Whether to walk or run, that was the question for MT seniors


BELLBROOK — To walk or to run.

That was the question.

That was the choice that several Miami Trace High School senior track team members had to make for Friday, May 19, 2023.

Friday was commencement for Miami Trace High School, and five senior track team members had to decide whether to continue to compete in the Division I District meet at Bellbrook High School, or take part in the graduation ceremony marking the end of a chapter of their lives before transitioning to the next.

For three of the five — Kaelin Pfeifer, Mary Pfeifer and Jana Griffith — the choice was to compete in the track meet.

Two seniors — Sydney Payton, a member of both the 4 x 1 and 4 x 2 relays and Meghan Cory, who runs distance for the team — decided to take part in the commencement ceremony.

“Clearly it was all their choice,” Miami Trace head coach Brent Noes said. “We had some who chose to go to graduation and we had others who felt like they had some unfinished business to do on the track.

“They wanted to finish their career out here on the track,” Noes said. “They’ve earned that right. It’s unfortunate they had to make a choice. They were recognized out here before the meet. They’re having fun together right now, getting all of these pictures.

“It’s just been an amazing run for all of the seniors,” Noes said. “Especially the three that are here tonight. These three seniors out here, along with Sydney Martin, set a new school record in the 4 x 200-meter relay that’s been there for 20 years. They set a new conference record in the 4 x 100 relay. They had a lot of success here at the end of the season.

“Jana set a new school record in the 100 hurdles and a new conference record in the 300 hurdles,” Noes said. “These girls have just worked so hard this year. I am just so excited that they qualified to the finals here in both relays.”

“I just felt like, in, say, 20 years, I would remember this more,” Mary Pfeifer said. “And that coach Noes handing us our diplomas is really important to me. He’s been a part of my life for the last four years. I feel like graduating with my friends at a track meet is going to be really memorable to me. Not many people get this opportunity, so, I feel kind of special that we three get to be here and graduate and get our diplomas.”

Pfeifer was wearing three colored cords with her cap and gown.

One was for receiving an honors diploma and two were for being a member of the National Honor Society, she said.

“I wouldn’t change this for anything,” Griffith said after posing for numerous pictures following the track-side graduation. “This is probably the most memorable graduation ceremony anyone could ask for.

“Being graduated by your coach is definitely something not everyone can say they’ve done,” Griffith said. “Having a close relationship with my coach means a lot more, getting a diploma from him.

“We’ve been D-I for all the years that I’ve ran track,” Griffith said. “This isn’t something too new. I mean, the District is new. Last year we were in Marietta. It was D-I, but it was not this level of intensity.

“It gives you a run for your money, but, there’s more a sense of accomplishment,” Griffith said. “I was told coming in here that it’s going to be more of a Regional level than what we’re used to. It makes me think, like, if I chose not to run because of that, I wouldn’t be moving on to Regionals and that would’ve been something I would have thought of for the rest of my life.

“I think it shows a lot about an athlete, that they’re willing to do that, instead of go walk,” Griffith said.

Of the cords Griffith had, she said the blue and the yellow represented the National Honor Society, the silver was for an honor’s diploma and the red represented giving blood.

For the three who went to the track meet, there was a graduation ceremony, complete with caps and gowns, on the track on the run in that leads to the home stretch.

The three received their diplomas from head coach Brent Noes with their parents on hand.

Griffith took on some of the best hurdlers from the biggest schools in the Southwest District and won the event with a time of 47.02.

Senior Chloe Trimmer of Beavercreek was second in 47.44, followed by freshman Angela Williams of Chaminade-Julienne, 48.32 and senior Anna Johnson of Lebanon, 48.42.

Earlier in the meet, Griffith qualified to Regionals in the 100-meter hurdles, placing third in 16.76.

Williams won the 100’s in 15.98, sophomore Savannah Conner of Centerville was second in 16.55 and senior Emily Crane of Bellbrook advanced with a time of 16.78.

Next up for Griffith are the Regional championships, set for Wednesday, May 24 and Friday, May 26 at Wayne High School in Huber Heights.

Track events start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Huber Heights.

“Jana came in here and qualified (to Regionals) in the 100-meters in third,” Noes said. “Then she came back and won the 300-meter hurdles. That was an outstanding job. That goes to show all the hard work that she’s put in, not just during track season, but in the off-season, as well.”

Griffith was lifted from the line-up in the 4 x 100-meter relay after the 4 x 200-meter relay scratched.

This was to allow her to conserve energy for the finals in the 300, which paid big dividends.

