NEW CONCORD - The weather was warm, the times were fast and a handful of area athletes are officially state bound.
And several more individuals and relay teams have positioned themselves quite nicely to join the party at the OHSAA State Track and Field Championship, which opens a week from today at Ohio State University in Columbus.
The opening night of the Division II regional meet was held at warm Muskingum University Thursday. The meet will wrap up on Saturday afternoon with the final tickets from Region 7 being punched.
Four boys and three girls events were contested as finals during the opening day of action and qualifying in all of the sport sprints and relays.
St. Clairsville's boys, who have been reeling off victories and impressive performances over the last month, continued right where they left off in the district last Saturday at Meadowbrook.
The Red Devils - on the strength of four state qualifiers - grabbed the day-one lead with 23 points.
Coach Ben Frye's team also enjoyed a strong afternoon of qualifying, thus positioning themselves to make a strong run at their third straight regional title.
Senior Jaylon Brown is headed to his fourth state meet, but first time as a long jumper. He finished third with a solid mark of 21-7.
On top of the long jump, Brown re-wrote the regional record book in his specialty, the 100 meter dash. He blazed the frontstretch for a 10.74, beating the old mark, which was held by Maurice Bougard.
Brown also posted the top qualifying time in the 200 meter dash with a personal best effort of 21.71.
The Red Devils' speed foursome of Brown, Isiah Green, Shane Peroni and Jordan Vincent posted the second quickest time in the 4x1. They passed the baton to a 43.81, which trails only Cambridge. Green also advanced in the 100 meter dash.
Field events continued to be a strength for the Red Devils.
Brown will be joined in the long jump competition by the aforementioned Vincent. The talented freshman earned the fourth and final spot with a mark of 21-5.
In the pole vault, senior dandy Michael Eaton is headed for his second consecutive state meet. He finished third by soaring over 14-6.
At the discus cage, senior Colby Lindsay notched his first state meet trip by finishing third with a platter twirl of 158-3.
Union Local is the only other area school assured of heading to Columbus. Jets' pole vaulter Austin Kemp continued his brilliant season by grabbing the fourth-place medal (13-6) and final invite to state.
Martins Ferry advanced all three of its crack relay squads to the Saturday's final.
The team of Hunter Hill, Brian Styles, Andrew Watts and Jack Fitch won its heat in the 4x2, remaining unblemished for the season. The foursome turned in a 1:31.08. They're the second seed, trailing River View entering the final.
In the 4x1, the Riders qualified sixth with a 44.35 and the 4x4 team is also sixth at 3:30.49.
Steubenville senior Ja'Quan Lavender continued his quest toward Columbus in the 400 meter dash. He set the pace in the lap dash with a 50.32.
In the high hurdles, junior Joey Nodianos posted the fourth-best time at 15.09. Classmate Oko Anyabwile ran a 41.24 to reach the final in the intermediate hurdles.
On the girls' side, nary an area competitor has advanced as of yet, but several had impressive afternoons in the qualifying rounds.
Indian Creek senior speedster Whitney Martin advanced in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes, posting times of 12.60 and 26.06. She's seeded second and fifth, respectively.
Redskins' freshman Madison Smith raced the 400 meter dash in 60.13 for a return trip. She owns the fifth best time.
The Creek 4x2 also earned a return trip thanks to its 1:49.63. Martin anchored the squad and is joined by Jaid Bly, Abby Greco and Smith.
Steubenville sophomore Elise Watts is in the high hurdle regional final after posting a 15.33, which is the fourth best mark.
Sophomore Lysiah Rice will return for the 100 meter dash after turning in a 12.83, which is good for fourth best.
The Big Red 4x2 team of Watts, Kira Newburn, Knisha Sanders and Lysaih Rice teamed for two laps in 1:47.03, which was the third fastest mark recorded.
The 4x1 team of Myana Chester, Sanders, Rice and Watts ran a 50.87 to qualify third for the championship run.
Edison's Ashley Borsch advanced in the low hurdles, posting a 47.61, which ranks third. She also advanced in the highs at 16.58. That mark ranks seventh.
St. Clairsville's Ayla Stewart put forth a brilliant trio of events. She notched the third best 100 time at 12.60 and the second-best mark in the 200 at 25.83.
On top of her individual exploits, the Red Devils re-wrote their school recordbook in the 4x1. Stewart was joined on the team by Mechenzie Wood, Kennady Walker and Hannah Jordan.
Together, the 4x1 team turned in a blistering 49.85 to lead the qualifying.
Walker also advanced in the 200 meter dash.
Martins Ferry's 4x2 relay, which earned all-Ohio in Division III last season, posted a 1:48.69, which is fifth best. The team is comprised of Sarah Applegarth, Malyah Coleman, Ashley Griffith and Talyr Jenkins.
Individually, sophomore Tyesha Allen reached the 300 low hurdle final, skimming eight timbers in 48.60, which is sixth best.