By Tom Williams
Like dozens of other athletes at Friday’s Division I regional track and field meet, Boardman senior Chris Butler qualified for state.
But he, along with three other runners in the 1600, had to qualify twice. A huge collision during the race had several competitors tumble, prompting officials to have the race re-run at the end of the meet. Few involved were happy with the decision but the same four runners placed.
“Deja vu, nothing changed,” Butler said with a smile after he finished fourth in the second race (4:18.56), but beat his personal best by three seconds. “I beat my PR two times today.”
In the first race, he finished third.
“At first, I was pretty bummed out, but I tried to stay in the zone, stay focused,” Butler said of the repeat.
His coach, John Phillips, was happy the final result rewarded the original four.
“That’s the important part,” said Phillips, adding that he felt bad for athletes who pulled out of other events to prepare for round two. “I know it was a tough decision. I don’t agree with it [but] I respect it.”
Phillips felt bad for those who rearranged their plans and maybe lost out on a trip.
“Thankfully, Chris isn’t one of those kids,” Phillips said. “Great athlete, tremendous run.”
Butler pulled out of the 800 to get ready for round two.
“I dropped it once we found out I had to run the mile twice, to conserve as much as possible,” Butler said.
The 1600 wasn’t the only race that wasn’t settled on the first try. The boys 100 sprint ended with a three-way tie for fourth place. After the 4x400 relay ended, those three raced again. This time, Fitch’s Ralph Fitzgerald finished second for fifth place.
“I’ve never seen a three-way tie,” Fitch coach Seth Steiner said. “Never. I went to the trailer and they said, ‘It’s a dead heat, we can’t pick out the winner.’”
Two Fitch athletes are regional champions. Junior Jakari Lumsden won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet 5 inches. His classmate Lauren Dolak won the 800 with a time of 2:12.29, edging Walsh Jesuit’s Mary Figler by more than three seconds.
Lumsden was thrilled with his victory after placing sixth last year in the regional.
“I’m pretty excited.” Lumsden said. “To make that big jump to first place feels good.”
Steiner wasn’t surprised.
“Jakari has been on a hot streak lately,” Steiner said. “He’s been undefeated in May, real consistent in that 6-4 range.”
Lumsden said he’s worked a lot harder to improve.
“I took it more seriously,” Lumsden said. “Last year, I started high jumping in the middle of the season, so I just had more time to prepare and train [this year].”
About competing in Columbus, Dolak said, “It’s awesome. I’ve been looking forward to this race all year. Winning it means a lot.”
Last year, Dolak finished seventh at state.
“My goal is to place higher,” said Dolak, who moved in front during the second half of the race. “I felt good with 300 to go, so I just took the lead and took it home.”
Canfield senior Anita Mancini will be competing twice in Columbus. She’s a member of the Cardinals’ 4x800 relay team and finished three spots behind Dolak in the 400.
“She’s a great runner,” Mancini said of Dolak. “She’s great to run with and she’s a really good competitor.
“It’s fun to race with her,” The Vindicator’s girls soccer player of the year said. “It’s going to be a really great weekend.”
East sprinter Jahniya Bowers qualified in the 100 and just missed in the 200.
“It’s important,” the Panthers’ sophomore said of returning to Columbus. “I get to run with top-notch runners. It’s good to run in Columbus.”
Bowers was third in the 100 (12.4) and fifth in the 200 (25.67), just .08 of a second behind Twinsburg’s Nya Bussey.
Warren Harding sprinter Kayron Adams won the 100 (10.91), edging Chardon’s Joey Dinko by .12 of a second.
“I had a nice warm-up leading up to the race,” the Raiders sophomore said.
Asked what he thinks the state meet will be like, Adams said, “Love. It’s going to feel good.”