STATE TRACK: Valley Christian 3-peats in 4×100, Girard and Lowellville relays earn runner-up finishes

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Valley Christian's Marquez Gibbs comes down the home stretch during the 4x100 relay. Gibbs and the Eagles captured their third consecutive relay crown Saturday.

(Editor’s note: Features on many of the Mahoning Valley’s medalists will be published in the coming days.)

COLUMBUS — For the third consecutive year, Valley Christian’s 4×100 team found itself atop the podium.

The Eagles team of Jhordan Peete, Phillip Spradley, VeShun Gurley and Marquez Gibbs secured a three-peat for their program Saturday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, posting a time of 43.13 to edge Anna’s time of 43.50 to secure the Division III crown.

“This is awesome,” said Spradley, a senior and one of the team’s two returners from last year’s winning squad. “We just want to put Valley Christian on the map. We’re a small school, we just want to be recognized for something good. Doing this three straight times, it just shows that we can change something and do something good.”

The Eagles entered the race as the top seed, posting a time of 42.88 in the preliminaries. The end goal, in addition to capturing the state title, was to set a new OHSAA record. Dayton Jefferson Township still holds the D3 mark at 42.31, but the Eagles left satisfied with keeping the championship in Youngstown.

“You’re not really supposed to think about the time and the clock and the numbers, but today I was aiming for the record,” said Gibbs, a junior and the other returner from last year. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it, but we get to stay on top.”

It capped a season of adversity for the unit, which had various injuries and was replacing two standouts from a season ago. But the group pulled through, staying with the front of the pack the entire race and allowing Gibbs to lead for most, if not all, of the final leg to secure the title.

“We’re just a resilient team,” Spradley said. “We just know how badly we wanted it, and how badly we wanted to get here.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes
Valley Christian’s Jhordan Peete settles into the starting blocks ahead of the Eagles’ 4×100 championship win.


There’s been no shortage of confidence or chemistry from the Lowellville boys 4×200 relay team, and the Rockets capped a strong season off with a state runner-up finish Saturday.

Lowellville’s team of Braylen Dabney, Vinny Ballone, Drew Modelski and Josh Pazel ran a 1:29.94, placing second in Division III behind Allen East’s 1:29.57 to take a silver medal back to the Mahoning Valley.

“This year, Drew and Josh are just freshmen. They’re young, and just came on and we welcomed them and really became great friends and a great team,” Ballone said, crediting the team’s cohesion.

The youngsters, who ran the third and fourth legs, lived up to the billing, keeping Lowellville neck and neck with eventual champion Allen East all the way to the finish.

“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous the whole time here,” Pazel said. “I felt like I was going to throw up, but once I got the baton, I was like, ‘All you have to do is finish.'”

He added, “Finishing second obviously doesn’t feel like finishing first, but I’ll take second. Next year, we’ll be back better than ever, and we’re winning this next year — no doubt in my mind.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes
Lowellville’s Josh Pazel finishes off the 4×200 relay as the anchor Saturday afternoon at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.


The Girard girls 4×100 team saved its best performance for last.

In as tightly contested a race as Saturday saw, the Indians team of Olivia Coman, Mia Malito, Ar’Marna Wilson and Sieasia Triplett posted a time of 48.26 to take behind Toledo Central Catholic’s time of 48.21.

Triplett and TCC anchor Nyla King went step for step the entire last stretch, but one final push from King sent the Irish to the win.

Still, it marked a tremendous end to an already strong season for the Indians, as they set their new PR by about a second on top of setting a school record, the athletes said.

“I dropped to the ground in excitement,” said Wilson, who will continue her track career at Ohio Christian University next season. “I hugged Mia; it was just a whole bunch of emotions, very emotional, very happy. It was exciting.”

Of the sprint to the finish, Triplett said, “We have a lot of faith in each other, and I knew they would get me to a spot where I could finish and bring it close.”

She added, “(I was thinking), ‘Stay with her.’ and then it got to a point where I passed her a little bit, and then she kept coming back, but I was still in it.”


