For Villa Angela-St. Joseph track coach Dan LaRocco, the Division III state track meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus this weekend is bittersweet.
With freshman Kynadi Byers and senior Toni Beuck representing the Vikings, it is the beginning of an era and the end of another.
Byers, a mega-talented 14-year old, will run in Friday’s 100M dash preliminary with her sights set on Saturday’s final. A year ago at this time, Byers was running in CYO meets, so the appearance in front of thousands at the state meet will certainly have a brighter spotlight, but it doesn’t seem to faze Byers, who qualified for the state meet by finishing second in the 100M dash at the D-III Navare Regional in a time of 12.82.
Beuck will run one more time as a Viking to complete a phenomenal multi-sport career at VASJ as she qualified in the 400M with a fourth-place finish in a time of 1:00.44 at the Navarre Regional. Beuck advanced to state in the indoor season twice, but this is her first appearance in the outdoor meet on the first weekend in June. Beuck was part of two state qualifying volleyball teams as well. She will run in the prelims on Friday morning.
“These are two great kids who work hard and do all the right things on and off the track. I couldn’t be happier for them to get down to Columbus, and I am proud and confident that they will lay it out on the track and give everything they have.
“All we can control is our lane. I like our chances, but they have to go out and run their race.”
VASJ has had 14 outdoor state qualifiers in 14 events in the past four years. In the previous eight seasons, the Vikings had seven state qualifiers in 12 events.
Beuck has been synonymous with girls sports at Viking Village the past four seasons and has been part of much of the success in several sports.
This seems like a fitting end to a stellar four years, but the humble senior is not putting a lot of pressure on herself.
“I’m not nervous,” Beuck said. “I am just happy I made it this far so really I am not worried about the outcome. I’ve done sports my entire high school career at VASJ, so it is nice to finish at the state meet.”
Byers has a chance to be a four-time state qualifier for the Vikings, and cement her name in the track record books at the school.
Byers is not concerned with her legacy or accolades or newspaper clippings, rather, she is focused on getting better each day and trying to make her first trip to Jesse Owens Stadium a memorable one.
“I am proud of myself because I didn’t think I would make it this far because of the competition,” Byers said.
“I know that some of these girls are older than me, but I am looking to do my best as a freshman. It would mean a lot to get on the podium this first year.”
There are two other freshman in Byers’ heat.
LaRocco said if Beuck and Byers can advance to the finals, anything is possible. But, regardless, he is ready to head to Columbus and celebrate the beginning of the freshman’s state career and the final event of Beuck’s standout run of athletic prowess at VASJ.
“Think of where Kynadi was a year ago, the biggest meet she ran at was CYO at Brecksville-Broadview Heights. She is kind of this aw shucks kid who is so talented,” LaRocco said.
“For Toni, we are looking for her to go sub-60 seconds and if she does, whatever happens happens. I’m just very excited and proud of both girls and looking forward to seeing what occurs in Columbus.”