“It was very rewarding,” Griffith said. “I felt like I got something out of (missing) graduation. I don’t think I would have been able to do that without my team. They were willing to sacrifice the 4 x 1 with me not running it so I could focus on the threes and get where I wanted to be. Without that I probably would have had weaker legs — that was Mary Pfeifer, Kaelin Pfeifer, Bella Shull and Gracie Shull. I’m very grateful for them.”

In stead of Martin and Griffith, Gracie Shull and Bella Shull stepped up to join Mary Pfeifer and Kaelin Pfeifer in the finals of the 4 x 100-meter relay.

They were seeded seventh going in and placed seventh in 53.00.

Chaminade-Julienne won in 48.64.

“It was really a no-brainer for me,” Kaelin Pfeifer said of her decision to continue — and in the end conclude — her high school track career at the District finals.

“As soon as I heard that I had to make a choice between walking in graduation and running (in the District finals), I chose track instantly. It really wasn’t for me, at that point. It was just to do it for the team. To be here, to run our hearts out in our last-ever high school race.

“It’s a really big character thing for me,” Pfeifer said. “For me, running in college and going on to the next level, I thought it was important for me to come here and do my best for my last race.

“I understood Jana, completely, coming out of (the 4 x 1),” Pfeifer said. “She’s a District champion and she’s done an awesome job.

“I really appreciate (Gracie Shull and Bella Shull) jumping in and just helping us,” Pfeifer said. “We would not have been able to run that race without subs. They came out and gave it their all and so did Mary and I and together I thought we ran a really good race.”

Having their three-person graduation ceremony on the track at Bellbrook High School will always be a connecting bond between this trio.

“That was one of the main reasons we chose to come here,” Pfeifer said. “It was just more memorable to be with our team and celebrate our last race together. I really appreciate the parents and the coaches helping us put that on.

“Coach Noes and Coach (Jeff) Creamer have been such a huge part in helping this feel normal for us, like a normal graduation ceremony. I would not have had it any other way. I’m so appreciative of everybody that’s gotten me here.”

Gracie Shull placed 16th out of 27 in the long jump with a best leap of 14’ 5 3/4”.

Desiree Ebiringa of Centerville won at 17’ 0”.

Eli Fliehman was 16th in the 1600-meter run in 5:10.79.

Innocent Ntwali of Miamisburg won in 4:17.15.

In the pole vault, Kaelyn Fisher tied for 13th at 7’ 0”. Zoey Blanton was 17th, also with a height of 7’ 0”.

Emily Turner was 11th in the discus with a throw of 93’ 11”.

Sureya Lopez was 12th with a distance of 93’ 8”.

Asher LeBeau was eighth in the finals of the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 43.32.

The winning time in that event was 38.96, turned in by Sopuluchi Anosike of Centerville.

“I thought both Shull girls did an outstanding job,” Noes said. “It was a very selfless act for them to want to come in and help the team.

“They were given roughly 24 hours notice that, ‘hey, you’re running in the finals,’” Noes said. “They’d been on relays on and off throughout the year, so, they had an idea of what was going on.

“Gracie was going to be here in the long jump anyway,” Noes said. “Gracie and Bella came in and did an outstanding job. We came in with the seventh seed with our four ‘A’ team runners and we still finished here today in the finals in seventh place.

“That speaks to the level and ability of all four of those girls — Mary, Gracie, Kaelin and Bella — to come out here tonight and cap off the two seniors on the 4 x 1 on their graduation night here at the District Finals. I can’t say enough about the two Shull girls coming in and running with the two seniors. I’m very proud of all four of them in the 4 x 1.

“Asher came in here with the eighth seed, as a junior,” Noes said. “He’s really come on this year in his 300-meter hurdles. We expect him to have an even better year next year.

“Asher knows one speed and it’s full-go,” Noes said. “Asher had a great year; we’re very proud of him.

“Eli qualified for the finals in the 1600,” Noes said. “We’re proud of Eli. He put in a lot of work in the off-season to get him to where he is at. To have him out here running in the District finals is quite an accomplishment, especially at this level.

“You look at the calibre of athletes here at this two-day track meet, it’s just unbelievable,” Noes said. “We’re used to seeing this calibre of track when we get to Regionals in Division I. We’re not used to seeing it right out of the gate in the Districts.

“Our kids really stepped up,” Noes said. “They competed. They fought. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.

“We were proud of everybody we brought up here,” Noes said. “Everyone competed very well.”

By Chris Hoppes

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