Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Being a talented discus and shot put thrower, at any level, takes a combination of physical strength and mental concentration in order to be at a different level than one’s competition.
And make no mistake about it, Wheelersburg’s Paige Emnett has simply been in a different type of zone throughout the 2019 season.
After finishing sixth overall in the Division III OHSAA Track and Field State Championships in the shot put (40-feet-2) and 16th in the discus (105-6) last spring, and signing with Findlay University last fall, Emnett had already proven herself as one of the state’s most promising track and field talents coming into her senior year.
But even with that being said, Emnett’s 2019 campaign has still exceeded any and all expectations.
In five different meets this season, the senior has broken a previous school record, most of which she set herself. Her torrid pace has not only allowed the senior to qualify for the 2019 Division III OHSAA Track and Field State Championships in both the discus and shot put events, but it’s also allowed the senior to hold the odds-on best shot at claiming a state championship in the shot put with her Division III pre-flight best throw of 44-8.
For Emnett, it’s certainly been a year to remember already.
However, this journey of a season may have not seen its final accolades come to fruition just yet.
“It’s been a crazy season, that’s for sure,” Emnett said. “At the beginning of the year, I set goals for myself, and I have exceeded those goals. Honestly, I never thought I would make it this far, but my work ethic got me here. I have put in countless hours at the track with my team and extra hours on my own to get to this point. It’s an incredible feeling to know that all of my hard work and time put in is finally paying off.”
Throughout the 2019 season, Emnett has truly set a pace that has been matched by few before and that will stand out for quite some time to come.
The senior set the all-time Wheelersburg girls shot put mark with her record throw of 42-6 in a six-team meet at Valley on April 9 and then exceeded that standing just one week later with a 42-8 heave in a four-team meet in Wheelersburg on April 16.
While that would be enough for most individuals to be satisfied, Emnett only turned up the heat as the stakes rose.
At the SOC Meet on May 9, Emnett, for the third time to that point, set a new school record again by posting a throw of 42-10 to win the SOC Meet in the shot put, while adding in a throw of 128-10 to collect a victory in the discus throw.
Still, Emnett wasn’t done one-upping herself.
At the Division III district meet, the senior not only set a school record in the discus throw at 130 feet, but also posted an outstanding toss of 43-8 in the shot put, which not only improved on her school record mark by 10 inches, but also set a district record in the process.
The Division III, Region 11 Track and Field Championship saw Emnett also claim first place in the discus with a throw of 125-6, as well as yet another record-setting throw — a school and regional record — of 44-8.
“I’ve never tried to outwork the competition or out-throw the competition. I’ve always tried to outwork myself and beat my previous best throw,” Emnett said of her mindset. “The whole season has been about improving and being better than I was the day before. Ultimately, throwing is a mind game and the mental aspect of it is huge. I have worked on that a lot this year because I have struggled with keeping calm and focused in the past. This has helped me tremendously, and it’s why I have made it this far. I hope to have even better results at the state meet this weekend.”
However, Emnett is far from the only girl who could obtain championship hardware this coming weekend. Her teammate, Libby Miller — who qualified for a team-best three events — ran a 12.68 to set a school record in the 100-meter dash and qualify for state at the district meet, while Alyssa Dingus posted a time of 59.91 in the 400-meter dash to qualify for an at-large berth.
Then, there’s the 4×200-meter relay — which consists of Miller, Dingus, Lauren Jolly, and Lani Irwin — that broke a 37-year old SOC record with their time of 1:47.62 at the SOC Championship Meet. And there’s the 4×100 relay unit, which, thanks to Miller, Jolly, Irwin, and Gabby Deacon, set a district record-winning time of 50.30 and finished second at regional competition with a 50.36 mark.
“It’s been a blessing to be surrounded by girls with so much drive and natural talent,” Emnett said. “Every one of my teammates have also worked every day to beat their personal records. They have also broken a few school records. Going to practice everyday and being surrounded by girls who are also pushing themselves to the limit has made me that much better. I have been blessed with great coaches and teammates that have made the practice and meet atmosphere amazing, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We’ve had a lot of fun this year, and we can’t wait to compete at the state meet as a team.”
The experience of the coaches on staff has proven to be of immeasurable value. Paul Boll, who has served in different capacities throughout his time at Wheelersburg — coaching boys soccer, golf, and girls track to SOC titles — has more than three decades of experience, while Todd Ruby’s training was key in his daughter, Ellie, winning two state championships in the long jump over the past two seasons. Ruby just finished an NAIA All-American campaign at Mount Vernon Nazarene this past spring.
“The coaching staff has been huge for the team as a whole,” Emnett said. “[Todd] Ruby and [Paul] Boll have pushed us and given us insights that we would not have seen on our own. Coach Ruby is a phenomenal sprints coach, and he seems to know everything that there is about running and technique. Coach Boll is a great throwing coach, and also knows the ins and outs of throwing. Both of our coaches have focused on technique and conditioning, which has led to our success as a team. They have pushed us to our limits and allowed us to get better each day.”
This year, Paige Emnett gives Wheelersburg serious hope that the Pirates, for the third time in four years, could have a state champion track athlete.
However, for Emnett, just helping her own team out in its own quest for a state championship is more than enough motivation.
“As an individual, I want to improve from my state results last year,” Emnett said. “I want to move up on the podium and improve my ranking. I would also like to throw PRs in both the shot and discus. As a team, I would like to perform well at the state meet and have a chance to be one of the top teams. I wish my fellow teammates the best of luck in their events and I hope that they will also run their personal best times. This small town of Wheelersburg has raised many great athletes, and it’s time to show the rest of the state what we’re made of.”