State champions share their experiences
BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Prior to the start of the OHSAA baseball tournament each May, official rosters for each team make space for 22 players that will remain active over the course of postseason competition.
The Warren JFK Eagles needed exactly half those allotted slots to secure the school’s first-ever state championship, that coming on June 13 when they defeated Van Wert Lincolnview, 4-0, at Akron’s Canal Park.
First-year head coach Jim Ciambotti, who took over the program last July and guided his team to the Division IV title, told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center that his team’s run was humbling.
“I always wanted to be a head coach and guide my own program,” Ciambotti said. “The first order of business after I took over was to have instructional sessions in September for those players not playing any fall sports. Then in January, we did the same thing for the players not playing basketball because I wanted to introduce my program.
“I felt like we had certain pieces of the puzzle in place, but with only 11 players on the team, we needed to stay away from injuries if we expected to make a deep run at tournament time. We monitored our pitchers and all the players, letting them know that when they take it one practice at a time, one game at a time and stay in the moment then good things usually happen.
“The sole focus all season was to focus on what you can control and that is exactly what they did.”
The lone senior on the squad, which finished 22-9, was co-captain Cam Hollobaugh, who also quarterbacked the Eagles to a state runner-up finish in Division VII football last fall. He shared captain duties with Gavin Shrum, the winning pitcher in the championship game.
“We fell short of a state title in football, so to end my scholastic career as a state champion in baseball is very special,” said Hollobaugh, who is headed to Walsh University in the fall where he will play both sports for the Cavaliers. “This meant everything to me because it was the culmination of four years of hard work. We had a team chemistry second to none.”
Other state champions honored included Caleb White of Beaver Local, who won the 100-meter dash in Division II, Canfield’s Nick Plant, the 800-meter champion in Division I, Ryan Henry of McDonald, Division III discus title-winner, Chante Clinkscale of Niles McKinley, who won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash crowns in Division II and Valley Christian’s 4×100 relay team of Tyrone Lindsey, Brandon Paige, Kwane Austin and Philip Spradley, the only area relay team to win a state title.
White, a sophomore, became the Beavers’ third individual state champion with an 11.09 clocking, also earning a runner-up finish in the 200.
“The goal at the beginning of the year was to just qualify for state,” he said. “The goal then changed to placing and finally feeling that I could, in fact, win it all. It was an amazing experience.”
A junior, Plant also qualified for state in cross country as a sophomore and junior, winning his state title with a time of 1:49.79, third best in the country, and the top time for juniors nationwide at the time of the event.
“The goal was to win it all,” Plant said. “The race went exactly how I expected it to go at the beginning then I kicked it in at the end.”
Henry’s winning heave traveled 170 feet and two inches.
“I looked at my places over the course of the season and while the competition is pretty stiff at state, I felt like I could place high with a good throw,” said the junior, who finished ninth overall as a freshman.
Clinkscale, a senior who is headed to the University of Dayton in the fall to study physical therapy, won the 100 in 11.86 and the 200 in 24.30. She also added two state titles during the recently completed indoor season for a total of four state championships in her final scholastic campaign.
“Coming off two indoor state titles, I wanted to win both outdoor titles. It was a fantastic feeling,” added Clinkscale, who finished eighth in Division II in the 100 meter dash as a sophomore.
Valley Christian head coach Monica Perkins said her four team members were focused all season.
“We do not have a track so we practiced and ran on the pavement, also in the school parking lot,” she noted. “When we found an open track, usually on Sunday, they took advantage of the opportunity and never complained. They had a focus and dream.”
The two senior relay team members included Paige and Lindsey.
“We grew together over the course of the season and became a very close unit,” Paige said. “As sophomores, we placed fourth so to win it all as seniors is a great way to end our high school careers.
The organization will break until September 13 when Ron Strollo, YSU executive director of athletics, kicks off the fall season.