Just got back from the Jesse Owens Stadium infield (motto: "Where the farmer's tan of today becomes the melanoma of tomorrow") where hundreds of the swiftest, speediest and strongest athletes in Ohio gather together to throw up in front of me.
As a public service to my readers, and because I have no other column ideas, I now present my annual recap of the track season's most useless notes, quotes and anecdotes -- along with a few baseball and softball notes thrown in.
(Speaking of softball, some people might have thought that I'd use this space to mention that my high school, Uniontown Lake, won a Division I state softball title this weekend. But I would never abuse my position at this paper for something so self-serving.)
All set? Here we go.
Top athletes,top interviews
Five favorite athletes to watch: Lordstown senior Tom Andriko (there is nothing more fun to watch than an 800 runner with a good kick); Maplewood sophomore Andy Arnio (who has earned the dated, but accurate, nickname, "Energizer Bunny"); Canfield senior Stephanie Zunic (who fulfills my requirement of having one non-track athlete on the list); Alliance senior Kendell Davis (who technically isn't in our area, but I don't really care); and Girard senior Cachet Murray (in the words of area track official Ron Scott, "It was an honor just to watch you run").
Five favorite athletes to interview: Warren JFK Angelene Cicero (I just say hello, start writing and tell her when to stop); Murray (she's the most talented track athlete I've covered and possibly the most outgoing; that's what you call a gift from the track gods); Lisbon senior Dom DeFilippo (most athletes have a filter between their brains and their mouths; Dom doesn't, which makes him one of the most entertaining athletes I've ever covered); South Range senior Dan Nemergut (always says something interesting, although I'm a little mad at him for throwing up in front of me); and Maplewood senior Jen Grayson (who, in addition to being one of the all-time best interviews, has, over the past four years, given me a piece of gum, three carrots, two stickers and a Krispy Kreme donut).
I also want to thank Struthers junior Eric Anderson, Springfield senior Nick Panezich, Mineral Ridge senior Levi Leigh and Champion baseball players Jake Gross, Mark Jackson and Drew Szepietowski, who talked to me after losses even though I'm sure it was the last thing they wanted to do.
Some otherridiculous awards
Resemblance award: Andriko looks a lot like Bernie Kosar and Leigh looks eerily like Coldplay's lead singer Chris Martin. I mention this for two reasons. First, I'd like to remind Scrappers marketing director Jim Riley that he promised me a Bernie Kosar bobblehead three years ago and still hasn't delivered. Second, Coldplay is my favorite band and their new album comes out tomorrow.
Best concession stand: I had an absolutely phenomenal pepperoni roll at East Palestine earlier this year. It was Ursuline basketball season-good, which is the highest compliment I can pay. Lakeview gets points for stocking Ianazone's pizza at its concession stand.
Best T-shirt: I saw a runner at the Navarre regional with a shirt that read, "The best distance runners eat raw meat, run naked and sleep in the snow." (If you looked closely at the small print, you would see it was an Iditarod shirt.)
Best place to see a meet: Austintown Fitch. The area track officials do a great job (just ask them) and you can buy funnel cakes and fruit smoothies along with the regular concession stand food. (Or, if you're like me, you can walk into the officials' room and steal their food.)
Worst place to see a meet: Navarre Fairless, home of the Div. III regional. (Directions to Navarre: Drive to the edge of the Earth, turn left.) Dear Fairless High School, allow me to introduce two innovative new restroom features: hot water and stall doors.
Best softball game I saw this spring: Poland's win over West Branch in a Division II sectional softball final when sophomore Kari Thompson hit a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the seventh. (Thompson is also a pretty darn good interview.)
Worst softball game: Canfield's Division I sectional softball final win over Howland. They should outlaw extra innings when it's below 50 degrees. I spent so much time shivering at that game that my abs hurt the next day. Special thanks to the Canfield softball fan who lent me a blanket. (When she offered it to me, I said, "Sure. I have no problems admitting I'm a wuss.")
Five thingsI think I think
UI think it would be just plain wrong for me to go an entire track season without making fun of track officials. Or, to use the official language of area track official/designated shouter Jack Betts: I THINK IT WOULD BE JUST PLAIN WRONG FOR ME TO GO AN ENTIRE TRACK SEASON WITHOUT MAKING FUN OF TRACK OFFICIALS. So I'd just like to say that there should be a federal law banning Ed Katzman from wearing hats.
UI think Andris Balputnis does a great job as a P.A. announcer.
UI think Fitch High School is losing a fantastic athletic director in Dick Kenney. (I'm sure his replacement, Joe Nohra, will do just as well.)
UI think the OHSAA deserves a lot of credit for making this year's state track meet a lot more media-friendly. I was really impressed. I also think it was nice that they moved the podium to the middle of the infield so more fans could see the medal ceremony.
UI think I'm an idiot for writing that Beaver Local senior Dan Kinsey would be competing in the pentathlon at Indiana University. It's accurate, except for the fact that he will not be shooting, swimming, fencing or riding horses and will instead compete in the decathlon. And if you think I'm going to blame this mistake on having to write six stories after spending all day in the heat and humidity, you're absolutely right.
Five quotesI loved the most
U"What a great time to pull that one, huh?" said Fitch pitcher Jen Purnell, who hit her first career home run to lead the Falcons past Solon in a Division I district semifinal.
UJen Grayson doesn't get to eat sweets during track season, which sometimes gets to her. "I have these dreams about ice cream," she said. "Dippin' Dots, actually. And I'm just shoveling them in my mouth before my coach, [Mark] Yoder, can say anything to me.
"It's crazy, I know."
(I'll reserve the last three for Dom DeFilippo and Nick Panezich and Leetonia senior Aaron Merrill, who provided a lot of comic relief.)
U"I know this," Merrill said. "We might be the ugliest guys I've ever seen."
U"I can hang with them in the shot put, but when we throw the shot, I just crawl into the corner and cry," DeFilippo said.
UDeFilippo, incidentally, likes to play with a yo-yo during meets to calm his nerves. He told me he once smacked himself in the middle of the forehead with it, which made Panezich laugh.
"It didn't knock any sense into you," Panezich said.
"It didn't knock any sense out of me, either," DeFilippo said.
XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com.