Lowellville boys grab regional team title at Norwayne meet
CRESTON — The Lowellville boys track team did it again Friday night.
A week after capturing the district title at the Division III Springfield meet, the Rockets outlasted the competition at the Region 9 meet at Norwayne High School to capture the boys team title. Lowellville scored 58 points, 18 ahead of second-place finisher McDonald and 19 points ahead of third-place finisher Brookfield.
“We have a great team, a great coaching staff, and we’ve been working hard toward this goal all year,” Lowellville coach Bobby Ballone said. “Now we just have to get to states next week and try to do the same type of thing.”
The Rockets scored eight points from sprinting events, 16 from hurdles, six from distance events and five from throwing events. Their relay teams also scored a whopping 23 points to pace the day. They came home with a second-place finish in the 4×200, a fourth-place finish in the 4×100 and then came in just behind United for a second-place finish in the 4×400, the meet’s final event.
Michael Ballone was crucial in the hurdle events for the Rockets, securing a second place in the 300 hurdles with a 39.78 clocking, which was tenths of a second behind Waynedale’s Jeremy Reber. Then he also earned a close second in the 100 hurdles behind LaBrae’s David Blackmon with a time of 15.30 seconds.
“We’ve just got a good group of hard-working guys,” Bobby Ballone said. “They show up every day and do the things they need to do in order to be successful and achieve the things that we’ve been wanting to do all year.”
At the core of the Lowellville group is a strong class of seniors that have excelled in a number of sports this year, leading the Rockets to an undefeated regular season in football and also carrying the basketball team into the district semifinals. Now they’ve done it in track and field as well.
After watching them from a young age, Bobby Ballone said the standard that the seniors have set has only helped the Rockets’ exceptional season.
“We’ve had great leadership over the years and my brother Vinny and all the other guys that I’ve been coaching since they were in third grade with pee-wee football,” he said. “They are a great group, we’ve been blessed with them and we hope that these younger guys learn from them and continue the success that we’ve had the past few years.”
SPRINTING TO THE FRONT
The Springfield girls had a special night, and junior Ava Vecchione led the way.
Vecchione started her night off by pacing the Tigers to a victory in the 4×200 relay when she ran a key third leg to close the gap on the leaders, which allowed anchor running Graciella Ebert to secure the win.
Then, the same relay team of Vecchione, Ebert, Emma Sanders and Cali Matey punched its ticket to states in a second relay when they earned a second-place finish in the 4×100.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity; I think we all are,” Ebert said. “We are really proud of how well we trusted each other throughout the whole season, and we have slowly progressed every meet and everyone has been consistent with each other and helped us out as a team.”
Of her big kick in the 4×200, Vecchione said she just wanted to help out her teammates as much as she could.
“I just wanted to do it for the team because I know we deserve this,” Vecchione said. “I know our hard work throughout the season is paying off, so it’s just a good feeling.”
After the second-place finish, Vecchione went on to continue her special night when she won a surprising title in the 300-meter hurdles, edging out Cardinal Mooney’s Sammy Rotunno with a 46.18 finish. Rotunno and Vecchione both beat Waynedale’s Skye Morris, who was the top qualifier.
“It was really kind of unexpected, I kind of shocked myself,” Vecchione said. “But that’s been my goal for the past two years since I started running them. So just knowing that I was able to do it and it was in me, even if I did badly on a few hurdles, it felt good.”
Vecchione finished off her night with another trip to the podium with a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash. She clocked a time of 26.06 seconds, coming in behind Dalton’s Brianna Chenevey who recorded a time of 25.46.
THE JOURNEY TO NO. 3
The Valley Christian boys 4×100 relay team has dominated the event in Division IV for the past two years and they are looking to do it again.
After capturing a regional title with a time of 43.33 seconds, the Eagles seem to be on their way.
“This feels good, but I think we expect it now because we are so used to it,” Phillip Spradley said. “I’ve been doing it since my sophomore year and we just keep going back. So I think we expect it now, we just know what comes with it and stuff like that.”
The relay team of Jhordan Peete, Spradley, VeShun Gurley and Marquez Gibbs, finished .21 seconds ahead of the team from Black River and .62 seconds ahead of the team from Columbiana. Lowellville recorded a time of 44.20 seconds to place fourth.
The Eagles have been here before though and although their aspirations lie at the meet next weekend in Columbus, having experience at the regional meet always helps.
“We set ourselves to a higher standard so that just helps us achieve new goals,” Spradley said.
The Eagles will be looking for title No. 3 when they travel to Columbus next weekend and there is plenty of motivation to get it done.
“This is my senior year, this is all three of our senior years, so we just want to end it off with a bang, hopefully, break the record again,” Spradley said. “That’s what we hope to do.”
BACK TO STATES
Mineral Ridge sophomore Ava Hulett has been to states before, and she’s glad to be going back, especially with a regional title in her pocket.
With a time of 15.92 seconds, Hulett won the 100-meter hurdles by .07 seconds, just ahead of Loudonville’s Corri Vermilya.
“I’ve been working really hard for this,” Hulett said. “I made it to states last year so I had the motivation to make it again.”
Hulett thrived in chaos on her way to victory as well. During the event, multiple girls started going down around her after missed hurdles and while it could’ve drawn her attention, Hulett stayed focused on the task at hand.
“I was right next to the girl who went down first and when I saw her I felt really bad for her because she was right next to me but I just had to keep pushing because I only had a few hurdles left,” Hulett said.