Fong, Nicholas, Harnish all find podium in D-I state track and field meet

COLUMBUS — Troy senior pole vaulter Sophie Fong got an early start to what will be her new home.

Piqua senior Camilla Nicholas finished her track and field career the way she started.

And Troy junior Leah Harnish has hopes for even better things next year.

All three made the podium in girls Division I competion at the state track and field meet Saturday at Jesse Owens Stadium.

Sophie Fong

Fong, who will pole vault for Ohio State next year, made the highest climb up the podium in D-I, finishing fourth.

“No matter what happened today, I would have been happy,” Fong said. “Just to be over here competing against the best pole vaulters in the state. Of course, I wanted to make it up on the podium, but also knew I was going up against some great vaulters.”

Fong, who had finished second at the state indoor meet in the winter, was the only vaulter with no misses on the first five heights.

She passed at 10-6 and cleared 11-0, 11-6, 12-0 and 12-4 on her first attempt.

“I was thinking that (that it would be important),” Fong said about total misses being the tiebreaker in the pole vault. “But, I knew there were girls who would clear 12-8. That I would need to clear 12-8.”

As it turned out, just three girls cleared that height.

Kendal Fisher of Massillon Perry would win with a height of 13-2 1-4 and Victoria Harvey of Watkins Memorial and Emily Eterovich of Nordonia cleared 12-8.

While Fong was one of four vaulters who went out at that height, she took fourth based on having no misses up to that height.

“Obviously, being clean through 12-4 paid off for me,” Fong said. “I was just happy to be over here competing. Knowing this was going to be my last time wearing the Troy uniform. I think I did (exceed my expectations).”

Camilla Nicholas

It has been a wild two-week ride on the track for Nicholas.

After placing at state in the 400-meter dash as a freshman, she lost her sophomore season to Covid and didn’t make a return trip to state last season.

At the regionals a week ago, she was part of a rerun of the 200 and finished fifth, along with a sixth-place finish in the 100.

Nicholas then got at-large berths in both races.

She made the finals in the 200, but tied for the ninth fastest time in the 100 and lost a runoff Saturday morning to get in the finals in that event.

But, she finished her career on the podium after a sixth-place finish in the 200 in 24.71, taking a look as she crossed the finish line to make sure she was in the top eight.

“I got the redemption I was looking for,” Nicholas, who will run for the University of Tampa next year said.

Nicholas had to run in lane 1 after tying for eighth in qualifying Friday.

Which was better than the alternative of being in lane 9, where you can’t see any of the other runners until you come off the curve.

“It is 100 times better than running in lane 9,” she said with a laugh. “The only thing I wanted was to finish my career up on the podium at the state meet and I did that.”

Leah Harnish

Harnish was hoping for a higher finish Saturday.

But, at the same time, she was happy to be on the podium with a seventh-place finish in 57.30.

The top six finishers all ran under 57 seconds, with Beavercreek freshman Kayleigh Keyes winning in 55.27.

“It was (a really fast race),” Harnish said. “It was amazing to be part of that. But, I was disappointed with my race today.”

Harnish said she learned a lot this season.

“I never would have expected to be at the state meet at the beginning of the year,” Harnish said. “Especially after the way last season ended (with an injury). I definitely will do things a lot differently next year than I did this year. For sure, this is motivation to get back here (and move higher up the podium). This was a great experience.”

Three other Miami County athletes competed in D-I Saturday.

Tippecanoe senior Annie Sinning finished 15th in the 3,200 with a time of 11:47.99.

Troy junior Ethan Martin tied for 15th in the boys pole vault, clearing 13-0.

Troy senior Jack Kleinhenz was 15th in the boys long jump with a distance of 19-10.