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Double the fun

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State sophomore Jakari Lomax competes during the triple jump. He went on to win the event with a mark of 15.32 meters. After winning the long jump on Saturday, he had to adjust when Sunday’s slate of events were moved indoors due to weather. He helped guide the men to a league championship.

YOUNGSTOWN — It wasn’t your normal outdoor Horizon League Championship on Sunday, that’s for sure.

With more than 100 potential points sidelined due to a variety of factors for Youngstown State’s men’s track and field program, along with being down three points going into the third and final day, it was going to be an uphill battle in many regards for the Penguins.

Meanwhile, YSU’s women’s program cruised through the first two days of the Horizon League Outdoor meet, setting up a possible exciting finish for both team’s Sunday afternoon.

With the years piling up on the men’s and women’s championship banners hanging inside the Watston and Tressel Training Site, the year 2021 might be the most unforgettable.

Both teams (women 234.5 points, men 234 points) took home titles, but less-than-desirable weather conditions in the forecast caused Sunday’s meet to be moved indoors to the WATTS, making the final day of competition a defacto indoor meet.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU sophomore Jahniya Bowers (East) wins the 200-meter race with a time of 24.18 seconds Sunday afternoon. The Penguins men’s and women’s programs went on to win titles at the Horizon League outdoor track and field championships.

What an unusual way to conclude an unusual season, in an unusual year.

“What you think you can do, you can go to more levels, we’re always about pushing, saying let’s blow the roof off of this, everybody take it up a notch,” YSU coach Brian Gorby said. “I think if you go across the board as far as all 78 athletes that competed, I bet you we hit 50 personal bests this weekend.

“This means the world to them. They’re friends, and when we come together and stuff, it’s a complete package. We had injuries, we had people held out, we had COVID situations, with 14 people on the sideline. It didn’t matter, the next group came up.”

Gorby took home women’s coach of the year, with Collin Harden (Girard), Zach Gray, and Sammy Dyson also taking home outstanding performer commendations.

One of the big players over the weekend for the Penguins was sophomore Jahniya Bowers, a graduate of East, winning the 200-meter race Sunday with a personal-best time of 24.18 seconds.

“The schedule change definitely made a difference. We were hoping to have finals for the 100 as well, but me and my teammates still did what we had to do, and we were able to exceed past that,” said Bowers, who also won the 100 Saturday with a time of 11.78. “I would say the difference about inside is there maybe isn’t as much wind, there’s really no weather, so you just run.

“I would just tell myself, ‘you got this, I’ve already been running in here, I practice in here everyday.’ The only thing I needed to do was do what I do best. I feel like I did OK. I’m proud, but I’m definitely not satisfied. I know I have way more work to do, but I’ll take it.”

Fellow sophomore Jakari Lomax took home gold during the long jump Saturday, but he had to switch gears for the indoor triple jump Sunday morning, an event he also won with a mark of 15.32 meters.

Ironically enough, Lomax trailed behind the pack during both events, but set his winning jump during his final attempt.

“It’s just something I’m really known for, I’m kind of like come in at the end and kinda upset,” Lomax said with a laugh. “I don’t really plan on doing it, but it’s just what happens. When it’s the last jump, you have nothing else. Like that was my last jump of the season, so you just got to go a little harder than usually are.

“You always got something in the tank, even when you feel like you’ve did your hardest, so I kinda just let that out and I ended up winning. So I guess that I just pushed a little harder.”

Both Lomax and Bowers completed their first outdoor season, after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed their freshmen campaigns following the indoor circuit.

Seeing the difference between indoor and outdoor is what fascinates Lomax, who always strives to improve himself.

“I like to see the progression and the difference in people, transferring from indoor to outdoor, just to really see how people perform basically, if they improved or not,” Lomax said. “Some people, if they can’t keep the ball rolling, you can see their times and their distances going down. Then you can see some that stay consistent and go up.

“So, I’m very interested in how people perform and how they adjust to outdoor because everybody is different, and since this is a new level, I kinda appreciate it a little bit more.”

Sunday marks the seventh consecutive outdoor title for the women, the second straight for the men.

“If you ask me, my mindset has changed, my work ethic has changed, so overall I feel like I’m a better athlete then I was my freshman year,” said Bowers about completing her first full indoor and outdoor season together. “Mentally, physically, helping out my teammates, I would say just telling myself I got this. You know what you have to do, you’ve been doing this for a while now.

“Just thinking about that, just reminding myself that I’ve been working all season for this.”

Pole vaulters Wyatt Lefker and Erin Bogard have already qualified for regionals, along with Harden in the 400-meter hurdles, but some Penguins will partake in last-chance meets this weekend to potentially earn their ticket to the next level at the end of May.

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