Making the podium is always a difficult task, much less twice. Springfield Local accomplished the feat with a third-place finish in the 4×100 in a time of 50.12 seconds and a fifth-place showing in the 4×200 with a time of 1:44.61 in the girl’s Division III finals.

Senior Graciella Ebert, juniors Ava Vecchione, Emma Sanders, and sophomore Cali Matey were more than thrilled.

“It’s crazy being down here, especially since this is my senior year, this is my fourth year being down here, it’s really special with my close friends,” said Ebert, who made the state junior high meet previously, along with two trips to the varsity state meet. “Not only in one event, but to get on the podium for two events is just phenomenal for us.”

Last season, the Tigers 4×100 team was disqualified during the preliminaries, leading to some sense of redemption this time around.

Vecchione agrees, especially after Springfield just made the 4×100 cut at eighth in the trials Friday.

“We had a rough start yesterday; finishing third, it’s a really great feeling,” Vecchione said. “We all know our potential. It was kind of a rough start, but today we woke up, we had a better feeling and were excited and motivated.”


Salem’s Makenna Rudy took home a gold medal in the shot put in Division II.

With her last toss of the day, Rudy hit 41-7.75 to knock off Norton’s Morgan Hallett, who threw a 41-3.75 and easily won the discus event the day before with a record throw.

Rudy initially tossed a 40-5 on her first attempt, followed by a 39-9.50 and a 38-6 on throws two and three. After passing on her fourth attempt, she threw a 37-9.50 on her fifth attempt.

Then came her biggest toss, which vaulted her to the front of the pack and gave the Quaker a title.

Division III notebook: Lowellville’s Michael Ballone was eighth in the 110-meter hurdles, fifth in the 300 hurdles and was part of Lowellville’s eighth-place 4×400 relay team, which also included Braylen Dabney, Vinny Ballone and Matt Lucido. … Brookfield’s Aiden Jones was seventh in the 100 and eighth in the 200. Fellow Warrior Christian Davis was seventh in the 400. … Cardinal Mooney’s girls 4×200 team of Sammy Rotunno, Talecia Huff, My’Kayla Jones and Sophia Diorio was ninth. … McDonald’s Megan Hipple was second in the 1600-meter run. … Maplewood’s Alex Donaldson was 10th in the 1600 and fourth in the 800. Fellow Rocket Bryson Himes was seventh in the 800. … Lowellville’s Sophia Yon was eighth in the 800. … Maplewood’s Caleigh Richards won the 3200. Hipple was third in the event, while Heartland Christian freshman Rebecca Geiss was runner-up. … Cardinal Mooney’s girls 4×400 team of Sammy Rotunno, My’Kiah Jones, Talecia Huff and Sophia Diorio finished sixth.

Division II notebook: Salem’s Ryan Kamperman finished sixth in the discus with a throw of 168-4. … Fellow Quaker Maggie Hall finished 10th in the 1600 and 13th in the 800. Teammate Megan Stafford was 11th in the 3200. … Girard’s boys 4×100 team of Nic Bengala, Domenico Simone, Anthony Bengala and Stephen Sims placed fifth. … Lakeview’s Stasia Hall was ninth in the 300 hurdles. … Girard’s Nic Bengala was fifth in the 300 hurdles. … Salem’s Will Madison was seventh in the boys 800. … Liberty’s Dwayne Moody took ninth in the 200.

Division I notebook: Austintown Fitch’s Nick Tibolla placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdles. … Howland’s Courtney Clark finished second in the shot put. … Fellow Tiger Lexus Solarz took fourth in the discus. … Fitch’s Harrison Spalding was seventh in the pole vault. … Boardman’s Tyler Cherne was 14th in discus. … The Austintown Fitch boys 4×100 team of Gianni Maley, Nick Tibolla, Dan Evans and Jayden Eley placed seventh. … Howland’s Connor Durig won the high jump, clearing the 6-9 mark. … Boardman’s Logan Thompson was eighth in the 300 hurdles.


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