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Senior places 10th in Columbus

Roberts ends stellar career in style

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Reporter Published: June 7, 2017 12:00 AM
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COLUMBUS -- Blake Roberts had already checked so many items off the proverbial bucket list.

Make it to state in cross country? Check.

Earn the chance to run in college? Check.

On June 3, he filled in the final box in his final high school race, placing 10th in the state 3,200-meter run.

While the Hudson senior missed the medal stand by 6.38 seconds, simply getting to The Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus was a remarkable accomplishment.

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That sounds clich, getting to state is always an impressive feat, but it was uniquely difficult this year given the competition Roberts faced in his regional.

At this year's Division I Austintown-Fitch regional, five runners came ran times less than 9:18. Even Roberts' impressive district title-winning run of 9:17.78 wouldn't suffice, so he ran the best race of his life, finishing in 9:16.91 to secure the third of four spots out of Austintown.

"That was the most impressive part of the whole season," Explorers head coach Mark McConnell said. "He ran in a tight race with a lot of really good guys. Usually, you don't have to fight as hard as he did to get out running the time he did."

It's not easy to run the race of a lifetime -- and then do it again the next week -- under a punishing sun. Perhaps that played a part in Roberts' slightly slower time in Columbus of 9:27.81.

"Running that hard really takes a toll on you," McConnell said. "No amount of days can really get you fully recovered from that. Also, you've got to consider the emotional thing, how hard he's worked to get to state. The legs have a finite number of hard races in them every season."

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Still, if the result wasn't quite what Roberts dreamed of, the experience was. As the sole Hudson runner to make it to state this year, Roberts, who plans to run at Butler University in Indianapolis, found his phone and e-mail full of congratulatory messages after his regional run. As for Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, well, the gorgeous building and packed house spoke for itself.

"It really is a total experience," McConnell said. "The greatest experience of all is to run in that meet with the best guys in the state of Ohio."

Roberts had been to the Columbus area before for cross country, but that race doesn't take place at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Moreover, that race follows a very different format.

With Roberts' 3,200 taking place later in the day June 3, he had the first day and a half of the state meet to himself. To avoid nerves, McConnell and Roberts spent much of the time speaking casually, often about things beyond track. They watched a few events involving acquaintances and friends of Roberts -- and of course, took in the other distance races, like the 800 and 1,600.

And then came a special last race in a special place.

"The whole thing is a really special and unique experience and something that should never be taken for granted," McConnell said. "That whole atmosphere down there in Columbus is electrifying and exciting. There is no race like that in the entire state."

Walsh Jesuit senior Jack Francetic, a Hudson resident, finished in a tie for 10th place in the pole vault with a vault of 14 feet.

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