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Big scholastic seasons for Richards, Tigers

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The recently completed academic year has been arguably one of the very best for Mahoning Valley scholastic sports teams and athletes.

During Monday’s Curbstone Coaches meeting at Avion Banquet Center, the organization honored the state champion Howland High School boys’ soccer team, and both Caleigh Richards and Jared Mindek, individual state champions this past year from Maplewood High and Howland High School, respectively.

Richards, who was a mere freshman in 2020-21, became a two-time state champion. She captured the girls 5K crown last fall. She added to her ever-expanding resume when she walked off with the 3,200-meter run title during the girls track and field state meet for her second state championship in a little over six months.

She won her cross country title in 18:22, setting a school standard, eclipsing the old mark (19:16) by 54 seconds. She set another school record in the 3,200 run with a 10:54 clocking, bettering the old mark (11:14) by 20 seconds.

During the season, she also broke the school’s 1,600 mark by seven seconds with a 5:07 finish.

“The goal has always been to run my best and maybe down the road set a new school record,” Richards said. “As the season progressed, the thought of going to state was exciting and an honor just to think about.

“At state, I did not want to take the lead at the start. Instead, I stayed behind the leader and kicked it in down the stretch. The goal for next season is to work even harder and hopefully make a return trip to state.”

Her father, Michael, is the Rockets’ assistant cross country coach and head track and field mentor.

“Caleigh is quiet, yet super competitive,” the elder Richards added. “When she won her cross country championship, the OHSAA commissioner came by to tell us she was such a humble girl and that is Caleigh in a nutshell.”

Mindek won his first state championship by capturing the 100-yard breaststroke with a 56.77 clocking.

A senior, Mindek is headed to the University of Tampa in the fall where he will pursue his academic and athletic dreams as a member of the Spartans’ swim team.

“It was absolutely awesome to win a state championship, especially right after our boys soccer team won their state title,” Mindek said.

“I know all of those guys, so it was a very special feeling. To overcome the adversity of COVID-19 and how it changed practices was also a challenge. I had great teammates and coaches that pushed me and want to thank all of them for their support all season long.”

The Tigers’ boys soccer team became the school’s and Trumbull County’s first boys’ soccer state champion.

They posted a 22-0-1 mark — their only blemish on an otherwise perfect season was a scoreless tie to Canfield early in the campaign — and outscored opponents by a 136-6 margin, averaging 5.91 goals a game while yielding just 0.26 per match.

The Tigers topped Tipp City Tippecanoe 5-0 for the state title. It was Tippecanoe’s only loss of the season as it finished 23-1. Howland’s win also avenged a 1-0 loss to the Red Devils in the 2019 championship match.

“The season was special because our senior leadership was exceptional,” said assistant coach Joacheim Rohan, filling in for head coach Brian Stiles who was unable to attend. “The standard the seniors set for the entire team was extremely high and it became championship or bust. As coaches, we know how hard it is to win a state title when it is a one and done format, plus it was such a difficult season due to the pandemic. The team was responsible both on and off the field and simply would not be denied.

“The five-goal differential in the title game was the largest for a championship game, which qualifies this Tigers’ squad as one of the most dominant ever in Division II.”

Next Monday, the organization will honor YSU’s track and field and women’s golf Horizon League championship teams.

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