Rockets’ relay team gets redemption, takes the silver

Daniel Sherriff and J. Patrick Eaken

The Oak Harbor Rockets’ sprint relay team knew they had a job to do this season.

They had a list of goals this season and crossed one of those items off the list when they qualified for the finals of the 4x100-meter relay at the Division II state meet.

When the Rockets qualified for the 4x100-meter relay in the 2021 state meet, their season ended on a low note when they were ousted in the preliminaries after placing 13th.

That performance weighted heavily on seniors Hayden Hower and Hayden Buhro’s mind all season. 

“Our mindset this year every day in the weight room was that we’re not getting 13th ever again,” explained Hower.

Redemption was much needed.

Oak Harbor realized its goal when it placed second in the finals with a time of 42.15 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

“It felt really good,” said junior Hayden Buhro. “As a team we felt like we could do better but second place is good.”

Oak Harbor tied for 16th place overall with Bryan with a team score of 14 points.

The only team that stood in front of Oak Harbor from taking the gold medal was Gates Mills Hawken, which clinched first place by shattering the state record originally set by Dalton Jefferson in 1981.

According to Hower, one of the biggest things that changed for the Rockets was the chemistry of the team.

“We just trusted each other for this year,” he said. “Trust is a big thing in this relays. You have to trust your teammate to get the stick in your hand and we just ran faster.”

The Rockets earned an automatic bid to the finals when they placed first in the second heat of the 4x100-meter relay on Friday by overcoming a slow start.

“We didn’t expect that was going to happen in the first and second leg,” noted Buhro. “Other than that the time was pretty good. We just ran our butts off and were focused on winning.”

Step one was complete.

As far as Hower was concerned, he was happy that his team had advanced but the job wasn’t finshed.

“It was the best feeling in the world on Friday when we found out we made the top nine,” Hower said. “ I knew we were not getting ninth.”

Oak Harbor started out in the middle of the pack when senior Isiah Miller ran the first leg.

He then handed the baton off to sophomore Jaqui Hayward.

“When I got the baton the focus was on me,” he said. “It was just about running as hard as I could to get my team in the lead and just do all I can for us to be first.”

The Rockets’ sophomore was the only newcomer to the team this season.

Miller, Hower and Buhro were a part of the 4x100-meter relay team last year but Hayward was a nice addition to the team.

“The man’s pretty fast as you can see,” said Buhro. “He definitely is an attribute to us.”

Having transferred to Oak Harbor from St. Francis this past summer, Hayward became the starting quarterback for the football team then competed in basketball during the winter season before joining the track team for the spring campaign.

“Jaqui came in and didn’t know anybody but we rallied around and he became a leader,” noted Hower. “He became a leader as our quarterback and became our leader as our lead runner.”

Hayward said he drew plenty of inspiration this season from his three new teammates whom all had something to prove after a disappointing end the 2021 season.

“It felt good to be around these people and embrace the grind,” he said. “It was basically everyone putting their butt on the line to do better.”

Buhro kept the Rockets in contention in the third leg of the race before passing the baton off to Hower.

Hower’s burst of speed propelled him to the front of the pack but Hawks’ senior Jordan Harrison was faster. Hower never let up and crossed the finish line in second place.

“I don’t think I could have caught up to him,” he admitted. “I ran a 10.90. I just had to trust these guys to give me a little bit of a lead.”

Buhro was not afraid to say the Rockets definitely avenged last year’s disappointing performance.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “It feels better than anything.”

The Oak Harbor quartet’s dominant state meet continued when they snagged another spot on the podium by placing eighth in the 4x200-meter relay.

Miller also captured fourth place individually when he competed in the 300-meter hurdles, so for the second straight year he is the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Athletes on the All-Press Track and Field honor roll have to win a league title, district title, regional title, or qualify for state.

(Daniel Sherriff is the sports editor of the Chagrin Valley Times, Geauga County Times, and Solon Times, sister publications of the Press Newspapers (Metro Press/Suburban Press) published by Douthit Communications.)







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