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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
Midway through this season the idea of Ashton Bange running the 1600 at states seemed unlikely.

He was throwing shot put at a meet so he could be around his team. The hope was maybe he could build his way up to be an option in the 3200 relay by the postseason, but the 1600 meters seemed like a long shot.

The Corning star got hurt in the end of the indoor season and at times he thought he might miss the entire outdoor season.

“I’m super excited,” Bange said. “I was not expecting to go as far as I did. Coming off a lot of training it felt really good. It took me a little bit to really get into the flow again, but I’m really fit. It feels good to go to states with everyone again.

“My indoor season got kind of cut short, it feels amazing to get to run. I was kind of not planning. I was told my outdoor might be done. Every race is a blessing this is more of a blessing, good or bad, I’m really happy to be able to go.”

Bange did everything possible to help himself get back to this point. Now he’s seeded 15th overall, 11th in division 1, at the state meet in 4:19.86.

“Basically I had to listen to my body a lot,” he said. “I went to three different people about my foot and got my input about it and then finally landed in Rochester on the suggestion of Sheila (Sutton), they were really good. I had to do PT (physical therapy). I got to run on an anti-gravity treadmill where less weight was put on the foot but I was still getting running in. Between anti-gravity I did a lot of running in the pool. A lot of time in the pool like I was running and simulating running somehow that kept me in shape.”

The idea of being able to run the 1600 in the postseason just started to come along over the course of the year.

“Honestly it was hard to say (when he thought he could run the 1600),” Bange said. “I went in with the full intention of the 800 then after a few races I realized my mind, when I’m racing I can focus more on the mile, it felt natural to go for the mile. Then I ran in a slow heat by myself and I did pretty well. We decided we’d take that time and try and go out and make states with it. It wasn’t even looking likely I would be on the 4x8 we have fast guys in that now.”

The speed of the runners on the 4x800 relay has impressed Bange, who was part of the team that won states a year ago.

“It was really impressive,” Bange said. “Coming back I thought I’ll probably be on the 4x8 again. Seeing everyone get so much faster also made me realize everyone is working really hard. It’s really cool to see how fast everyone is, I think they have a pretty good chance of winning states, which is nuts.”

The Hawks have a big contingent going to states including that 4x800 team, who will be looking to win states for the Hawks in the event for a second straight year.

Corning’s Joey Caruso, Gyasi Ruffin, Nick Schneider and Anthony Mendoza are seeded 10th in Division I in 3:24.98.

In the 3200 relay Tevin McLaren, Marcus Homa, Jaxyn Mahoney and Gabe Cornfield are seeded eighth in 7:58.89.

Ruffin is seeded 11th in Division I in the 400 in 49.75..

Homa is seeded 19th in the 3200 in 9:24.27 and Cornfield is seeded third in the steeplechase in 9:28.52.

Hugo Mazzali is seeded 12th in the triple jump at 42-feet, 10 1/2-inches and Zuri Ruffin is seeded 22nd in Division I in the long jump at 21-feet, 6 1/2-inches.

Cabe Hogue is seeded 11th in the discus at 146-feet and Dylan Rose is seeded 31st in the high jump at 6-feet.

For the girls Leila Ianovici, Megan Kirk, Faith Tubbs and Osa Uyinmwen are seeded 12th in the 1600 relay in 4:06.05.

In the 3200 relay Sarah Lawson, Megan Kirk, Faith Tubbs and Ella Grinnell are seeded 22nd in 10:01.01 and in the 2000 steeplechase Olivia Murch is seeded 21st in 7:52.24.

Sarah Lawson is seeded 11th in the 3000 at 9:58.49 and Abby Reppert is seeded 23rd in the pole vault at 9-feet, 7-inches. Sophia Cimo is seeded 11th in the discus at 107-feet, 8-inches and Cella McLaughlin is seeded 20th in Division I in the 100 hurdles in 15.80.

The idea of being under 4:20 by state qualifiers was something that Bange never imagined when the season started.

“Not really,” he said. “I was hoping end of season I would get like 4:25. But, my first race was 4:25 it’s all kind of icing on the cake. I didn’t think the pool kept me that fit. Just seeing how fast I can go now.”

The one thing for Bange is he’s really appreciating everything a little more now after not thinking he’d have a season.

“I was told in the beginning I wouldn’t have an outdoor season at all,” Bange said. “Even practice runs, appreciation for running is super high right now.”

That shot put throwing, that came because of how much Bange enjoys being with his team.

“I love the guys on the team, I had to stay involved somehow,” Bange said. “Shot put was pretty cool. I have never experienced the throwing scene, it’s different to see different aspects of the sport.”

In a perfect world Bange would have run his races all year, but if he couldn’t he did enjoy at least getting to see other aspects of the sport.

“It wasn’t ideal,” Bange said. “Ideally I would have been happy to do the mile over and over. But, it was nice to switch it up. Now I know I’m better at the mile than anything else. It might have been a blessing in disguise.”

Being away from running Bange did spend some time studying the sport.

“I have always done a little bit of analysis before my miles,” he said. “I would watch guys like Gary Martin and Cole Hocker, I watch their miles and see how they run. When I had some time off I was actually watching 800 runners to see how they get a little more explosive. I wasn’t able to recreate it in my races, but maybe eventually. I have it in my mind somewhere.”

Now that he’s going to states Bange just wants to run his best.

“I’m not going for a time,” he said. “If I could win, that would be awesome. I’m not expecting that, I’m going to go out to see how far I can go with a couple of weeks training.”

One positive of coming off an injury is Bange is feeling rested now.

“I do feel a little more fresh than I normally would, but also feel a little heavier,” Bange said. “I put on a little muscle and it’s a give or take. It’s something I didn’t really foresees, but it’s kind of cool.”

It’s special for Bange to be back with the team that’s going to states.

“In the pool I felt like I was still part of the team, but it almost felt like I was separated,” Bange said. “Being able to run with everyone, it feels like a better sendoff than running in a pool every day. Being able to reconnect with the team, which is nice.”

While he’s not fully healthy, Bange is getting better each day.

“My foot is still not 100%, but it’s definitely healed enough I am able to run on it with no pain, which is the most important thing,” Bange said. “I think health wise I’m feeling pretty healthy. Not 100%, but not below 90%.”

And, as he gets faster each week, it’s nice for Bange to already have a solid time going into states.

“Honestly, it made me feel happy that it feels like I have a solid base I’m able to build off of now,” Bange said. “Makes me feel confident. I still have more to grow, I can get a lot faster.

“I remember last year I don’t think I broke 4:20 until I got to the state meet, so I’m really fortunate to be where I am right now, where my body is.”

While he won’t be in the fast heat at states, Bange hopes to run a strong race.

“I don’t know how likely (to medal),” Bange said. “I’ll be in the second heat, it will be pretty tough, but if we can go fast and maybe squeak out a state medal it would be one of the most special ones. It’s tough to say if it will happen or not, it’s going to be a fun race regardless.”

States won’t be the final race of his high school career for Bange as he’s already qualified for nationals.

“Fortunately I was able to use my indoor time for nationals so I’m already qualified there,” Bange said. “I feel like with another week I’ll have another week after states for more fitness so I can increase my speed.”

One thing that’s for sure, before and after the race on Saturday there will be a big smile on Bange’s face.

“”It might be a more serious look on the starting line,” Bange said. “During warmups will be a huge smile. States you just know everyone there is so much faster. It’s such a fun race, it will be awesome.

“My smile is going to be pretty dang big after that race. If we give it our all, it will be pretty hard to not give it your all in a state race, it’s going to be a huge smile.”

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