By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Surroundings don't matter much to Marian Steele, even if she's competing in her home stadium.
She's still focused. She's still nervous. She's still intent on doing her best.
An Austintown Fitch junior, Steele experienced all the normal feelings of the Division I regional track and field meet Saturday at Falcon Stadium.
The final feelings -- relief and joy -- are what she'll remember most after she threw a personal-best 126 feet, 11 inches in the discus to finish third and earn her first state berth.
Getting through it: "It's just so nerve-wracking, regardless of where you're at. It's very scary," Steele said. "You just get in there and it's like everything doesn't matter. You don't even know people are here, because you're just so nervous about what you're doing."
The top four finishers in each event advanced to the state meet Friday and Saturday at Dayton's Welcome Stadium.
Steele was one of only three state qualifiers on a wind-swept Saturday. All will be making their first appearance in Dayton.
Joining Steele in the discus was Canfield junior Lindsay Cobey, who finished fourth (123-2), while Boardman freshman Brittany Durkin placed second in the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 18.73 seconds.
Steele said she had a rough beginning to her season and then "crashed" midway through. Apparently, she saved her best for last.
"Finally, here at the end, I've got my head together," she said. "I threw my best in the districts [125 feet] and I came here and did it again. I never would have thought I'd be going."
Following up: Positioning herself behind Steele in the discus was Canfield's Cobey, who steadily worked her way up to her best throws.
"I threw my best in the finals," Cobey said. "I was getting a little anxious, because I really wanted to get there."
Cobey credited her success to brother and coach Shawn Cobey, who just graduated from Youngstown State after competing in the throws events for four years there.
"It seems now, toward the end of the season, every meet I'm stepping it up a little more," Lindsay Cobey said.
Strategy involved: With her basketball coach, Ron Moschella, looking on, Boardman's Durkin executed her track coach's plan, as she finished among four freshmen state qualifiers in the 1600.
"I just wanted to pace myself with [Cleveland Heights Beaumont runner Maggie] Infield," said Durkin, who is in her first year of running the 1600.
Durkin was advised that Infield would go out strong, and an early attempt at contending with her might be detrimental.
But Durkin focused on her own positioning and didn't worry about catching Infield, who won in 5:12.16.
"It went just how my coach told me it would go," Durkin said.
Durkin gained strength after the third lap and held off Jillian Barr of Hudson for second place.
"I think it's less pressure because no one expects me to do it," she said of her youth.
In addition to the three state qualifiers Saturday, Warren Harding junior Mike Simpson (long jump), Boardman junior Steve Vallos (discus) and Boardman freshman Amber Bland (high jump) advanced Thursday.
The lone qualifying relay was the Spartans' girls 4x800 of Durkin, junior Gina Mavrikis, freshman Sarah Grabert and sophomore Monica Cuevas.