Austintown Fitch senior Nick Tibolla places seventh in the 110 hurdles and 4×100 relay

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Austintown Fitch senior Nick Tibolla clears a hurdle before taking seventh in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.41 seconds at the OHSAA state track meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium last Saturday.

COLUMBUS — The 2022 season didn’t go the way Nick Tibolla wanted, so in 2023, the Austintown Fitch senior made sure to go out in better fashion.

After failing to qualify for the regional finals, much less the state meet, as a junior, Tibolla reached the podium twice in his finale as a Falcon, earning seventh-place finishes in the 110 hurdles and as part of Fitch’s 4×100 team, which also included Gianni Maley, Dan Evans and Jayden Eley.

“It feels really good to go out and hit podium both times,” Tibolla said. “Last year I didn’t even get past regional prelims, so being able to make it here, and not just make it but place on the podium, it feels really good.”

Tibolla cruised into the state meet in style.

The senior won a regional crown in the 110 hurdles the week before on Fitch’s track, clocking a time of 14.24, and was part of Fitch’s third-place 4×100 team that day, which placed behind Euclid and Warren G. Harding.

His state appearances were just as dramatic.

Tibolla placed sixth in the 110 preliminaries with a time of 14.31, and Fitch’s 4×100 team narrowly snuck into the finals. The Falcons ran a time of 42.35 in the preliminary round, just defeating Harding for the ninth and final spot in the championship heat. The Raiders were clocked at 42.39.

On championship day, things went a bit sideways for Tibolla — and the rest of the athletes, too. A pop-up storm brought on an initially brief lightning delay just before the 110 hurdles were to be run.

“I was really ready, and then the weather took a crap,” Tibolla joked. “But it was whatever. I’m happy I got to place.”

After the first delay, Tibolla ran a 14.41 in the finals.

Then came the second — and longer — delay before Fitch’s 4×100 team could run. Even still, Tibolla was striving to stay in a racing mindset.

“I think that track is one of the biggest mental sports,” he said. “So I think you just have to train your mind and be ready for that next race, even if it’s after a rain delay or whatever the weather is.”

When action did resume, Tibolla and the Falcons were ready to go. Entering as the ninth seed and in the outside lane, Fitch ended up seventh with a time of 42.44.

The Falcons decided to roll the dice entering the championship heat by making a few minor tweaks.

Tibolla explained, “We came into (championship day) and said, ‘Let’s take a chance.’ We extended my steps, and we extended Dan’s steps, and it ended up working out for us.”

And it ended up giving Tibolla a fitting end to his Fitch career.

The Falcon alumnus isn’t finished with track and field, however. Tibolla, as well as Harrison Spalding, Josh Cayson and Deonte Stallings will head to the New Balance National Outdoor Meet June 15-18 in Philadelphia to run the shuttle hurdles, and then Fitch’s 4×100 team also will run at the meet. As an individual, Tibolla will take part in the 110 hurdles.

After that, Tibolla will head to Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., to continue his athletic and academic careers at the Division II level.

The Bears develop sprinters especially well, Tibolla noted. He plans to continue sprinting with LRU as well as continue his hurdling career. He plans to run both the 110 hurdles and the 400 hurdles.

It also will be a sort of homecoming for Tibolla, who lived in Charlotte, N.C. briefly before moving back to Ohio, the state in which he was born.

“I still have family there, and I just love it there. I think North Carolina is a great state,” Tibolla said. “So being able to go back 30 minutes away and do what I love and run track is just amazing. The coaches were great to me (during recruiting), and I think they have a great program.”


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