After running the fastest time in the 4×200-meter relay preliminary heats at the 2022 OHSAA Division III state track & field championships on Friday, Independence had its sights set on winning the state title on Saturday.
That promise faded when senior Emmett Stralka scratched the event after injuring his hamstring during the finals of the 100-meter dash.
With sophomore Matt Wisniewski stepping in for Stralka just moments prior to the starting gun, the Blue Devils settled for fourth place in the event with a time of 1:30.992.
Seniors Lucas Martinez, Jack Taliaferro, and Kyle Zygmunt closed out their careers as two-time All-Ohioans in the event. That group of three, along with Stralka, placed third in the 4×200 last season.
“Me, Jack, and Lucas really had to step up after Emmett went down,” Zygmunt said. “Matt did a good job filling in. He literally didn’t know he was running until probably like 40 seconds before the race. I’m just happy he was ready to go and he gave it his all.”
Zygmunt added a seventh-place finish in the 400-meter dash in 50.08 seconds.
“It’s probably one of the hardest events in track,” Zygmunt said of the 400. “It’s a sprint, well, people call it a sprint but you can’t sprint that far so you just have to give it your all the last 100 meters.”
In his two seasons on the track, Zygmunt earned four All-Ohio honors, two last season and two this spring.
“I’m beyond happy I picked up track last year,” he said. “Coach (Jess) Crooks came up to me after basketball and she was like, ‘I want you to run track. I’ll help you and I can see you’ll be good at it,” so thanks to her for telling me to come out. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Prior to his injury, Stralka was projected to finish among the top three in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes. The injury resulted in a ninth-place finish in the 100 and scratches in the 200 and the 4×200.