COLUMBUS – For as decorated as Nick Plant’s career has been, there was just one thing he hadn’t had the opportunity to partake in; competing at Jesse Owens Stadium at Ohio State, the traditional home of the OHSAA State Track and Field Championships.
After failing to qualify in 2019, a nixed season in 2020, and a 2021 tournament that was held at three separate sites, Plant walked into Jesse Owens and knew that this time it was different.
In front of a packed house, Plant gave fans a historic performance, not just defending his Division I 800-meter title, but breaking the all-time state record of 1:48.93 with his own time of 1:48.65.
As the afternoon sun gave way to the shadows that the west-side stands cast on the track, Plant crossed the finish line with every ounce of energy the senior still possessed.
“I felt that my coach (Eric) O’Brien prepared me well for today. We knew the expectation (that) it was going to be a fast race. In Jesse Owens, it’s just different out here,” Plant explained. “All these fans, everyone cheering, it’s electric, perfect conditions. I feel amazing. I don’t think today could have gone much better. It’s really exciting. I’m just happy to be in this sport, in my position with my friends, family and coaches.”
O’Brien could tell the atmosphere was going to be on another level. If anything, he wanted Plant to be locked in and engaged, but there was a moment to take in the ambiance and appreciate the moment.
“It’s huge. The 800-meter is a very tough race, and you need that crowd to pull you through the last 100-120,” O’Brien said. “It was interesting. The 4×100 was a phenomenal race, and we were over in the back warming up, and as we’re hearing them come through, we just said ‘stop,’ he said ‘what,’ I said ‘just stop and listen to the crowd … that’s why you’re here,’ and he listened, and I said, ‘okay we got to get back to work.’”
Plant almost immediately took the lead and didn’t give up throughout the entire event, owning a respectable lead though lap one before turning on the afterburners.
As Plant sprinted gracefully past the grandstands and onto the finish line, the roar of the near sellout audience was heard loud and clear. He beat second-place Dylan Christian by nearly five seconds, and third-place JP Tew by almost eight seconds.
The 800-meter record that’s stood since Mark Sylvester set it back in 2001 was finally Plant’s for the taking.
“Hard work, it obviously pays off, everything you put into it. Just know that I’ve put everything into it to get to this position.” Plant said.
The road isn’t over quite yet for the standout. He’ll don the red and black of Canfield one final time when he makes a trip up to Seattle in two weeks to compete at the Brooks PR Invitational, a national event where he took first in the 800-meter run last June as well.
There aren’t many kids that stand atop of the podium as a senior and earn the opportunity to represent their school colors for an encore performance.
“I’m aware of my capabilities.I know that I can go a little faster, the competition like that at a national meet is just a whole different animal. I just hope I can do the best I can there,” Plant commented. “I just got to prepare one more time for another big show.”
“Just the coaches, they’ve been really supportive, they’ve done everything and more I could have asked, so I’m just happy to have these coaches as my coaches, so it just feels good.”
O’Brien is excited at the chance to coach his standout middle distance runner one last time. Coming in as the defending champ is an honor under the national spotlight, but that doesn’t mean that anything will be given in Seattle.
In fact, he thrives when surrounded by the best.
“Everybody when you get to the state meet is phenomenal, but Nick handles the pressure well, and that’s what shows a true champion. He’s humble in his races, realizing that great competitors are great competitors, and he has to bring his A game if he wants to be one, and that’s what he did today,” O’Brien said. “I told him we can enjoy tonight and get a nice dinner, but tomorrow will be his recovery day and then we get to work on Monday.
“He has a week and a half, so we’ll probably get two workouts in next week, just get the legs going. He leaves for Seattle on Monday and he’s going to run against a stud field that he’s going to have to bring his A game to.”
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox