Tallmadge boys track wins Suburban League American Conference championship meet

Roger Gordon
Correspondent
Tallmadge's Tommy Naiman is all smiles as he finishes in first place in the boy's 3200 meter run at the Suburban League American conference Championship Track and Field Meet at Tallmadge High School on Friday May 11, 2021.

The Tallmadge boys track and field team accomplished something that had not been done since 1966 — win a league meet.

The Blue Devils captured the seven-team Suburban League American Conference championship with 166 points May 10-11 at Tallmadge. Highland finished second with 136 points and Aurora was third with 133 points. 

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Tallmadge head coach Mike Srodawa said.

Junior Ben Hudak was a huge part of the Blue Devils’ title. He won the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 7 inches. He also finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 51.88 seconds.

Hudak was a member of two relays that finished second as well; the 800 relay with a time of 1:32.22 and the 1,600 relay with a time of 3:34.73.

Tallmadge's anchor runner Riley Murphy finishes in first place in the boy's 4 x100 relay at the Suburban League American conference Championship Track and Field Meet at Tallmadge High School on Friday May 11, 2021.

“Ben did great,” said Srodawa. “With limited turnaround from having a meet against [conference rival] Highland on Thursday and then coming back on Saturday, he did a great job. In the long jump, he’s been pretty consistent. In fact, every meet that he’s been in, he’s won except for the one against Highland. It’s his best event, the one he spends the most time on and the one he enjoys the most.”

Tallmadge suffered its only dual-meet defeat of the season, 71-66, in the May 6 regular-season-ending home meet against the Hornets. The Blue Devils finished tied with Copley for the regular-season conference title with a 5-1 record.

Hudak won the 400-meter dash with a time of 51.96. He finished second in the long jump with a leap of 20-3.25. He was also a part of the winning 800 relay team that turned in a clocking of 1:32.46.

Tallmadge's Dylan Phelps clears the final hurdle on his way to a first place finish in the boy's 300 meter hurdles at the Suburban League American conference Championship Track and Field Meet at Tallmadge High School on Friday May 11, 2021.

“Ben has been consistent all season,” Srodawa said. “He’s been dealing with a little bit of a hamstring injury. It’s nothing that makes him so he can’t run, but it’s just uncomfortable when he does run. So for him to come out and run less than 52 in the 400 feeling the way he did was a pretty strong performance.

“I don’t think he’s satisfied with where he’s at in the season. I think his goals are to continue on for a couple more weeks here. We knew he was a good long jumper, but he’s really come on in the sprint events too.

“Ben is a great overall kid. He leads by example, is a very hard worker. He may come across as being a little quiet at times, but he’s a great competitor and a great teammate.”

Tallmadge's Tommy Naiman, left, reacts as he finishes in first over Aurora's Matt Singleton, who finished second, in the boy's 1600 meter run at the Suburban League American conference Championship Track and Field Meet at Tallmadge High School on Friday May 11, 2021.

According to his coach, Hudak could have a very memorable month of May and possibly even June.

“In the long jump I think Ben can get to regionals," Srodawa said. "Regionals is going to be a little bit harder, but there are a couple things we’re currently working on with his jump. I would not be surprised if he made it to Columbus.”

As for the Tallmadge girls track and field team, one team member who is doing her part and more is freshman Cara Basso.

Basso ran a personal-best time of 12:15.46 in the 3,200 at the conference meet, good enough for fourth place. She was also a member of the 3,200 relay that finished fifth with a time of 10:32.13.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a freshman who has finished that high at the league meet in the 3,200,” said Srodawa, also the girls head coach. “The stage wasn’t too bright for her. She definitely was able to stay composed. To have a personal record at the league meet says a lot about her overall character and drive as an athlete.”

Overall, the Blue Devils finished fifth out of seven teams with 78.5 points. Highland won the competition with 202 points. Aurora finished second with 122 points and Copley was third with 83 points. 

Against Highland, Tallmadge lost 103-34 to finish the regular season 3-3 and in third place in the conference.

Basso finished third in the 3,200 with a time of 12:20. She was also part of the winning 3,200 relay that had a time of 10:26.

“Highland has a very strong team and a really good distance program, so for us to win the 3,200 relay was a big deal,” Srodawa said. “And for Cara to place as a freshman in the 3,200 was also a pretty big deal.

“For her to come in and step right in and be a main contributor for our team has helped a lot this season. Our distance program is pretty strong, and she definitely fit right in with what we’ve been doing. As the season has progressed, her confidence has grown. Cara has a really strong work ethic. She sets goals and does the little things that are going to separate her from others in the distance events.

“Our 3,200 relay has a real good shot of advancing to regionals. The 3,200 is going to be a little harder for Cara, but you never know.”