By Joe Scalzo
With at least 90 minutes left in the final day of the Horizon League outdoor track championships, Youngstown State junior Leanna Hartsough stood on the infield cheering on her teammates ... while wearing a conference championship hat.
Sunday wasn’t a competition. It was a coronation. There were six teams chasing YSU and one team chasing history. The only suspense revolved around whether Penguins coach Brian Gorby would get a Gatorade dunking afterward. (He did.)
“I’m OK,” he said on a windy, chilly afternoon. “Remember, I’ve got [Bill] Belichick [clothing] layers.”
YSU’s women cruised to their seventh Horizon League outdoor title since 2002, beating second-place Detroit 185-116 to finish off running’s triple crown. The Penguins also won the conference cross country title in the fall and the indoor track title in the winter.
If they had a summer sport, they’d win that, too.
“Our team did great,” said sophomore Nina Grambling, who earned the meet’s individual scoring award after winning the 100, 200 and long jump and helping the Penguins’ 4x100 relay place third. “Everyone stepped up when they were supposed to and the few people who didn’t, there were other people who jumped in to fill those spots.
“We got that double crown. Well, we [in track] got the double win and the women got the triple crown.”
When asked if she’s thinking about joining the cross country team to get the triple crown, she laughed and said, “I can barely do half a lap! That’s my limit.”
After frustrating performances at the cross country and indoor track championships, YSU senior Samantha Hamilton finally put it all together this weekend, winning the 10K on Friday and the 5K on Sunday to earn outstanding track performer of the meet and Horizon League athlete of the year.
“All I can say is I’m really happy and a little surprised,” the Jackson-Milton High graduate said. “I finally put together a really good Horizon League meet.
“To get athlete of the year, I’m really thankful. It’s a good way to go out.”
Poland High graduate McKinsie Klim placed fourth in the 5K and the 10K and was named outstanding freshman of the year. She won the same award in both the indoor track and cross country seasons.
Penguin freshman Jayne Corbett won field freshman of the year after placing second in Saturday’s shot put and placing fifth in Friday’s shot put. YSU entered Sunday’s final day with a 78-56 lead.
“We knew if we took care of business in the first couple days, we’d be in good shape,” said Gorby, the league coach of the year. “It was a total team effort.”
Sunday’s win marked the first time YSU’s track teams won men’s and women’s outdoor titles since 1997, when the Penguins competed in the Mid-Continent Conference. It also continued YSU’s best season since joining the Horizon League, with the Penguins combining for five conference titles this school year: women’s cross country, women’s indoor and outdoor track, women’s tennis and men’s outdoor track.
“This is the best women’s track team in YSU history,” said Gorby, who has been coaching at YSU for 19 years.
The YSU softball team, which is tied for third in the regular season standings, is talented enough to make it six titles with a strong tournament.
“It’s a good day for YSU,” said Hamilton, who then paused and added, “A good weekend. A good year.”