By Jon Moffett
Destiny Prusky stood alone in the high-jump area. She had just won the event on her previous jump of 5-foot-4, and was looking to improve on her personal best.
The Newton Falls senior instructed the judge to raise the bar to 5-foot-6, which she cleared. She then was asked if she wanted to attempt 5-foot-8 Prusky looked over to her father against the fence, and he instructed her to try 5-foot-7 instead. The senior cleared the bar with ease.
With a big smile on her face, she again looked over at her father, who sheepishly told her she would have easily cleared another inch.
But Prusky’s jump was enough to win the event, and the Tigers won the championship All-American Conference’s Blue Tier with 137.5 points. Girard finished second with 101.
Prusky was happy with her performance, but wasn’t going to let her personal-best — and meet record— jump be her last attempt.
“You can never be too satisfied with yourself,” she said. “But, I’ll take it.”
Prusky also finished second in the long jump, bested by teammate Jennifer Bjelac, who also had a career day.
Bjelac earned gold in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the 100, in addition to the long jump. Her time of 46.8 seconds in the 300 hurdles also broke a meet record.
“My goal was not to let anyone else win one of my races,” Bjelac said. “I’m feeling good. It feels good as a senior to finish so well at the league meet. We’ve worked really hard for this, so it feels even better.”
Prusky said it’s much more difficult for an athlete to be at their peak with only five teams competing. She said she likes having someone in the finals with her that can push her and make both jumpers go back and forth.
“I basically have been doing this all year, though,” she said. “When you get to some of the bigger meets, you have better competition. But I don’t let it get to me. I’m kind of coaching myself.”
On the boys side, Girard won eight events to earn 128 points. They beat out Newton Falls, which finished with 105.5.
Girard junior Jamal McClendon, who won the 110 high hurdles, said his team came into the meet focused on defeating their conference rivals.
“I’m living on cloud nine right now, I’m living it up,” he said. “We came in here with high expectations, ready to win.”
McClendon also set a meet record with his 14.9 time in the hurdles. He said a fast start was key. And since his event was the first individual race of the day, it was important for the team to start hot as well.
“You’ve got to be quick off the blocks, and you’ve got to finish off strong,” he said. “A quick start gives you a good lead, and if you’re able to get a good lead, it’s easier to keep it.
“It’s attack, attack, go and hope for the finish.”
Dan Johntony, who anchored the 4x800 relay for the Girard boys, agreed with Prusky. He and his teammates finished the event with a time of 9:00.5 — one second off the meet record. The second-place Newton Falls team finished more than 30 seconds later.
“We were going for the record, so for us it was more about racing against the clock than it was about racing against the people,” he said. “I find it a lot tougher to pace myself when no one is around me, because with no one close to you it’s hard to see how you’re running.
“You just don’t know what you’re doing or what pace you’re going,” Johntony, a junior, added.
Teammate Gino Minnitti, a sophomore, ran the third leg of the race. He agreed with Johntony about running by himself.
“It’s a lot harder to want to push yourself when you have no one next to you,” he said. “But you have to imagine someone is next to you to help push you harder.”