Laikyn Imler had a decision to make after her freshman season.
The Trimble Tomcat was already a standout in volleyball and basketball going into her sophomore school year. The decision came in what to play in the spring.
Imler was a starter on Trimble’s softball team as a ninth-grader, but thought about going a different route.
Imler decided to return to track and field, a sport she hadn’t played since seventh grade.
“I just felt like I’d be more successful doing track than playing softball,” Imler said. “I liked softball and I liked doing it with my friends, but I felt like this would be more for me. I could use my speed.”
The decision has paid off in a big way for Imler, who will be busy this weekend at the Division III OHSAA State Track and Field Championships.
Imler has already made school history regardless of how the weekend plays out. She’s the first Trimble athlete to compete in the state meet in three events.
Imler will compete in the long jump, the 100 meter hurdles and the 100 meter dash at Westerville North High School.
While Imler’s athletic ability would have surely made her successful on the softball diamond, her decision to run track has given her an opportunity to compete against the best in the state.
Imler’s success is all the more impressive considering she lost her sophomore season due to the COVID cancelation.
Without any varsity experience prior to this year, Imler still managed to finish as regional runner-up in the long jump and 100 meter hurdles, as well as placing fourth in the 100 meter dash.
“It was awesome,” Imler said of last weekend’s regional tournament success. “I went into it with a positive outlook, thinking I could possibly place in every event and advance to states.”
Imler had success in her only previous track and field season, going to the junior high state meet in the 100 meter hurdles as a seventh grader.
On the volleyball court, Imler shows off her leaping ability every night as a high-flyer around the net. So it should come as no surprise that she has success in the the hurdles and the long jump.
Imler also has a family connection, as her sister Taylor Savage was a two-time state qualifier in the long jump and still holds Trimble’s school record in the event.
“That made me want to do it,” Imler said of the long jump. “She came to my meet a few weeks ago. If she wants anyone to beat her record, I think she wants it to be me and I really want to try and beat her record as well.”
Imler set a personal best in the long jump in last week’s regional meet at Southeastern at 16 feet, 11.50 inches. She led the field until Crooksville senior Greta Barker passed her at 17 feet, 2.5 inches on her last attempt.
Imler also finished second in the district meet to Barker, who has signed to run track and field at Ashland University.
The long jump competition will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. Imler will jump in the second flight, going seventh.
Imler was beaten across the state by only five other athletes last weekend. Colonel Crawford junior Katie Ruffener enters with the best regional jump at 18 feet, 3.5 inches.
Imler will begin her weekend on Friday when she runs in the prelims for the 100 meter hurdles and the 100 meter dash.
The 100 hurdles are scheduled for 2:30 p.m., with the 100 meters to follow at 3 p.m.
Imler has navigated the quick turnaround between those two events all season. Castalia Margaretta’s Kenna Stimmel is the only other athlete competing in both the 100 hurdles and 100 meters on Friday.
“I think practice has a lot to do with it, working on my recovery time because I really don’t get much of a break in between the 100 meter hurdles and the dash,” Imler said. “I just have to go back to the start and get a deep breath, but luckily my legs are warmed up by the time I run the 100.”
Imler was also able to PR in the 100 meter hurdles last week at 14.59 seconds. The weather was cold, but Imler said the competition helped push her to new heights, as she was more than a second ahead of her district meet time of 15.64.
“I feel like it was good to have people right next to me,” she said. “The competition pushed me to jump farther and to run faster and I think my times were better because of that.”
Imler’s 100 meter hurdle time is among the best in Division III, only beaten by two others last week.
Mount Gilead senior Allison Johnson topped Imler last weekend at Southeastern with a time of 14.23, and that represents the best time in the state. Ruffener checks in at 14.49 seconds, and will compete against Imler in both the long jump and 100 hurdles.
There are three heats in Friday’s prelims, and Imler will run from lane five in the second heat.
In the 100 meters, Imler will run from lane two in the second heat.
The top two in each heat, plus the next two best times will advance to Friday’s final.
Imler’s 100 meter time from last week of 12.83 seconds was 11th out of 18 state qualifiers. The fastest time coming in is from Crooksville’s Barker at 12.28 seconds.
The finals for the 100 meter hurdles are Saturday at 2 p.m., and the 100 meter dash final follows 10 minutes later.
“I plan on getting there early and warming my legs up as much as possible especially because I jump first on Saturday,” Imler said. “But I think that’s good for my running events because I’ll already be warmed up from the jumping.”
It will be a busy weekend for Imler, as her return to the sport will culminate against the best competition at the state track and field championships.
Now, she chases a spot on the podium, as the top eight in each event earn all-Ohio honors.