Note: This preview appears in the Friday, May 31 newspaper on Page B1.

One of the most successful athletes to wear an Athens track and field uniform will make his final appearance for the Bulldogs this weekend.

Athens senior Tony Tonkovich — and four runners for Nelsonville-York High School — will conclude their track and field seasons this weekend inside Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The 2019 OHSAA Boys and Girls State Track and Field Tournaments will be held on Friday and Saturday on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Tonkovich will compete in the Division I 1600 meter run on Saturday.

Nelsonville-York’s Justin Perry (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Keegan Wilburn (100 meters), Ethan Bohyer (400 meters) and Courtnee Heskett (200 meters) will all run Friday in Division III preliminaries.

Tonkovich holds Athens records in the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs, but elected to focus on the 1600 for his final postseason push.

The move has paid off, as he finished second in the Division I, Region 3 tournament at Pickerington last weekend.

Tonkovich will take part in what should be an extremely competitive mile race on Saturday. The Division I girls 1600 will start at 5:15 p.m., with the boys mile run to follow.

Tonkovich, who will compete in cross country and track and field for Ohio University next year, will have an opportunity to go out in style. His regional time of 4:17.39 was the second-fastest in the entire state. Only Region 3 champion Andrew Schroff, of Lewis Center Olentangy Orange, did better with a time of 4:16.34.

There were many times across the state that were close to Schroff and Tonkovich, however. Five other runners broke 4:18, and seven more ran under 4:20.

The ‘slowest’ regional time in the field is still an impressive 4:21.61 from Shaker Heights’ Brandon Duffett. The 18 athletes in the field were separated by just 5.27 seconds in their regional performances.

Only the top eight in the field will earn a spot on the podium, and an all-Ohio finish.

Tonkovich first broke the school record in the 1600 with a time of 4:19.77 near the end of the regular season. He won a Division I district title with a time of 4:26.84 before breaking his school record with a 4:17.39 in the regional tournament.

While Tonkovich will run for a shot at a state championship on Saturday, the Nelsonville-York track and field program will be busy on Friday when the Division III preliminary races get underway.

Perry will kick things off for the Buckeyes when he runs in the 110 meter hurdles at 10:10 a.m. The senior will run in lane two in the first heat.

Perry posted a regional time of 15.29 seconds, which was the third-best time across the state.

Only Mogadore’s Connor Kerr (14.80 seconds) and Mount Gilead’s Connor Page (14.85 seconds) posted better times.

The top two in each heat plus the next five best times for all Friday prelims will advance to Saturday’s final.

Wilburn, a junior, will race in the 100 meters at 10:25 a.m. He will run from lane three in the first heat.

Wilburn’s regional time of 11.13 seconds was the eighth best across the state. Five athletes broke 11 seconds, led by Wellsville’s Justin Wright’s time of 10.70 seconds.

Bohyer, a senior, will run in the 400 meters at 11:10 a.m. He’ll race in the first heat and from lane three.

Bohyer’s regional time of 50.27 seconds is the eighth best across the state. The field was led by Hannibal River’s Cooper Brown, who posted a regional-best time of 48.86 seconds.

Perry will take the track again at 11:30 a.m. for the 300 meter hurdles. He’ll run from lane nine in the first heat.

Perry’s regional time of 40.40 seconds is the 14th in the 18-member field. The top regional time also belongs to Mogadore’s Kerr at 38.63 seconds.

Heskett will make her state tournament debut in the 200 meters, as the sophomore is scheduled to run at 11:40 a.m.

Heskett will run from lane one in the second heat. Her regional time of 26.38 seconds is the 18th best in the field, which is led by Malvern’s Zoe Moser (25.09 seconds).

The four Buckeye runners will try to punch their ticket to Saturday’s finale. The 110 meter hurdle finals are scheduled for 9:35 a.m. on Saturday, the 100 meter final is 9:40 a.m., the 400 meter final is 10:35 a.m., the 300 meter hurdle final is set for 10:40 a.m. and the girls’ 200 meter final is at 11:25 a.m.

Meigs senior Kassidy Betzing — who will compete on Ohio University’s track and field team next season — will try to reach the podium in the Division II long jump for the fourth year in a row.

Betzing will compete on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

Betzing’s regional jump of 17 feet, 10.50 inches was the second best across the state. Only Toldeo Central Catholic senior Simone Green did better at 17 feet, 11.25 inches.

Betzing will go second in the first flight.

Betzing won the district championship two weeks ago with a jump of 18 feet, 5.50 inches.

Betzing placed seventh in Division II as a freshman with a jump of 17 feet, 2.75 inches.

Betzing placed second in Division II as a sophomore with a jump of 18 feet, 9.25 inches.

Betzing placed fourth in Division II as a junior with a jump of 17 feet, 6.25 inches.

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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