Want to be an Optimist? Stow boys finish second in Austintown

Steve Batko
Stow-Munroe Falls' Xavier Preston crosses the line first in the 100-meter dash April 29 at Hudson. Preston said a new school record in the 100 May 1 at the Optimist Meet in Austintown.

It was a good sample for a Stow track and field team ready to take on the league championships and the Division I district meet.

Coming near to completing one of the more impressive regular seasons in recent years, the Bulldogs and head coach J.K. LeSeure look to parlay that energy and performance into big-meet points.

For LeSeure, that validation starts with the post season, which starts with the upcoming Suburban League Championships, which for the deep National Conference, is set for May 12 and 13 at Nordonia.

Stamping a runner-up finish at the 40th annual Optimist Meet May 1 at Austintown Falcon Stadium, Stow’s boys found points in a variety of ways.

Placing second out of a good 33-team field and losing a team title by two points to host Austintown Fitch (70) helps the cause.

Just to name a few, Stow beat Division II power Woodridge (50), Federal League stronghold Massillon Perry (48), Division III state power Crestview (46) and a strong Walsh Jesuit unit.

“It’s a little difficult to tell if the team competition has been the same as years past, but I can say the individual competition was as good as we have seen this year,” explained LeSeure, alluding to the meet’s reputation.

Stow continues to break school records in sprint events and doing it at Fitch, is especially impressive.

Junior Xavier Preston captured the 100 and 200-meter individual titles at the Optimist and broke his own school record in the 100-meter dash he recently set with a time of 10.98 seconds against Wadsworth.

Preston sped to a time of 10.93 seconds to win the title and set the new standard at Stow.

In winning the 100-meter crown, Preston beat a pair of tremendous athletes, who were right at that 11-second mark prior to the meet – Fitch sophomore Jayden Eley and Hoban’s Markim McKinney.

Eley was clocked at 11.11 seconds in the finals and McKinney crossed in 11.18 seconds.

For the 200-meter dash, Preston blazed to victory in 21.66 seconds and won easily over one of the Youngstown area’s top sprinters in Warren Harding senior MarKwuan Brown (22.71) and over Walsh Jesuit standout Christian Ochei (22.94).

“The 100-meters is a new school record,” said LeSeure. “The 200-meter time was the second best in school history and Xavier now has the three fastest times in history.”

Stow’s sprint relays are also dangerous, depending on where the coaching staff depends to use athletes.

Another huge title that was captured at Fitch came in the 800-meter relay where the Bulldogs registered a fast time of 1-minute and 29.85 seconds.

“That time was a school record,” said an excited LeSeure, who also has strong entries in the 1,600-meter relay and the 400-meter relay events.

Making up the 800-meter relay was junior Dustin Horner, Preston, senior Jo Barry, and senior Clayton Mosher.

Besides registering a time that is likely among the fastest 10 times in Ohio, Stow beat strong crews from Crestview, Twinsburg, and Akron Buchtel.

“I think with the number of school records that Xavier now holds, you’d have to say he’s the best individual sprinter in school history,” proclaimed LeSeure. “Given the performances our sprint group has put up so far this season a case can be made that this group is the best we’ve had.”

“In my mind, the measure of a group as a whole is how they perform when it really matters,” LeSeure went on. “For us, that would be the postseason starting with the conference championship. I will say, we’re excited to take this team to the postseason and to showcase what these guys can do.”

Mosher had an outstanding meet at Fitch as he was the runner-up in the long jump to one of Stark County’s top athletes in Luke Laubacher, of Perry.

Laubacher won the long jump at 21-feet and 6.25 inches.

With a leap of 21-1.5 feet, Mosher took second and has reached well over 22-feet in his career.

“Clayton continues to jump very well and has been consistently at the top of every field we’ve faced,” noted the coach. “He’s positioned to do very well in the post season.”

Once again, Laubacher made his presence felt in both hurdles races as Stow’s Barry continues to fare well against some of the region’s most gifted hurdlers.

Barry placed high in both races that were won by Laubacher.

In the 300-meter hurdles, Barry had a fantastic time of 38.93 seconds to run second and on the heels of Laubacher (38.92), who also won the 110-meter high hurdles where Barry placed fourth with a strong time of 15.45 ticks.

“Jo’s 300 hurdle performance was the second-fastest time in school history,” offered LeSeure.

Recently, against Nordonia star Matt Hayes, Barry split the races with great times as well.

“Those two hurdle races were as close as races get (against Hayes) and we’re excited to see them go at it again with conference titles on the line,” noted the Bulldog coach.

“Jo has definitely benefited from racing some of the best hurdlers in the state the last couple of weeks and his times have shown that. He’s risen to the challenge and raced very well.”

Quietly, the Dogs’ 1,600-meter relay has done well as evidenced by a third at Fitch with a season best of 3:33.19.

Making up the young 1,600 relay was junior Tyler Whited, sophomore Brian Turner, junior Bryce Turner, and Horner.

“The relay is coming together and going well and some of that is a tribute to our depth in that we can put a number of guys into that race at the end of the meet and still be able to compete,” said LeSeure, whose club also has a solid 3,200-meter relay.

Bryce Turner also had a strong meet as he also ran third overall in the 400-meters in 52.28 seconds.

Grabbing sixth-place in the 800-meters was senior Seth Macura, who crossed in 2:00.33 while sophomore Zach Shawala ran seventh in the 3,200-meters with a PR of 9:49.12.

LeSeure had plenty of praise for a pair of sophomores in Jabari Hopkins and Shawala.

“Zach Shawala’s 3,200 was the second fastest sophomore time in Stow history and earlier in the week, Jabari Hopkins also had the second-best sophomore high jump.”

Hopkins cleared 6-2 feet and in a recent meet against Twinsburg, Bryce Turner cleared a best 6-0 feet.

Other strong efforts came from senior Stephen Magira in the discus (134-0 feet), sophomore Connor Scarberry in the open 1,600 (4:40.95), and sophomore Micah Bentley in the 3,200-meters (10:17.50).