COLUMBUS — It was almost over before it had barely begun.
Now it is over.
And the Waynesfield-Goshen Tigers girls 400-meter relay team is the fastest in the land.
The Tigers erased the memory of an almost disastrous district preliminary race that could have ended their tournament run with a dominant performance in the Division III state final Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
W-G’s foursome of senior Abbey Gray, junior Morgan Horn, senior Frankie James and junior Ivy Horn was virtually flawless.
“Our handoffs were probably the best they’ve ever been,” Gray said.
Their time of 48.93 was almost a full second ahead of second-place Creston Norwayne’s 49.81 and just two-tenths off of the Division III state-meet record. It was also a personal best for the team.
“It was a pretty convincing victory I think,” W-G coach Jim Epperly said. “We’re happy with that.”
Two weeks earlier in the district meet at Spencerville High School, Gray and Morgan Horn almost collided on the first exchange of their preliminary race.
The team recovered to advance and win the district final. The next week they posted a regional meet record to enter the state meet as the favorite.
On Saturday, all three exchanges were smooth. Ivy Horn took the final exchange from James with a slight lead and exploded down the home stretch, leaving the field behind.
“My freshman year we actually dropped the baton at districts because of our handoff,” Morgan Horn said. “So I was just really nervous. I didn’t want that to happen. I struggled with not wanting to take off too fast. But we got it down.”
Said Gray, “We worked on it a lot that past week or so. We worked on Morgan getting out faster. She’s a nervous handoff person. It went really well.”
The Tigers finished fifth overall in the team standings with 29 team points. But W-G was just two points behind third-place Liberty-Benton (31).
“I think we performed well,” Epperly said. “This is the best-of-the-best level. ... We knew we would have to have a great day to be one of the top two teams. We had a very good day. Yesterday (Friday) we had our ups and downs.”
In addition to gold in the relay, Ivy Horn took second in the 100 dash and third in the 200 dash.
Horn got an unexpected boost in her chances in both events when Gates Mills Gilmour Academy’s Candice Longino-Thomas, the prohibitive favorite in both events, pulled out after the preliminaries due to an injury.
“Yesterday, right after the 200 — she was in Heat 1 and I was in Heat 2 — I crossed the finish line and saw her under the tent crying," Horn said. "You hate to see an athlete like that go down.”
Gray medaled in the long jump (sixth) and the 300 hurdles (seventh).