Hudson boys distance runners, Twinsburg girls sprinters roll at Suburban League National Conference meet

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Twinsburg Rana Thornton, left, take her team to a first place finish as Cuyahoga Falls Grace Lowe brings her team in at third in the girls 4x100 meter relay at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

MACEDONIA — With so many new faces, handicapping the Suburban League National Conference track meet was an exercise in futility.

When the dust settled Thursday at Nordonia's Boliantz Stadium, a familiar power won the girls crown, and the boys meet was one of the best in years.

Team depth in sprints and a big day by thrower Nighyah Carthen helped Twinsburg pull away with the girls team title with 112.5 points. Hudson (98 points) held off Wadsworth (94.5) for second.

Meanwhile, a late push by Hudson's distance crew allowed the Explorers to win a three-team race for the boys title. Hudson finished with 128 points, edging Wadsworth (125) and Stow-Munroe Falls (121) for the crown.

"We didn't know what we had coming into this year," Twinsburg girls coach Sarah Kmet said. "I credit my coaches for getting these girls ready. We scored massive points in the sprints and the throwing events. It was a total team effort to get the title."

Twinsburg won the girls crown despite not winning any individual events Thursday, although Kmet lauded freshman Savannah Swanda for her efforts.

Swanda took second in the 100 and 200 meters, finishing behind Wadsworth's Mina Leopold in both races.

Twinsburg Sophie Besett runs to a second place finish in the girls 400 meter dash at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

Swanda also was part of Twinsburg's two winning relays. She joined Bree Banach, Akira Johnson and Rana Thorton on the Tigers' 400-meter relay squad (49.98 seconds), and Johnson, Swanda, Thornton and Arriah Gilmer joined forces to win the 800-meter relay in 1:45.65.

Carthen was Twinsburg's biggest individual scorer, winning both throwing events Wednesday. She won the shot put with a throw of 38 feet, 11 inches and the discus with a throw of 110-7.

On Thursday, Stow freshman Jayla Atkinson continued her excellent season, winning the title in both the 1,600 (5:05.65) and 800 (2:15.44).

"I felt really good with time in the 1,600, even though I don't like it," Atkinson said. "Mostly, I was just trying to get it done today."

Stow-Munroe Falls Jayla Atkinson runs to a first place finish in the Girls 800 meter run at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

"I was really happy with what she did in the mile," Stow girls coach Aaron Morris said. "I was worried about what she would have left for the 800, but she did her thing."

Although Cuyahoga Falls finished off the pace in the team race, the Brustowski sisters had a big afternoon for the Black Tigers.

Cuyahoga Falls Ellie Brustoski clears the last hurdle on her way to a first place finish in the girls 300 meter hurdles at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

Ellie Brustoski swept the hurdle events, winning the 100 hurdles in 16.15 seconds and the 300 hurdles in 48.29. Big sister Emma scored top-five finishes in both the 100 and 200.

"I feel really good about today. I had been out for a little while," Ellie Brustoski said. "I love being able to compete with Emma. I wish we had more time, especially after we lost last year."

Hudson senior Emma Hannah scored the individual title in the 3,200 (11:21.21) after helping Hudson win the girls 3,200 relay Wednesday.

Although the distance crew also played a big part in the Hudson boys' win, coach Mark McConnell noted his squad also got a total team effort to score its first league title since 2012.

"It was a fantastic meet by the whole team," McConnell said. "It was really impressive to see how my guys step up. We had a goal to do well well."

Hudson Jack Root and Elliot Durkee finish in first and second place in the boys 3200 meter run at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

The foundation for Hudson's victory was laid Wednesday.

The Explorers won the 3,200 relay in 8:02:74 with Jack Root, Gabe Shale, Elliot Durkee and Titan Casey completing the run. Chris Slater won the shot put for Hudson with a heave of 48-3¼.

On Thursday, Casey won a crowded race in the in 800 in 1:57.18.

The big event for Hudson proved to be the 3,200, as Root (9:31.79) and Durkee (9:33.03) finished one-two to provide a lead that proved insurmountable.

"That's insane," Root said. "Elliot and I just love to push each other all the way."

"I wanted to make sure we finished together," Durkee said.

Hudson also got some nice work in the sprints. Colin Pearce finished second in the 200 and third in the 100, just behind teammate Luke McLaughlin.

However, there was no doubt who the fastest runner at Boliantz was, as Stow junior Xavier Preston won the 100 (10.87) and 200 (22.47) in dominant fashion.

"I felt good about today," Preston said. "I just wanted to go and show what I was capable of."

Stow-Munroe Falls Xavier Preston crosses the finish line to take first place in the boys 200 meter dash at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

Stow had hoped Preston's double win and another double win by senior hurdler Jo Barry would be enough to propel it to the team title.

Barry took care part one of that plan, coming from behind to beat Nordonia's Matt Hayes in 15.12 in the 110 high hurdles.

In the 300 hurdles, however, Barry injured his hamstring early in the race. Hayes went on to win the 300 hurdles in 38.49 seconds, breaking the meet record set by Dave Fatheree in 1981.

Nordonia Matthew Hayes races to a first place finish in the boys 300 meter hurdle at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

"It's a bad thing to happen for both of us," Hayes said of Barry's injury. "You want to be able to compete against something like him. I'm a little angry at myself after the way the 100 ended."

Stow boys coach JK LeSeure refused to blame the injury for short-circuiting Stow's title chances.

"On the other hand, we finished better today than we have at anytime in the Suburban League," LeSeure said. "That is part of the game. We did everything that we wanted today except for one thing."

Along with Hayes' win, Nordonia's best events proved to be the relays.

The Knights won titles in 400-meter relay in 43.5 and the 1,600-relay in the 3:27.01.

"This meet matters," Knights coach Scott Barwidi said. "Everyone wants to be all-league. For us, we wanted to see what we would have going to the districts."