Every season has its good moments -- and its embarrassing ones.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
A few minutes after the shot put competition at this year's Division III regional, Leetonia High senior Aaron Merrill was waiting for his second place medal when he was asked to name his most embarrassing track and field moment.
He thought for a second, then smiled.
"It was down at state last year," he said. "I was throwing the discus and I fell right on my face."
Springfield senior Nick Panezich was standing nearby. When Merrill mentioned the moment, Panezich started to crack up.
"Yeah, it was like this," he said, pretending to throw the discus from his ankles, then falling on the ground. "It was hilarious."
"Geez, I'm glad everyone remembers it," Merrill said. "All these college coaches were watching, a bunch of other people were watching ...
"I looked pretty stupid."
He's not the only one.
Apparently, if you ask area track athletes to name their most embarrassing moments, you'll get a lot of falling stories.
"Two years ago, at the [Tri-County League] meet, I fell down in the middle of the ring throwing," said Lisbon senior Dom DeFilippo. "I saw myself go, then I just sat in the middle of the ring, folded my arms and pouted.
"Finally, the kid on deck walked up to me and I had to leave."
Struthers senior Alan Daniels fell while throwing the discus at this year's Metro Athletic Conference meet, then tried to play it off as if nothing happened.
"At first, I looked around to see if anyone noticed," he said. "But everyone was looking dead at me and laughing. I was like, 'Ah, forget it.' "
He won, by the way.
Western Reserve sophomore Alex Rathburn didn't even make it to the ring. She fell walking up the hill at this year's Western Reserve Invitational.
"I just wiped out," she said. "My coach was laughing, my friends were laughing, my teammates were laughing. Heck, I was laughing.
"I felt stupid, but that's OK. I threw my [personal record], so maybe I should always fall down before I throw the discus."
Panezich, incidentally, doesn't mind falling. But that doesn't mean he doesn't get embarrassed.
"A couple of years ago, I was throwing and as I yelled, my voice squeaked," he said. "It was this real high-pitched yell.
"I got a lot of comments about that."
Taking the fall
It's not just throwers who fall. Hurdlers -- even good hurdlers -- have the same problems.
Mineral Ridge senior Levi Leigh was warming up the day before the state meet last year and saw a hurdle in the first lane.
"It was set really low, but when I tried to jump over it, I tripped and fell," he said. "The hurdle fell over and I was laying on the ground, leaning on the hurdle while people were laughing at me."
Two days later, Leigh won a state championship in the 110-meter high hurdles.
Jackson-Milton junior Dean Stevens was competing in the 100 last year when he and Mineral Ridge's Greg Dominic looked to be headed for a photo finish.
"As we crossed the finish line, we got tangled up and plowed face first into the finish line," Stevens said. "He beat me, too. That was the worst thing."
McDonald junior Ashleigh Tondo was anchoring the 4x400 relay her freshman year and, even though no one was near her, dropped the baton.
"I had to turn around, sprint back and grab it," she said. "My coach made me hold onto the baton the rest of the day at school."
DeFilippo almost had a moment that would have topped all of these.
Fortunately for him, it didn't happen.
"One time, I got in trouble with my coach in practice and she was going to make me run the two-mile, which would have been really embarrassing," said DeFilippo, who isn't exactly built like a distance runner. "She finally let it go, telling me that if I finished in a certain place at the next meet, I wouldn't have to do it.
"Fortunately, I did. I can't imagine trying to run that. They wouldn't have been able to start the next race. They'd still be waiting for me to finish."