By Jon Moffett
With a big grin on her face and an even larger group of people surrounding her to give their congratulations, Jillian Smith realized she had finally accomplished one of her biggest athletic goals.
The Canfield senior was one of several area athletes to qualify for the state track meet next weekend. She and the others finished in the top four spots in their events during the finals of the regional championships at Falcon Stadium on Friday.
Smith earned a fourth-place finish in the 800-meter dash. And although she didn’t get a medal, she said she didn’t really need one.
“I just wanted to fall down right there and start crying,” she said. “It’s just the most amazing feeling ever.”
Smith was one of seven individuals to qualify. Five relay teams also qualified for a trip to Columbus.
Having the best day was the girls team from Austintown Fitch, which claimed the silver trophy for overall team performance. The Falcons’ 46 points were just shy of the 51 scored by Shaker Heights.
Winning the title of regional champions for the boys was Solon with 67 points, followed by Glenville with 42. Fitch was the best local team, finishing eighth with 26 points.
The area saw a pair of gold medals, three silver, a trio of bronze and five other qualifiers. Fitch took home both first-place finishes when Jen Shiley earned the gold in the 300-meter hurdles and Ali Tolich, who won the shot put on the first day, won the discus.
Fitch also got one of the silver medals when senior Waylan Andrews finished in the second spot of the 400-meter dash. The other silver medal went to Warren Harding long-jumper Ja’Quana Threats. Threats also advanced in the 400-meter dash, finishing fourth.
Boardman sprinter Nathan Jones earned a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash, and Chaney senior Shatasia Walker advanced by finishing fourth in the 300-meter hurdles, making her the final Chaney athlete to compete for the school at the state level.
Fitch also qualified their 4x200 relay team, consisting of Andrews, junior Tarise Wolfe and sophomores Rob Venters and Ty’Reese Anderson. The Raiders advanced four of their relay teams.
Harding will send their boys 4x100 relay, while the girls will send their 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 teams.
In addition to the 400 and the long jump, Threats will run the two longer relays for the Raiders.
Threats said she is in a little bit of shock to know she will represent her school at the state level in all four of her events.
And it’s just as simple as drinking a lot of water.
“Coach tells me to drink a lot of water the day before the meet to stay hydrated,” she said. “So I drink a lot of water. Big cups of water.”
The state meet will be held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State on June 3-4.