YSU’s men’s track team finishes second at outdoor
By Joe Scalzo
Call it a reign in the rain.
A year after finishing three points short of the league title, the Youngstown State women’s track team shook off a 31/2-hour storm delay and used a balanced effort to cruise to the Horizon League crown last weekend in Milwaukee.
“Everybody stepped it up and did their best,” said sophomore Ciara Jarrett, who won the 100- and 200-meter dashes and helped the 4x100 relay place second in her home city. “Their best turned out to be real good.”
The Penguins scored 171 points to the Panthers’ 129 to win their first Horizon League outdoor title since 2009. Overall, it was YSU’s sixth Horizon League women’s crown — by far the most of any sport since the Penguins joined the conference in 2001-02.
“It has been elusive,” said YSU coach Brian Gorby, who has won 19 league titles in men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field during his Penguin career. “We knew we came so close last year and I reinforced that with the kids, so hopefully they used that as motivation.”
The victory was built on balance, with the Penguins winning at least one title in the four disciplines: sprints, jumps, distance and throws. Senior Kaitlyn Griffith (hammer), juniors Alison Roth (shot put, discus) and Samantha Hamilton (steeplechase) and sophomores Jessica Parham (javelin) and Katrina Rettburg (high jump) all won individual titles.
“This is probably the most complete team championship we’ve ever had,” said Gorby.
Finishing second in their events were seniors KaiCee Kubicina (discus) and Griffith (shot put) and sophomores Anna Pompeo (10K) and Alexis Washington (200).
“For the girls, everyone had to step it up,” said Hamilton, a Jackson-Milton High graduate who lowered her personal best in the steeplechase by 19 seconds. “Alexis Washington really brought her ‘A’ game in the sprints and the throwers and the jumpers did as well. And Anna Pompeo was big in the 10K.
“It’s nice to finally have [the title]. After losing it last year by a couple points and this year just to kill it, it was big.”
Making the win more impressive was the fact that YSU doesn’t have an outdoor track, Jarrett said. The WATTS was built on the site of the team’s former outdoor track.
“Hopefully [this win] will give us a lot of credit,” she said. “We deserve more credit than we get, in my opinion.
“We’ve worked hard with the little resources we have. And the weight coaches have helped us out a lot.”
YSU’s men’s track team finished second for the fourth straight year, finishing with 108 points to Milwaukee’s 175.
Junior Bobby Grace won the hammer, discus and shot put, setting a new meet record in the shot with a throw of 18.30 meters.
“I was expecting to win all three,” said Grace, who is within 2 feet of advancing to the Olympic Trials in the shot put. “That was my goal, so I was happy with that. I wanted to get a couple other records in there but I can’t complain.”
YSU’s men have never won an outdoor Horizon League title — they did win an indoor championship — but with Milwaukee’s depth and talent, they knew entering the meet that the best they could do was second.
“It was good that we came out and did what we should have,” said Grace, who missed the conference meet two years ago with a broken foot. “We have a tradition of winning here. We expect a lot of ourselves.”
Sophomore Ben Goodnight placed second in the shot put and junior Michael Davis was second in the 200 and helped the Penguins win the 4x100 relay. Tarelle Irwin, Derek Dowdell and Martin Solomon were also on the relay.
“The guys were really low on numbers,” said Hamilton, referring to the team’s depth. “So for them to get second was a really big accomplishment.”
YSU returns a strong core next season when Gorby believes the Penguins can make a run at the league title.
“We kind of thought this year was the year for the women and next year is the year for the men,” said Gorby, who credited his staff for helping both teams peak at the right time. “We were happy with second [for the men] this year.
“Sometimes [getting second] is overshadowed and I understand winning is the focus, but overall they did well.”