“I can’t even describe it”: Sandy Valley’s Tucci wins state championship in high jump

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The 2024 OHSAA Track and Field State Championship, a three-day extravaganza hosted by Dayton’s Welcome Stadium, began at 3 p.m.

Slightly more than two hours later, Sandy Valley’s Lexi Tucci had already left her indelible mark on the books, winning the Division 3 girls high jump title with a personal- and school-record leap of 5-06.

Not bad, considering Tucci tore her ACL as a junior during the 2023 basketball season, meaning she hasn’t competed in track since her sophomore year. The senior may have had little problem vanquishing her opponents, but she strugged to describe the feeling of standing atop the podium despite her trials.

“It was surreal,” said Tucci. “I can’t even describe it. I just wanted to come down and do well and kind of enjoy the whole experience because I really didn’t know if I’d get to compete this year after the injury and everything.”

It was not just winning, although that in and of itself is indeed special. It was also how Tucci won.

In a word, flawlessly.

“Being able to come down and just hit those heights and be clean throughout, we drilled that, drilled that, drilled that, and I was able to be clean, no misses until I ended up going out at 5-07, so it was an amazing feeling,” she said. “My jump at 5-06, I think that was probably the best feeling jump I’ve ever had, and for it to be at that height and for it to be the winning jump, that’s pretty incredible.”

Starting at 4-10, Tucci nailed seven consecutive heights on her first attempt all the way to 5-06. Runner-up Adriana Kremer from Minster, meanwhile, required two attempts at 5-03 and three at 5-04 before hitting 5-05 cleanly.

Ultimately, however, Kremer and third-place finisher Elisabeth Waltz of Troy Christian both failed to clear 5-06, crowning Tucci as state champion.

And a cherry on Tucci’s state-championship sundae? Her coach, Jason Calkins? He’s her uncle.

“Obviously, a coach supports you but just having that family tie, it’s a different feeling because they’ve been rooting for me since I was a little kid,” Tucci said. “My coach, he’s been with me through the ups and downs, so he’s really pushed to get me here and we made it. And it’s cool because he was a state champ, too.”

That’s right. Calkins won a title for Sandy Valley in 1995. So perhaps jumping is in the blood?

Tucci’s older brother Mason, also a Sandy Valley alumnus, is an assistant coach for the Cardinals.

With one title under her belt, Tucci was not quite done as the schedule had her also competing in the long jump, where she was a threat to add to her trophy case.

But what could have been one heck of a mic drop moment – the tournament’s first day and two events, two titles – was not to be as Tucci lost out to Coldwater’s Izzy Kahn on a heartbreaking tiebreaker.

It was not for a lack of effort, that’s for sure. Tucci’s first two jumps during flights were her best as she reached 18-02 on her first attempt and then a personal best of 18-07.75 on her second.

After three jumps, Tucci was sitting in first place by a little more than six inches. But Kahn tied Tucci’s mark on her second jump of finals, and then on her last attempt, reached 18-04.75, which by virtue of being longer than Tucci’s second-best mark of 18-02, gave her the title.

Still, Tucci will return home with gold and silver, as well as the knowledge that on the biggest stage, she performed her best and gave it her all.

And considering the road Tucci traveled to get here, that is not too shabby at all.