Bengala and Girard’s 4×100 relay team both earned podium spots with fifth-place finishes

Correspondent photos / Robert Hayes Girard’s Nic Bengala clears a hurdle during the 300-meter hurdles at the OHSAA state track meet.

COLUMBUS — It was an opportunity for vindication so to speak.

Last June, Girard’s Nic Bengala made it to Columbus, only to be disqualified in the preliminaries of the 300 hurdles.

Now a senior, the gridiron standout took to the podium at the state track meet, finishing fifth place in the Division II 300 hurdles, with a personal best time of 38.61 seconds. He also manned the starting leg of the Indians’ 4×100 relay, which also placed fifth with a clocking of 42.85 seconds.

Bengala felt he finally put what happened during his junior year to rest.

“It sucked. The whole year, all I did was think about that, trying to get back here to make a redemption run, and that’s what I did,” he said. “Was hoping for a higher place, but I’m just glad to be here and podium. My mind goes blank for every race, so I might be thinking about something, but as soon as I step on the track, my mind goes blank. All I’m focused on is getting the win.

“A lot of weight off my shoulders now, it feels good.”

Just moments before his hurdle event, Bengala competed for the speedy relay group, one that features juniors Domenico Simone and Anthony Bengala, along with sophomore Stephen Sims.

Anthony is Nic’s younger brother and joined the track team this winter. It may have been intimidating at first, especially with it being indoor track, but Anthony felt that he got the hang of the sport quickly.

“Just getting better for football, faster. Nic pushes me a lot, and I get into it with him sometimes, but he just wants me to be better, so I love him for that,” Anthony said. “I never ran a race before, so it just scared me. It’s crazy, I can’t believe I’m actually here right now.”

Being siblings, the two take their digs at each other when the opportunity arises, but Nic found himself in a leadership position as the lone senior on the relay group. He had already been to the state meet and is signed to play football at the University of Pikeville (NAIA).

Even before the most important race of the season, Nic kept harping on the details.

“From districts to now, I preached to them about leaving on time, if you leave on time good things happen. A couple of times they didn’t want to listen, but the times they did we ended up in a place like this,” said Nic. “All of Anthony’s friends were running, and we just told him, it’ll help him with football too. Just come out, have fun, and whatever happens, happens. We ended up at the state meet so that’s all you can ask for right there.

“We were fighting here before the race, I was yelling at Anthony about his steps and stuff, and he got mad at me. It was like the tenth time I said something, but we’re always going back and forth with each other, it’s a tough love. It did pay off.”

Sims and Simone are no strangers to the football field either. Sims played a major role for the Indians midway through the season last fall after Nic sustained a broken collarbone. As an underclassman, Sims found himself under center at quarterback and guided Girard to a playoff win over Hubbard.

In many regards, the fifth-place podium finish capped off a successful year for Sims.

“It’s been exciting all year, we knew what we had to do to get here, we worked hard every day to get here. Football helped me keep on working, wanting to compete more and making me work harder for it,” said Sims. “Just keep on moving. If somebody beats you, you keep on working hard, you’ll get them next time.

“It’s a great feeling to represent my community. I’d do anything for Girard. We just keep each other going, motivated, staying together and everything.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today