Nordonia track teams enjoy solid first day at regional meet
Putting it all together — both physically and mentally — under the bright lights of a regional track and field championship meet is one thing.
When you have young athletes coupled with veterans and seniors who are experiencing it for the first time, it adds another element.
There were plenty of variables for athletes competing at the Austintown Fitch Division I regional championships as it was and Nordonia’s qualifiers held their own against quality competition.
Head coach Scott Barwidi and his staff saw his troops battle in the first day of action May 26.
“We knew we would have to have our best performances in a few events against tough competition,” said Barwidi.
To reach the state meet, athletes would have to place in the top four spots at Fitch in each event.
The Division I state meet are set for June 4 and 5 at Hilliard Darby High. It will be the 46th annual girls state championships and the 113th annual boys state meet.
Nordonia’s 800-meter relay for the boys was the top seed and qualified to the regional finals by winning the preliminary heat at Falcon Stadium in impressive fashion.
Comprising the Knight relay, which finished in 1-minute and 28.95 seconds, was junior Matt Hayes, senior Zach Liederbach, junior Ryan Kinch, and senior Jonathan Banks.
“Our relay had clean and fast exchanges and that is so important,” said Barwidi.
Banks and Liederbach were a part of the 2019 fifth-place 800-meter relay that just missed a state berth at Falcon Stadium.
“The guys ran well and we are feeling good,” said the coach, prior to the finals at Fitch.
In the 300-meter hurdles, Hayes was the second seed coming in, but had been hampered by a hamstring injury.
Hayes was fine. He maybe was not 100 percent, but he qualified for the regional finals by running third in prelims in 39.33 seconds.
“I think the 300 hurdles and the 800-meter relay have been the two most consistent events for us all year and they ran well,” declared Barwidi.
“The weather (rain) I think slowed everyone down a bit, but they got an opportunity to get to he state meet,” added the coach.
“Matt felt OK at practice,” Barwidi said Thursday. “He is doing well and he did not press during regionals and that was good to see.”
For the Lady Knights, the 800-meter relay qualified for the finals by running seventh in the preliminary heat in 1:47.94.
That cast included sophomore Rachel Dudich, senior Hallie Majoros, senior Sydney Hazelton, and sophomore Tamia Hameed.
“We were happy to qualify for the finals,” noted the coach.
Nordonia’s boys’ 1,600 relay also qualified for the finals by finishing eighth overall in 3:26.61. This group had sophomore Matt Cooper, Hayes, Kinch, and junior Daylon Brown.
“We didn’t run as well as we did at the district finals, but we made it to the regional finals,” offered Barwidi.
There were several events that were completed in day one at regionals and senior Knight athletes didn’t make the cut for states, but Barwidi pleaded with his athletes to remain proud.
Seniors included Divine Godspower-Odiong (shot put) and Taniah Thomas (high jump) for the girls, and boys’ seniors Alex Hungerford (pole vault) and Jahdon Wimbush (long jump).
“I think they would have needed a great performance against tough competition and there are so many things going on, and it is tough,” explained the coach.
“It was tough because the were seniors, but this was the first time they had been in that experience,” he added. “I am very proud for the seniors – I told them is okay to be disappointed, but be proud. This should be a good memory for the rest of your life.”
Godspower tossed the shot put 35-0.25 feet to place ninth.
After an electric district with a huge 13-4-foot effort in the pole vault, Hungerford still performed well with an effort of 12-6 feet for 11th-place.
Thomas finished 11th in the high jump at 4-10 feet while Wimbush was ninth in the long jump at 20-0.75 feet.
Banks and Wimbush also competed in the 200-meters and the 300 hurdles, respectively, and missed out on the regional finals.
With a time of 22.45, Banks crossed ninth in the 200-meters while Wimbush was timed at 42.86 in the 300 hurdles to run 13th.
In addition, the girls’ 400-meter relay didn’t qualify for the finals with an 11th-place effort in 51.01 seconds at Fitch.
Junior Emily Eterovich led off, followed by Dudich, sophomore Alexis Hives, and Hameed.
Three athletes did not compete on day one – senior Ridwan Umar and Hayes in the high jump and Eterovich in the pole vault.
A twp-time regional qualifier, Eterovich just missed scoring at regionals in 2019 as a freshman