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Oct 04, 2023

Olentangy Orange junior Saketh Rudraraju had extra motivation in front of him as he ran the final lap of the 3,200-meter relay in the Division I state track and field meet Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

With his team in fourth place, Rudraraju overtook Olentangy's Hugh Jacobsmeyer down the stretch to move the Pioneers into third (7:47.42).

"The way I ran it, I was scared, but the last 100 meters with Olentangy in front us, (I thought), 'I have to do this for my teammates,' so I pushed to get him," Rudraraju said. "The joke is we’re the best from the Olentangy Local School District, so I thought to myself, 'We can't lose to one of our rivals,' so we got them."

Carter Giacomelli, Matthew Schroff and Colin McCloskey also ran on the relay for Orange.

Olentangy finished fourth (9:47.69), ahead of Lancaster (fifth, 9:48.65), Dublin Jerome (sixth, 7:49.43), Olentangy Liberty (11th, 7:54.32) and Westerville North (16th, 8:02.41). Cincinnati St. Xavier was first (7:45.21) and Medina took second (7:45.8).

A distance specialist, Rudraraju will compete in the 3,200 on Saturday. He finished fifth (9:09.43) in the event a year ago.

"My goal is to place better than I did last year," Rudraraju said. "With the (3,200), especially with (Hilliard Davidson's Connor) Ackley doubling, it's going to be five to eight guys all together to the final lap and I just want to be part of it. I’m going to give it everything I have and maybe try to win."

Ackley also will compete in the 1,600. He won the 1,600 (4:10.6) and 3,200 (9:04.92) at regional.

The defending Division I champion Tigers will look to close the season on a bright note after having a subpar first day at state.

Looking to defend his title, senior Troy Lane enters the 100 final on Saturday as the top seed (10.37). He also is the defending champion in the 200, but he's seeded fifth (21.37) in that event. Licking Heights' D.J. Fillmore (20.71), who edged Lane for the regional title, is the top seed.

Central is seeded eighth in the 800 relay (1:27.71). Gahanna Lincoln is second (1:26.61), Beechcroft is third (1:26.9) and Pickerington North (1:27.15) is sixth.

The Tigers did not qualify for the final in the 1,600 relay, finishing 11th (3:22.54) in the preliminaries.

"We were grasping for straws," coach Jason Roach said. "A number of the top-level kids coming out of our region, they just didn't perform quite the way they did at regional. That region is a meat grinder and it really just takes it out of you, and to ask Troy to come back and run even further was asking just too much. It's hurt his legs. He has dead legs, and you’ve seen other kids the same way."

Central won the state title last season with 31 points, one more than Orange. But its chances of repeating took a hit when its 400 relay, which won a state title last year, was disqualified at regional for an illegal exchange.

"Being disqualified in the 400 relay, mentally, there's something hanging over it," Roach said. "You could tell by the way we ran (Friday), we didn't have the same intensity that we’ve had before. ... As far as being in contention to win (the meet), having dead legs, you just can't. You have to be fresh and you have to be ready to go."

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