Track and field competition gets
stronger as districts approach
By charles grove
As track and field teams gear up for the postseason, Austintown Fitch and Girard were local highlights at the 21st annual Poland Invitational.
Both the boys and girls of Girard took home fifth in fields that had nearly 30 teams score while Fitch’s girls team took sixth and the boys won the meet for the second straight year.
“It’s something as a program we kind of expect,” Fitch boys head coach Seth Steiner said. “We knew we’d have a chance to repeat.”
Individually for Fitch, Earl Scott won the 400 dash, Craig Shumacher won the 1600 run and Logan Kusky won the shot put with a throw of 56 feet and 2 inches. But the most dramatic moments came from the Indians.
In a preliminary heat for the 300 hurdles, senior Collin Harden mis-timed the first hurdle and watched the field go by as he laid on the ground. But it was merely him giving the field a head start as Harden came all the way back to win the heat.
“He fell right in front of me and I just started yelling, ‘Get up!’ Girard assistant coach Kevin Hetrick said. “He was completely on the ground with the hurdle flipped over him. He used all his energy to catch up and then held on to win it.”
Harden saved up enough of that energy to run away with the 300 hurdles final, winning that by 1.9 seconds. Harden also won the 110 hurdles final.
“[The fall] was definitely on my mind in the final,” Harden said. “I was thinking I need to give it my best and do what I can. There were a couple stutters here and there but it was a good run. There’s still a couple of races that can be beneficial to helping that.”
Emily Marsico won the girls 100 hurdles over Springfield’s Courtney Cyrus by .04 seconds. She attributed to victory mostly to her pre-race mental approach.
“Before I got in the box I thought, ‘I’m going to win this race,’ Marsico said. “That really got my mentality in the right place.”
That type of competition is why Hetrick said Girard keep coming back to this event year after year.
“This is one of the better competition meets we go to prior to the month of May,” Hetrick said. “We like coming here and seeing some of the Cleveland teams we’ll need to go up against later on and there’s some good D-1 schools here as well.”
Marsico says this year it’s either state or bust.
“State is the goal,” Marsico said. “I just need to keep my head on straight. I had an injury my freshman year and because of that my sophomore year was my first year at hurdles so I wasn’t going to be as good as others. But this year I told myself I’m not going to let anything get in the way.”
For the Falcons, Scott came in fourth in the 400 dash preliminary, but ran away with it in the final, posting a time of 50.88, not far off the pace to perhaps qualify for state according to Steiner.
“Earl is finally coming along and running like he’s capable of,” Steiner said. “I think he can get into the low 49s by the end of the year which could put him in the mix for Columbus.”
The biggest smiles likely came from half-mile specialist Craig Shumacher, who won the mile race with a time of 4:30.47. It was the first win of his career at the mile.
“I was excited when I crossed the finish line,” Shumacher said. “At the halfway point I just opened up my stride and took off. I heard that little whisper in my ear at the end and I knew they were all right behind me so I just started going.”
Fitch fared well in the field events too. In addition to winning the shot put, Kusky came in third in the discus. But distance was more important than placing on this day.
“I beat my [personal record] by about seven feet in the discus so it was a good day,” Kusky said. “Placing will be much more important come tournament time. That’s when personal records don’t matter anymore. It’s all about, ‘What’s this guy throwing? What’s that guy throwing?’”
Kusky not only has aspirations of competing at state this year, but standing high on the podium at the end.
“Definitely want to qualify for state in both discus and shot put and then get on the podium,” Kusky said. “Hopefully top five in both and top three in one of them.”
Canfield’s Andrew Hallof, a Youngstown State commit who is signing is letter of intent on Tuesday, won the boys discus by nearly 10 feet.
Other local highlights included Poland’s boys 4x100 relay narrowly beating out East, Salem and Fitch on their home field and Fitch’s Lauren Dolak winning the girls 800 run. Imoni Donadalle from East won the high jump with a leap of 6-4. Jalen Hooks of Harding and Deondre McKeever of Fitch each had jumps of 6-0.
Howland’s Stephen Baugh won the long jump with a jump of 20 feet and 5.25 inches.