By Joe Scalzo
Fitch senior Billy Price found a theme in the last day of his throwing career.
“Make things exciting,” he said, “then on the last throw save yourself.”
Maybe “exciting” isn’t the right term. “Suspenseful,” maybe. Or “stomach-churning.”
In both the shot put and the discus, Price fouled the first two throws in the opening flight, only to save himself with the third attempt to make the finals. While it wasn’t a recipe for greatness, it was good enough for a runner-up finish in the discus and a fourth in the shot at Saturday’s Division I state meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“The first two throws, I was trying to chase the best, I guess, and I was working too hard and not focusing on the essentials,” said Price, who will play football at Ohio State next season.
Price’s coach, T.J. Koniowsky, has a theory that Price throws better when he’s a little distracted, which proved true in the discus. After fouling his second throw, Price’s focus was interrupted by an elderly man suffering from heat exhaustion.
“He had throw up on his shirt and I was straight up like, ‘I don’t even care about the competition right now; I just want to make sure he’s OK,’” said Price, who gave up his seat in the tent so the man could get treatment in the shade. “It kind of relaxed me and got my mind focused on what it needed to be.”
Price threw a 183-footer on his third attempt, then topped it with a 184-4 on the last throw in the finals to place second behind Lakewood St. Edward’s Aaron Zedella, an OSU track recruit.
“I’m glad I ended what I started,” said Price, who struggled at last year’s state meet and briefly considered dropping track after football season. “You open a door, you make sure you close it on the way out.”
Fitch junior Sam Ortz was fifth in the 110-meter hurdles, the Falcons’ 4x100 relay took sixth and the 4x200 relay was fourth. But after entering Saturday’s final with the fastest qualifying time in the 4x200, sophomore Joe Harrington admitted they were a little disappointed.
“Today we set our goals high and we tried our best,” said Harrington, whose relays will return seven of eight runners next year. “Today was just kind of iffy. We’ll be back.”
Boardman junior Mark Hadley will also be back, but his day was anything but iffy. Hadley ran a personal-best time of 9:05.66 in the 3200, placing third in one of the fastest races in state history.
The winning time of 8:56.61 was less than two seconds off the overall state record (set last year) and Hadley’s time would have won the Division I race in nine of the previous 12 years.
“I guess I’m just kind of speechless right now; this exceeded my expectations completely,” Hadley said. “Almost any other year I probably would have blown everybody else away, but there’s something in the water the last couple years. Everybody’s just been going crazy.”
Hadley briefly seized the lead on the fifth lap before falling back. He said he got through the last few laps by vowing not to give up, something he felt he did last year when he took sixth.
“I remembered how crappy it felt on the drive home,” he said. “I didn’t like it.”