COLUMBUS - Elise Watts, Alex Young and Robert Hayden stood on the podium at the Division II Ohio State Track and Field Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University Saturday having taken different avenues to get there.
Watts, a freshman at Steubenville High School, was one inch away from not even making the trip to Columbus to compete in the long jump.
Young, an Indian Creek grad, was playing with house money after having only ran five competitive 400s.
Hayden, a Big Red senior-to-be, qualified for the 100 after running an 11.07 and being in the "slow" heat.
Yet, at the end of the day, they all stood in front of thousands being named all-Ohio in track and field.
In the regional meet a week ago, Watts jumped 15-6.75 on her first attempt and followed that with five fouls.
"I was having problems with my steps," she said on Saturday. "I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. But, I'm thankful I did."
The girl in fifth jumped 15-5.75. If they had tied, Watts would have stayed home because the other girl had the next furthest jump.
On Saturday, Watts jumped 15-8.25 on her first attempt and fouled on her second try. It took 16-6 to make the top 10 and get three more attempts.
She leaped 16-11.25 on her third chance to get three more opportunities.
"It was really good to hear him say those bigger digits," she said. "I felt pretty confident I would make it to finals after that jump."
The freshman promptly jumped 17-2.5 and then 17-4 to move from seventh to fourth.
The 17-4 is her personal best.
"Last Saturday just wasn't a good day, but today was," she said.
Watts had been to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium before as a member of the Steuben Striders, but this one was different.
"There are a lot more people here than back then," she said with a smile. "And, it's a lot louder."
Watts is looking forward to a return trip to Columbus next June, but would like to add more events to her schedule.
"I'm going to work over the summer on the (100) hurdles and more on the long jump," she said.
Watts also qualified in the 4x100 with Shilynn Crawford, Cierra Macon and Toshchel Demus.
For Young, his amazing end-of-the-year run finished with a fifth-place in the 400 in a school record 49.65.
He was an all-Ohio performer in four sports - football, basketball, baseball and track.
He was named first-team all-Ohio recently in baseball and followed that up two weeks later with an all-Ohio showing in track.
Early indications are that he is the first Ohio Valley athlete to complete such a feat in baseball and track since 1976.
"This was worth it," he said. "I really enjoyed it. It was fun.
"Today the goal was to get out fast, try to keep pace and kick it the last 200. I tried, but those guys are really fast."
The top four times were 48.22, 48.86, 49.13 and 49.35.
"Those guys were moving," Young said. "I did my best."
Young feels this round of exposure should help his collegiate baseball career.
"I think after coaches see this, it may help me out," said Young, who will play baseball next year at Sinclair Community College. First, he will play in the Mizuno All-Star Game next Saturday and then head to Oklahoma as part of team Ohio to compete in the Heartland Classic before he finishes his summer with Post 33. "I think this exposure will help me."
Through it all, Young said he is still taken aback by the outpouring of support from those around the Ohio Valley.
"I just have to thank everyone around me, everyone who is pushing me and everyone who is helping me out, especially my parents and my brothers," he said. "Everyone in the community has been great. My coaches have been great and I thank them for all their help. You can't do this alone.
"Everything everyone has done for me makes me appreciate growing up in the Ohio Valley. I still cannot believe how great everyone has been."
The double gun went off in the 100 and one runner was disqualified for a false start, ensuring Hayden a spot on the podium.
"I never thought about that," he said. "I still had a race to run. I had a good start the first time, but not the second time. I didn't want to get DQ'd, so I laid back in my blocks.
"I'm kind of happy, but I have a lot of hard work to do for next year.
"I know I accomplished a lot this year. I was eliminated in the first round at districts last year. Making it this far is a blessing.
"You get real nervous in front of a crowd like this. I've never seen a (track) crowd like this in my life."
Hayden finished in 11.35.
"This makes me want to do better for next year," said Hayden. "People look up to me like I am fast. I am fast, but I have a lot of work to do.
"I can't wait until next year."