Boardman's Amber Bland leads a team that girls coach Denise Gorski called the best she's ever had.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
Things are about to get really tough.
The area's best track and field athletes have their seasons -- and their dreams -- on the line as regional competition begins Wednesday in Division II at Ravenna and in Div. III at Navarre.
The Div. I regional begins Thursday at Fitch.
The area has three state champions returning from last year: Boardman High sophomore Amber Bland (high jump), East Palestine senior Alex Casi (long jump) and Maplewood junior Christen Clemson (discus).
All three could repeat.
Bland leads a Spartan team that coach Denise Gorski called "the best she's ever had." The Spartans have 14 girls in Thursday's Div. I regional, including Bland in four events.
"They're naturally talented, they're competitive and they have a lot of inner motivation," Gorski said. "I think a lot of that is because this is a very high academic team."
Of Boardman's 47 athletes, 39 have a grade point average of 3.20 or higher.
"I think that shows that they're driven to excel in anything they do," said Gorski.
The Spartans have broken 15 meet records this season -- including three at last weekend's district meet -- and have set or reset 12 school records.
"We've never had that kind of excellence," Gorski said. "No doubt about it, this team is the best."
Girard freshman Cachet Murray will be busy at Wednesday and Friday's Ravenna regional. She'll compete in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 4x100-meter relay. Mooney qualified in all four relays, the only area school to do so.
In Wednesday and Friday's Div. III Navarre regional, Western Reserve junior Anna Marie Ricciardi is likely to return to state for the third straight year in the high jump and could threaten the state record of 5-71/2.
Spartan boys deep
Boardman's boys team, fresh off its sixth district title in seven years, has one of the area's deepest teams.
"It's a difficult regional -- one of the best in the state," Boardman boys coach Dave Pavlansky said. "Our throwers, Steve Vallos and Evan Beard, could make a huge impact for us. It could be one of our better regionals."
Warren Harding, led by a standout junior class of Tjawonkher Davis, Rob Massucci, Treymayne Warfield and Antwaun Molden, has one of its best sprint teams in years.
"Warren Harding is certainly going to be an impact player," Pavlansky said.
Champion senior Ryan Petrick will be one of the top distance runners at Ravenna. Hubbard senior Anthony Smith, who will play football at Syracuse this fall, will compete for individual titles in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump.
Wilson junior Edward Fetuah is among the area's best in the 200 and 400.
Columbiana senior Derrick Garrod and Warren JFK senior Josh Cayson, who will play football at YSU this fall, will compete in the sprints at the Div. III meet in Navarre.
Maplewood senior Dave Pykare will be among the top athletes in the distance events.