After first loss, Fitch 4×100 relay seeks redemption

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Harding junior JaVontae Jones (left) and Fitch senior Jayden Eley (right) cross the finish line during the 4x100 relay Friday in Austintown. Both teams earned a trip to the state meet, but Harding took the regional crown with a time of 42.25 seconds

AUSTINTOWN — Up until last Friday, the Austintown Fitch boys’ 4×100 meter relay team hadn’t lost a race all spring. That changed when the Fitch platoon finished third at the Division I regional meet with a time of 42.34 seconds

Now with Columbus in sight, the Falcons have redemption on their mind.

“Just being calm, our coaches have plenty of faith in us and they’re 100% honest with us, and they have given us the confidence to go out onto the track and perform,” said senior Jayden Eley. “We just need to stick to our own race and just try to perfect what we need to perfect and get better each race.

“We’ve been together our whole life, we’ve just gotten closer and closer each year. We’re always competitive with each other but at the end of the day we’re teammates and we all love each other. We’re just trying to go out here and win and get on the podium at state.”

An intense 4x100m race last Friday saw Warren G. Harding take the regional title, with Euclid closely following suit, and Solon claiming fourth by .002 seconds.

Fitch’s senior trio along with a junior have remained consistent over the spring, although every element of the race will matter come this weekend.

A goal of the mid to high 41-second mark is something Fitch coach Seth Steiner sees as achievable.

“I think just adjusting our steps, we played it safe at regionals, we thought we could still win by playing it safe and we didn’t,” said Steiner. “So we made those adjustments with the steps and I think that can enable our guys to get a bit higher speeds prior to receiving the baton which can maybe shave off a tenth or two off each exchange and maybe we get into that 41 range, and that should more certainly get us in the final.

“We got to run a clean race.”

Senior Gianni Maley sees the “team” aspect in such an individualized world of track.

“We got closer as a team, we hang out after practice, just the bond,” said Maley. “We have to live up to the standard and we know that we want to be the top program. It means a lot to me to represent the community and do a lot for the community.”

“I get to go out to state and compete with my friends and make memories. We’re going to go down there, perform our best and have lots of fun.”

Senior Nick Tibolla took the regional title in the 110-meter hurdles, clocking 14.24 seconds after not even making the regional finals during the 2021 meet. He views that event as the preamble to his relay race.

“You just have to stay honed in on what we got to do. We practice relay drills two times a week, so there really can’t be any room for error,” said Tibolla. “I want to run full out in the hurdles and then I just want to use that as some early warmup for this 4×100. They’ll get my “A” game and I’m sure I’ll get theirs.”

“Being able to not only go and run my race, but also run it with my closest friends, it really means a lot to me.”

Junior Dan Evans III is a fellow teammate of Eley for football, but is also the only underclassman of the group, previously making the state tournament as a freshman, as part of a 4x100m group that included Eley.

Missing the cut in 2022 gave the duo motivation heading into the spring, even though this will be their first time competing at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium after the state meet was split into three different sites in 2021.

“When you get there it feels like an accomplishment, but obviously you want to do something, so you still focus and dial in,” said Evans. “It made me want to get there more, experiencing it that year was really cool, I went down with my friends, and it was a great time. Missing it last year, we could have been there with where we should have been, but we missed it. So, you wanted to get there this year and we’re happy to be there.”


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