For the Western Reserve Roughriders, their representatives at this weekend’s state track and field meet couldn’t be more opposite. There is senior Colton Puder who excels in jumping events and uses his pure athleticism to out-do the competition in the long jump. Senior Brendan Oswalt is an ironman distance runner who uses his endurance and will to finish ahead of the competition in the 1,600-meter run.
As much as they are opposite, they have one thing in common, they are each other’s support system.
“My motivation was giving him (Oswalt) some company at state,” Puder said. “He made it last year so I figured I might as well join him this year. We pushed each other every single day at practice. We would even show up with the sprinters. We pushed each other and treated each other as competition.”
And Puder held up to his motivation after taking second in the long jump at the regional meet in Tiffin last week. His leap of 21-feet-11 was enough to punch his ticket to the big show. But it didn’t some without some doubts. Before the regional meet, Puder felt a tweak in his hamstring. Thinking it could be the end of his high school track career, the 3-event regional qualifier scratched from the 200 and 400-meter dash in order to give his full attention to the long jump.
In the end, the move worked and he wasn’t too upset about it. He comes into the state meet with the fourth best jump of all of the state competitors.
“It helps,” Puder said. “I don’t have to exert myself into a full workout without those running events. It helps being able to just focus on the long jump the entire week leading up to state.”
Oswalt knows Columbus all too much after advancing to state last year in the 1,600. He is back this year and seeded sixth after running a 4:26.88 and taking second in the event at the regional meet.
With a year under his belt, Oswalt knows what to expect when he runs in the 1,600-meter final on Saturday.
“It is nicer to know what to expect when I get there,” Oswalt said. “Last year, I went out and didn’t really know what to expect and my nerves got the best of me. After being there last year, I feel much better about it.”
Oswalt will have an entire day to think about his race as the final for his event is Saturday and there is no preliminary event for the race. It will be a good chance for Oswalt to get down to Columbus and acclimate himself to what is the biggest stage for track and field, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“I would say it is an advantage because I can go down there and get a feel for the atmosphere of Columbus,” Oswalt said. “The waiting game will be tough, but I will be able to make sure I am mentally prepared while also getting physically prepared. I will be there all day Friday and do a nice recovery run.”
For the entire week leading up to the state meet, Puder and Oswalt both have been working on the mental side of the competition.
“I just try to clear every thing out of my head,” Puder said. “I don’t even listen to the distances of the other jumps. That would mess with my head way too much. Going into my jump, I just think about myself and what I have to do. I just want to get great speed going into the jump. Speed is determined by the adrenaline and being in Columbus is going to give me a lot of it.”
Oswalt just knows it is his last chance to do something great.
“Knowing that Saturday is going to be the last race of my high school career is going to be enough to make me want to go out there and give it every thing I have,” Oswalt said. “This year, I have been trying to hit the first lap hard because last year at state, we hit it a lot faster than what I expected. So now I know that state competitors go out and get going fast, I have been working on that all year long to get ready for that final race.”
While a state championship is the ultimate goal for both athletes, they will not let that get in the way of a goal they both set at the very beginning of the season.
“My goal is to just podium,” Oswalt said. “That has been my No. 1 goal all through my high school career. I am going to try to start the race pretty strong and hopefully grab a good position right off and keep a hold of it.”
“I want to place too,” Puder said. “If I can keep up what I have been doing lately, I have confidence in myself that I will be on that podium. I am just excited to feel that adrenaline of being at state. I think that will help me jump up a few spots and really help me go out on top.”
Puder kicks off his state competition at 4 p.m. on Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in the Division III long jump competition. He is in the first flight. Oswalt has to wait until Saturday to run his race. The starting gun will go off at 10:05 a.m. and he will be in the first lane.
And whether it be the long jump pit or Lane 1, right there will be the other Roughrider ready to led his support.