BEDFORD- Despite what looked to be a disappointing finish in Saturday's Bedford Division II regional meet, the West Branch girls 1600-meter relay team never stopped fighting.
The Warriors captured the fourth and final state berth after Mentor Lake Catholic was disqualified for interference.
"This race was a microcosm of our entire season," West Branch girls coach Nate Heddleston said. "These girls never give up no matter what the situation. Kyla Sharp did a great job of fighting for that fifth-place finish. That wound up being the difference."
Junior Erin Carver, junior Alexandria Tubbs, freshman Haley Davis, and senior Kyla Sharp finished in 4 minutes, 3.35 seconds - the best time in the area in two years.
According to Heddleston, anchor Kyla Sharp was bumped into by a Lake Catholic runner during the final handoff. Even though she fell behind, Sharp kept fighting down the stretch and was able to scratch out the fifth-place finish.
After the race, Mentor Lake Catholic was disqualified, bumping West Branch into the final state berth.
"I thought we ran a great race," Davis said. "We were up against some very good competition but we always thought we would do well."
For Davis the relay finish was especially sweet, as it came on the heels of her third-place finish in the 1600 meter run (5:14.81).
"It's such an honor to be able to go to state in my first year," Davis said. "I've worked hard all year, and my times have kept getting better. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity."
"Haley is quite a talent," Heddleston said. "She just keeps getting better and better,"
Davis and the relay team will be joined in Columbus by Drake Lohnes who finished second in the 3200 run (9:55.19). Lohnes will be making his second consecutive trip to state.
"My plan was to stay as close as I could to (first-place finisher) Mick Iacofano," Lohnes said. "I don't think he's been beaten all year, so I just tried to stick with him as long as possible and it resulted in a good finish."
For Lohnes, the 3200 finish helped make up for a disappointing 1600 run earlier in the day.
The West Branch senior was in the hunt for a fourth-place finish on the final lap when one of his shoes popped off, causing him to fade back to seventh (4:34.19)
"At first I tried to keep going, but my foot hurt too bad so I just eased up," Lohnes said. "I knew I had the 3200 coming up so I wasn't that upset."
The Warrior contingent in Columbus will be rounded out by junior Andrew Filp, who finished second in the shot put with a personal-best 52-feet-4.
It will be Filp's first trip to state after narrowly missing last year with a fifth-place finish.
"Just missing out last year was something that drove me all season," Filp said. "All I wanted was to get back to this stage and do well."
Filp had the luxury of already having sewn up third place before his final throw, but nonetheless unleashed his best one of the day, bumping himself up to second behind Salem's Anthony Shivers.
"It felt good to know I was already in," Filp said. "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
Also for West Branch, Tyler Ware finished sixth in the 800 run (1:59.92) and Zach Robbins was seventh in the high jump (6-3).