By Greg Gulas
With a personal best heave in the discus and convincing win in the shot put, Austintown Fitch’s Billy Price helped the Falcons repeat as champions at the 18th annual Poland Invitational on Saturday.
By winning the 800 and 1600 meter runs, Canfield’s Emma Lunne helped solidify the Cardinals’ stranglehold as runners-up while Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary easily defended its title on the distaff side of the ledger.
For their efforts, both Price and Lunne were named MVP of their respective divisions as Austintown Fitch (73 points) outdistanced Euclid High (65 points) for boys top honors and Canfield (48 points) finished ahead of Austintown Fitch (44 points) as girls runner-up.
With 99 points the Irish easily registered the most points of any squad in the 35-team field, their second consecutive year atop the standings.
“We had some guys beaten and battered last week, so to bounce back like we did against some excellent competition is exactly what we needed as we look to our Optimist meet next week at home,” Price said. “Today was just a great competition against Salem’s Anthony Shivers and the rest of the field. It was a great environment for throwing and it just seems to get everyone’s adrenaline flowing.”
The Falcons’ 4 x 100 relay team of Ty’Reese Anderson, Joe Harrington, Gary Gibson and Nathan Bowlen set a new invitational record with 42.44, eclipsing the old mark of 42.80 which was set by Warren Harding in 2006.
“All I wanted was to catch the runner in front of me and make a smooth handoff,” Anderson said.
Harrington said: “After the handoff, I just concentrated on running as fast as I could in order to get the baton to Gary for the next leg.”
All four runners agreed that they entered the race wanting to set a new meet record.
“I had a perfect exchange from Joe and while there is always room for improvement, the transfer to our anchor, Nate Bowlen, was a good one and that gave him the chance for a strong finish,” Gibson said. Bowlen explained: “We wanted to set the record, so when I got the baton, the only thing on my mind was to finish strong.”
Lunne won the 800-meter run over St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Julia Mendiola with a little over a second to spare, capturing the 1600-meter run by almost six seconds over Hudson’s Caroline Sauers.
“In the 1600, I felt like I went a little too slow on my second lap. I just wanted to keep pace and hopefully in the end kick it in for a strong finish,” Lunne said. “I am pretty excited about my effort, but even more excited with the fact that we were able to finish runners-up as a team.”
A sore throat and fever sidelined McDonald’s Patrick Kunkel last week, but he would not be denied Saturday as he won the boys 1600.
“I was sick last week and missed both school and practice, which pushed me back in my training. I felt that today was going to be my stiffest competition to date so I wanted to go out fast and see what transpired,” Kunkel said. “I had the lead after the first lap so I just kept going, kept up the same pace but kept enough back so I would have enough kick at the end. The competition of the field made me push myself today.”
The boys Iron Bulldog winner (most points scored) was Evan Carroscia of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, who scored 20.5 points by capturing the 300 and 110 hurdles while the girls Iron Bulldog winner was Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Imani Davis, who also scored 20.5 points by winning the 200, placing second in the 100 and earning two and a half points as a member of the Irish 800 relay team.
McDonald’s Jai’Lyn Mosley, who placed first in the discus and second in the shot put, earned field MVP honors for the girls.
The St. Vincent-St. Mary boys finished third with 56 points, joining Austintown Fitch as the only other school with a top-3 finish on both sides of the ledger.