STVM girls track edges Buchtel, while Woodridge boys win at Division II regional meet
AUSTINTOWN — Fans who braved the chilly weather Saturday were treated to two dramatic finishes in the Division II regional track meet at Fitch High School.
Heading into the final event — the 1,600--meter relay — both team titles hung in the balance.
The St. Vincent-St. Mary girls team held the lead with 58 points, but did not have a team in the 1,600. Hawken and Marlington were tied with 50 points, while Buchtel had 49. If any one of those team could win the relay, they would claim the team title.
Buchtel's DaMya Barker nearly pulled it off, but in the end, Field won the relay in 4:02.72, just .3 seconds ahead of the Griffins.
STVM held on to win the team title by one point 59-58, though Irish coach Dan Lancianese noted his team might owe the Falcons dinner.
"I haven't slept all week," Lancianese said. "We love Buchtel. We train a lot with them at Miller South. The fact we were able to compete with them was a testament to our girls."
Buchtel coach Orlando Green shared mutual respect for STVM, but noted the two were likely to clash again at the state meet.
"This was exactly what track and field is all about," Green said. "We were a little sore in the final race, but I'm proud of the girls. Getting second here is a big deal; this is a tough regional."
In the boys team race, Woodridge found itself in a duel with Cleveland Glenville for the team title. The Bulldogs led the Tarblooders 67-59 heading into the 1,600 relay.
Woodridge senior Zayd Elkurd left nothing to chance. The Bulldog anchor ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Glenville in the final lap, before pulling away in the homestretch.
"Aaron Dutt gave me a great handoff and I was able to run him down," Elkurd said. "It means a lot to win it, but we'll see them again next week.
Elkurd, David Fritz, Dutt and Aaron Carey combined to win the 1,600 relay in 3:25.77, clinching the team title with 77 points to Glenville's 65.
"It's an honor to run against a team like that," said Woodridge boys coach Scott Mercer. "The distance guys did their thing, but we got points in the hurdles and from the field. It was a complete team effort."
The STVM and Buchtel girls set the tone in the first three races of the day.
Barker opened the by winning the 100 hurdles in 15:05 seconds, while STVM senior Kya Epps won the 100 in 12.36.
Epps and Barker then clashed in the 800 relay, which the Irish won in 1:43.96, just ahead of the Griffins (1:44.93.).
"We had to stay focused and try to stay warm," Epps said. "My goal is just to beat as many bodies as I can."
"It was a good race," Barker said. "Our goal all year has been to try the win the state championship. We feel that we can do it."
Barker and Epps each ended up as double winners, as Barker went on to win the 300 hurdles in 44.15 seconds, while Epps won the 200 in 25.6 seconds.
Buchtel also took second in the 400 relay, as the Griffins finished in 50.98, just behind Beachwood.
The Woodridge girls also has a solid meet, finishing fifth with 50 points.
The Bulldogs' top finisher Saturday was freshman Reese Reaman in the 1,600, who took second place in 5:04.04, trailing only defending state champion Ella Gilson of Hawken.
"I was just making sure I ran my own race and didn't go out too hard," Reece said. "There were a lot of good runners in that event."
Bulldog sophomore Anna Rohrer earned her first trip to state, taking second in the 100 hurdles (15.56) and third in the 300 hurdles (45.25)
Woodridge also got third-place finishes from junior Izzy Best in 800 (2:15.23) and senior Sofia Davis in the pole vault (9 feet).
On the boys side, along with his heroics in the 1,600 relay, Elkurd also claimed the title in the 800 in 1:55.22. He timed his move to perfection, as he ran down several runners in the final 200.
"Last time, I went out too fast and it cost me at little," Elkurd said. "I like to run people down in the end."
Woodridge's big finale was set up by senior Ryan Champa winning the 3,200 in 9:27.46. Senior Andrew Lauk added an eighth-place finish in the 3,200.
"I didn't want to lead too long at any point in the race," Champa said. "I wanted to finish strong. We knew a couple of weeks ago that we had a shot to win this. We knew every point counts."
Dutt (4:25.91) and Champa (4:27.52) finished second and third, respectively, in the 1,600, trailing only another backyard rival: Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy junior Drennan Akins.
Akins won the 1,600 in 4:23.3.
"I was expecting to be running with them most of the time," Adkins said. "They'll be my racing partners at states."
CVCA also saw its 400 relay of Gabriel Nevmerzycki, Jack Peak, Ty Bova and David Lewis take second in 43.9.
Also in the 400 relay, STVM saw the quartet of Santino Moss, Amaurion Watson, Shawn Lodge and Darrian Lewis advance to state (fourth, 43.92). It was a result Lancianese called "completely unexpected."
Irish senior Macyo Williams reached state by taking third in the shot put (53-feet-1).
Buchtel also won a title on the boys side, as senior Darius Woods won the high jump (6-3).