OHIO’S GREATEST BOY’S TEAM?
a tale of two cities
In the fall of 1979, Lancaster High School won the state championship in cross country and was recognized as one of the top teams in the nation. As soon as the dust settled, the group began planning how they might be able to win the state track crown. This was just prior to the addition of the 4x800 relay in the state meet and a distance oriented team had never won the big track crown in Columbus.
Meanwhile, in Middletown they were assembling a powerful group of sprinters and also dreamed of a state championship. They would be loaded in the relays and the sprints and have a strong hurdler, too. They knew of the distance power of Lancaster but they also understood that sprint dominated teams had more opportunity to score at the state meet.
Lancaster knew they would need more than just distance runners and they had a powerful asset in thrower Barry Walker. They also looked more and more around their team for someone to step up and help them in what seemed like an impossible quest. Certainly they would be one of the top teams in the state, but to pull off a victory at state would be tough.
Lancaster showed their power and depth by going undefeated through the season. At their sectional meet (now called the district meet) they did the unthinkable by qualifying everyone to the regionals. Middletown, also, was showing lots of power and qualified all they needed to the big show.
As the state meet progressed, the see-saw battle between Middletown and Lancaster began to emerge. John Zishka was nipped at the tape by Mike Hallabrin in what has been dubbed “the dream mile” but then came back to win a fast 3200. Middletown was scoring well with a second in the hundred, a win in the 200 and a win in the 4x100 relay. They were saddened, though, with a very close 4th place in the 110 hurdles that could very nearly have been a win. Lancaster clawed out points in the 800 and both throwing events but the big help they had hoped for all along came in the form of high jumper Robbie Marsh who placed second. Now all that was left was the 4x400 relay by Middletown. A win by them in the final event would have given the Middies the championship by one point. Their tired sprinters gave it their all but ended up fourth to end a dramatic duel between two very fine squads.
Here are the Lancaster stats at the state meet:
Clark Haley - 800 meters - 1:54.8 - 6th
John Zishka - 1600 meters - 4:07.8 - 2nd
John Zishka - 3200 meters - 8:57.5 - 1st
Robbie Marsh - High Jump - 6-7 - 2nd
Barry Walker - Shot Put - 62-4 3/4 - 3rd
Barry Walker - Discus - 180-4 - 2nd
We are still looking for more information, especially the stats from the district meet (called the sectionals then) where Lancaster qualified EVERYONE to the regionals!