That is the motton of the all stone track at Plymouth High School. Then the sun comes out and turns it to cement with small craters to navigate around. The high jump pit doubles as the school parking lot and the throw arena has a few tractor ruts from its former life as a corn field.
Through it all, Nathaniel Redden and Hannah Barber have put themselves in prime position to earn a place at state. In this week’s Division III regional meet in Tiffin, Redden will run the long race of the 3,200-meter run while Barber throws in the shot and discus. All after a full season of training on a less than ideal track.
“It makes it easier when you finally get to the meet because the ground here is so hard and difficult to throw on,” Barber said. “Going to a stadium just makes it a lot easier and it is easier to be able to go through the motions of throwing.”
Barber spends her time in a far corner beyond the track working on her craft. Meanwhile, Redden and assistance coach Jay Follett take off and run around the tiny village of Plymouth heading up Ohio 603 and all through the country back roads. A far cry from the flat circle of a rubberized track.
“I think mentally it helps so much,” Redden said. “During the race, I think back to all of the other hard runs of going up and down hills. If I can do that, going around the flat track should be a piece of cake.”
Redden and Follett share a special relationship that revolves around their love for running. All through the offseason, the two were spotted all around town doing what each of them enjoy the most — running.
“There is one girls on the team that thinks he is my son because we spend so much time together,” Follett said. “She was convinced for a while even though we look nothing alike. It is super special to me to be able to mentor him along. He has always taken the 2-mile as his event.”
Redden enters his final season for the Plymouth Big Red and will have one more chance to prolong his career. He runs the 3,200-meter race on Friday with a Top 4 spot adding another week to his season.
“This year means so much more than any other year,” Redden said. “It is my second year in a row to make it to the regional meet in the 3,200. This year was a little more special because I was able to extend my high school career one more week.”
A 2-time regional qualifier, Redden will find himself in an unusual yet very fortunate situation for himself.
“He has yet to run a fresh 3,200,” Follett said. “All year long, he has run the 3,200 after running the 1,600 earlier in the meet so we are excited to see what he can do with fresh legs in the 3,200.”
Redden strolls in with the 11th best qualifying time after taking third in the Division III Bucyrus District. He will need a lifetime Personal Record to keep his senior season alive.
“The biggest key is before the race is mentally preparing yourself,” Redden said. “You have to sit down and just think of any and everything that could possibly happen and just prepare for that. If you do that, nothing can throw you off. Even the slightest mistake can ruin the entire race for you. Mostly, I just look at the person ahead of me and planning on when and how I should make a move to pass him. Every lap, I hear coach Follett yelling my splits and I calculate my times and where I am going to be at when I finish the race. If I go for a certain time, I figure out what I need to do to get there.”
Barber, also a senior, is a 2-event regional qualifier for the first time in her career.
“It means a lot to me to be able to go in both shot and disc instead of just one,” Barber said. “It took a lot of hard work and practice. I worked on my footwork and my hips with all of the technique it takes.”
Barber won the Division III district title in the discus last week with a toss of 110-10 while taking fourth in the shot.
“I do not like to be beaten,” Barber said. “So I just have to make sure to go in with the mindset that I want to get passed any distance anyone else throws. I just clear my head and act like there is no one around. I throw better when it is quiet.”
Head coach Matt Anderson has seen a huge progression from Barber through her four years at the high school level.
“Her freshman year, she was more of a shot putter and threw discus as a side event,” Anderson said. “She was good at it but not great. She started realizing that she could succeed in both. Like she said, she hates to lose and she has a competitive fire that is unmatched. She is out there perfecting her craft all of the time.”
The Big Red duo travels to Tiffin on Friday as Redden runs in the 3,200-meter final and Barber looks to cement her place at state in the discus final.
“These are great kids who have been very loyal to the program,” Anderson said. “They have put in the hard work and they listen to their coaches. They go above and beyond. We are just very proud that we have two quality kids representing Plymouth at the regional level and hopefully beyond.”