By Jon Moffett
Ali Tolich lay in the grass next to the discus area and watched as Austintown Fitch teammate Billy Price made his throws. For for one brief moment, the outline of the disc crossed over Tolich.
It may have been the first time in her high school career where she was in someone else’s shadow.
Tolich and Price each punched their tickets to Columbus by earning top-four finishes in the shot put and discus, respectively, on the first day of the Division I regional track finals at Falcon Stadium on Wednesday. It’s par for the course for Tolich, the reigning state champion in both the shot and discus, and the first time for Price.
A sophomore, Price said he couldn’t believe it when he saw that he had earned a second-place finish.
“Getting another week is a great feeling,” he said. “You work all year for this, so it’s a sense of accomplishment, and it feels great.”
Fitch throwing coach T.J. Koniowsky said he may have been the most surprised by Price’s success.
“I wasn’t expecting anything out of him this year, because he only threw 138 [feet] last year and had never done it before,” he said. “And when he started catching on, and I looked at this region and thought this kid could do something.”
Tolich admittedly did not have her best day — the only difference is her off days are still sometimes better than others’ best days — and has battled inconsistency and a brief illness the past week.
Still, just getting back to the state meet was the goal. Nobody remembers the regional champion, right? It’s all about the state meet.
“Next week will be a different day, and hopefully I’ll be able to amp it up a little bit,” the senior said. “Of course I always want to win, but the goal today was just to get down to state.”
Tolich and Price were the only two area athletes to advance to the state meet. The first day of regional qualifications featured the throwing events as well as the boys long jump and pole vault, girls high jump and boys and girls 4x800-meter relay.
Area athletes advanced in 10 individual races and another eight relays. They’ll compete in the regional finals Friday, with the top four teams advancing to Columbus.
Warren Harding advanced five relay teams — the girls 4x400 and both 4x100 and 4x200 teams — and three individuals. Alexandra Allen finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles (she was also on the second-place 4x100 relay) while Ja’Quana Threats finished fifth and Jimmy May earned fourth place in the 400-meter dashes.
On the boys side, Boardman’s Nathan Jones advanced in the 100 (fifth) and 200 (seventh) and Howland’s Andrew Hamilton earned sixth in the 300 hurdles. Fitch sent Waylan Jones (fourth) in the 400 and its 4x200 relay.
The girls were headlined by Fitch, which sent its 4x100 and 4x400 relays. And senior Jen Shiley earned the top spot in Friday’s 300 hurdles by winning the heat. Chaney hurdler Shatasia Walker also advanced in the event, and claimed a seventh-place finish in the 100 hurdles to move on.