By BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Sports Writer

HARROD - Paulding took home four first-place finishes at the Northwest Conference track meet at Allen East during the two-day event on Thursday and Saturday.

Hunter Kesler won the 400 meters in 51.35 and Bailey Manz the 800 in 2:05.51 for the Paulding boys while Claire Schweller captured the pole vault with a height of 10-0 for the Paulding girls, which also finished first in the 1600 with Schweller, Maggie Manz, Jessica Weller and Janae Pease running a time of 4:22.20.

“Hunter is an athlete with exceptional talent and that also comes hand in hand with a hard-working attitude,” Paulding coach Paige Ordway said of the standout senior. “He has a mentality that he won’t stop until the race is over or until he has won. Finishing first in the 400 in the NWC is a great achievement for him and will certainly not be his last.

“As for Bailey, this is his first season participating in track,” Ordway continued. “He started the season with a bang and hasn’t let up since. Bailey comes out to each practice ready to push himself even harder than the day before. With a great finish in the conference championship, this senior still has great expectations to come.”

Ordway also had high praise for the winning girls.

“Claire is one of our many exceptional young athletes this year in the track program,” Ordway said about the freshman. “She struggled hitting her stride throughout the year but is finally starting to see great results from her continued hard work throughout the season. We are excited to see how she finishes out this season and what her future has in store.

“The 4x400 has a mixture of experienced and young athletes on the team and we’re expecting great results from them,” Ordway continued. “Having changed up the lineup of this relay multiple times throughout the year, this group of girls has continued to break PRs as the season progresses. Moving on to districts, this group will continue to work hard and improve their time even further.”

Kesler was also second in the pole vault at 11-6 and third in the 200 with a time of 23.48 while Schweller was second in the 300 hurdles with a clocking of 50.34. The boys 1600 relay of Bailey Manz, Brian Manz, Kesler and Owen Carnahan was also second in a time of 3:37.64.

Carnahan placed third in the 300 hurdles (41.94) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.88) with Bailey Manz sixth in the 1600 (4:49.64). The boys were also sixth in the 800 relay with Jacob Deisler, Carnahan, Brian Manz and Drew Lumpkins completing the distance in a time of 1:39.37). Deyton Price finished seventh in the 1600 (5:07.61) and eighth in the 3200 (11:38.41) while Allen Lumpkins rounded out the boys scoring points with an eighth in the pole vault (9-0).

Kristen Razo took home fourth place in the high jump (4-8) for the Paulding girls, which also had a fourth from the 800 relay of Pease, Weller, Razo and Jocelyn LaFountain (1:59.09).

Weller also finished fifth in the 100 hurdles (18.25), Maggie Manz fifth in the 400 (1:05.22) and Baylee March fifth in the pole vault (7-6).

Taking sixth for the Paulding girls were Pease in the 400 (1:05.22), Elyse Manz in the 3200 (13:47.61) and Leah Nusbaum in the shot put (33-8). Weller was seventh in the 300 hurdles (54.00).

“Overall the conference meet was a success for us,” Ordway concluded. “The conference brought some great competition and this type of competition pushed our athletes resulting in several of them breaking personal records by three to five seconds.

“This meet was a great prep for districts approaching next week. We’re very excited to see how districts plays out for these athletes.”

The Paulding boys finished fourth in the final NWC standings with 75 points. Grove won the meet with 138.5 points while Bluffton had 106.5 and Lincolnview 105. After Paulding, Crestview was fifth with 65 followed by Spencerville 51, Allen East 35, Ada 30 and Delphos Jefferson 16.

The Lady Panthers were sixth with 49 points behind Grove with 211, Spencerville 143, Lincolnview 79.5, Bluffton 72 and Allen East 54. Ada placed seventh with 39.5, Crestview had 32 and Jefferson 19.