.
Jonathan Alder high-jumper
Jonathan Alder senior Joey Walker came into the 2022 state track meet as defending champion in the high jump in Div. II. He took the title last year with a mark of 6-8.
This year, he finished 12th with a jump of 6-2. It wasn’t the outcome he had envisioned, but his coach said it doesn’t define his career.
“Joey has had an awesome career,” said Jonathan Alder track coach Tyler McIntosh. “It says a lot just making it to state. Only 16 make it. He still had a wonderful time competing with everybody. The meet was back at Ohio State for the first time since 2019. It was a good experience.”
Walker went through the entire regular season without losing a meet, then won the conference and district titles, too. He placed third at regionals. His best mark this year was 6-6 which he achieved at the Marysville Quad meet on April 12 against Marysville, Fairbanks and Buckeye Valley.
He will continue his pole vaulting journey at the collegiate level, having earned a scholarship to compete at Penn State.