East the lone winners in prelims, two clinch state bid
By Brian Dzenis
Elite girls track is no longer a solo act at East.
Jahniya Bowers was the Golden Bears’ lone state qualifier last year, but the junior looks to be travelling to Columbus with her teammates. The Golden Bears’ 4x200 and 4x100 relays each won their respective preliminary races on Wednesday at the Division I regional tournament at Austintown Fitch.
“I was always lonely. This year, we have a team and it’s good that all of us are going to be [at state],” Bowers said. “We can be at state and compete with the best.”
She did stand alone in one respect as the only local athlete to pick up an individual first-place finish on Wednesday, taking the 100. She also was a close runner-up in the 200.
The resurgence of East’s relay teams came with the addition of Kyndia Matlock, Niles’ lone state qualifier last spring. The former All-American Conference White Tier record-holder was seeking better opportunities on and off the track, she said.
“At first it was intimidating, but I can see that it’s making me stronger and I’m happy for the team,” Matlock said of the step up in competition. “[East] is more supportive and we’re friends here, but we still compete on the track.”
Matlock and Bowers joined up with DeShante Allen and Johnae Coleman for the 4x100 and Laniya Lewis for the 4x200. The relay squads were the only area teams to win in prelims.
Individually, Matlock has a shot to make state in the 100 and 200 after taking fifth and seventh, respectively.
“It’s a tribute to the young athletes at East who were receptive of her and Kyndia’s a great girl,” East coach Kevin Cylar said. “She’s a 4.0 student and she’s really easy to get along with.”
Two athletes we’re able to punch their tickets to Columbus on Wednesday. Warren Harding freshman Faith Burch was the runner-up in the high jump. She hit her personal best — five feet, four inches — to take second, finishing an inch lower than Hudson’s Molly Stecker.
She needed a third jump to get past 5-2, but nailed 5-3 on her first try to clinch her state bid.
“I was still thinking about the regional title,” Burch said. “I still wanted to push myself to be more and do better than I did before.”
While Burch goes to Columbus on her first try, Emoni Davis earned her first trip in her senior season. Her final throw in the shot put — 38-05 feet — put her in third place.
“I was getting very anxious because this is the last meet, but I’m happy that I pulled it out,” Davis said. “I almost gave my coach a heart attack.”
Fitch girls track coach Bob Lape seldom sees Davis in competition, either because field events were at the same time as running events or in a different location.
Davis has thrown at least 40 feet this season and her not hitting that mark was a source of consternation.
“I was confident she could make because I knew what she threw and what the other girls threw. But when you see one girl go and then another one go and they’re ahead of her, you get nervous,” Lape said. “I left to go watch races and I came back when it was over. I shyly asked, ‘How’d it go?’
“She was nervous, too. We had to calm her down with some funny stories and it seemed to work.”