Lowellville’s Michael Ballone reflects on strong junior year after podium finish at state

The Rockets junior made three different trips to the podium at the OHSAA state track meet in Columbus

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Lowellville junior Michael Ballone clears a hurdle before taking eighth in the 110 hurdles last Saturday in Columbus at the OHSAA state track meet.

COLUMBUS — Michael Ballone didn’t hit all of his goals for the OHSAA state track meet, but you can understand why the Lowellville standout is still satisfied with his showing.

Ballone capped his junior season off with three trips to the podium at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. He placed eighth in the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.17, fifth in the 300 hurdles with a clocking of 39.51 and then was part of Lowellville’s eighth-place 4×400 team, which also included Braylen Dabney, Vinny Ballone and Matt Lucido.

“It was fun,” Ballone said. “This was a crazy year for our team. We had a lot of accomplishments that our school’s never come close to, so I’m really proud of us.”

With the efforts of Ballone, plus the 4×400 team as well as the state runner-up Rockets 4×200 team, Lowellville was able to place 16th overall with 14 team points to cap a strong year.

For Ballone, it’s extra special given Lowellville’s small size as a school.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “That’s not what a lot of people expect out of us. We’re marked as one of the smallest 20 schools in the entire state. It’s really amazing.”

He added, “I’m very happy, really thankful for everything my coaches did this year. As a team, we worked our tails off to get here. I’m really happy with how the state tournament went this year.”

Ballone entered the state meet as the Division III, Region 9 runner-up in both the 110 and 300 hurdles from the meet at Norwayne.

On preliminaries day, Ballone placed seventh in the 110 with a 15.05 clocking and fifth in the 300 with a time of 39.85.

The Lowellville 4×400 team made the finals by posting a 3:29.09 in the preliminaries, good for seventh.

Then came a busy morning for the finals, as Ballone made three separate trips to the podium to collect hardware.

Still, Ballone said he didn’t quite reach his goals, though he noted they were lofty.

“I had a lot of big aspirations going into this meet — a lot of high goals — but I didn’t do what I wanted to do today,” Ballone said after his final event, the 4×400. “But what ended up happening was shooting for a star and landing on a cloud. So I still keep my head high, chin up, but bigger goals next year.”

The trip also offered a bit of redemption in the 300 event. Ballone qualified for that as a sophomore in 2022, but got snagged on a hurdle, fell and ultimately didn’t earn a podium spot.

“This year, I kind of came back with a vengeance and tried to prove myself, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do next year in all my events,” he added. “Just try and prove myself and that I’m better than what people see me at right now.”

And with three of the four relay members returning next season, Ballone is eyeing a trip back to Columbus with that unit, as well. The unit loses only Vinny Ballone, who heads to Youngstown State to join the football program now.

“We had the guys (to be successful), and we have three coming back next year,” Michael Ballone said. “There were a couple freshmen that made it to this meet either as individuals or in relays, so somebody is going to have to take a spot next year, or even two. Whatever is going to happen will happen. But we’re going to be stronger again next year. It’s going to be just as good.”


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 $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today