By Dan Gilles
The Olmsted Falls boys and girls track teams went into the final event of the Nelson Howe Track and Field Invitational at Firelands High School this past Friday within striking distance of sweeping the team championships.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they came up just short on both sides. North Ridgeville edged the Bulldog boys, 109-103, while Keystone – only leading by one point prior to the 1600 relay – used a big win in that event to beat the Bulldog girls, 112-104.
The Rangers led Olmsted Falls by six going into the final event. While the Bulldogs’ relay team finished higher than the Rangers – second place to third – it wasn’t enough to overtake Ridgeville, which won the event for the third consecutive year.
The Rangers and Bulldogs each won four individual events to set up the close race to the top.
“This was wonderful,” North Ridgeville coach Lucky Varouh said. “I knew we’d strong, but I didn’t know if we’d repeat. We lost a lot of great seniors and we’re very young this year. But we have some strong athletes and I was very happy they were able to pick it up.
“I’m happy we were able to bounce back and equal our performance here from the last two years. The wind was really, really something. The times were nothing to write home about, but it’s a matter of where you finish in a race.”
Olmsted Falls coach John Novotny was pleased with two runner-up finishes from his teams.
“I thought, with the boys and girls, there were some areas where did things well and others where we need some work,” he said. “I thought Kate Ferster winning the 400 and taking second in the 200, along with good showing in her two relays, was great. She’s a very strong runner for us. Weather doesn’t bother her.
“I expected them both to do well, but it’s still early and we have some room to improve. If we improve throughout the year, I think we’ll have a decent year. But this was a good early season meet to show the kids you can’t let the weather bug you. You’ve got to go out and compete.”
Due to the weather, all preliminary events were scrapped and three field events – the long jump, discus and pole vault – weren’t held. It rained hard through the early part of the day, and, while the rain subsided by the starting time of 4:30 p.m., a stiff wind blew through the stadium and lowered the temperature by almost 20 degrees during the three-hour event.
The conditions were rough, but they affected the girls 800 relay the most. Three teams, including two of the top three finishers, were disqualified because girls dropped their batons. Both North Ridgeville, which had originally finished second in 2:01, and Keystone, which took third in 2:02, were sent to the back of the field.
Brookside, paced by Madison Sours, Shyanne Pierce, Cheyenne Danchisen and anchor leg Tyller Holley, won in 1:57.
That was the only win for the Brookside girls, which finished sixth in the eight-team field with 53 points. In fact, that win was one of only two events not won by an individual or relay team from either Keystone or Olmsted Falls.
The North Ridgeville boys were paced by sophomore Demario McCall. McCall wowed the crowd with a blistering 100 dash, cutting through the wind in 10.99 seconds and winning by .59 seconds. He also anchored the winning 400 relay team, which won in 45.14 seconds.
“I knew it was kind of windy, but I knew I had to fight through it and do what do best,” McCall said. “There’s all kinds of weather happening in football, so you have to know how to run through it and fight through everything. When I came off the blocks, I stayed low, and when you stay low, you don’t feel the wind.”
Jonah Bowden won the shot put, while Riley Gannon won the 1600 to help pace the Rangers.
“I thought Riley Gannon was awesome, getting first place in the mile and second in the half-mile,” Varouh said. “I thought Demario had a helluva performance winning the 100 and anchoring our 4×1. Obviously, those helped a lot.
“Jason Lucas took two second-places in the hurdles and he was on the 4×1 team that took first. Jonah Bowden took first in the shot and probably would have challenged for first in the discus had it been held. And Evan Collier did well on the 4×8 team and in the two-mile (finishing second). He’s a senior going to West Point, so he’s a real strong character kid.”
The Olmsted Falls boys were paced by Chase Reynolds (110 hurdles), Evan Hudson (300 hurdles) and Will Hoyett (200 dash), which won their respective events. Hudson (anchor leg) and Hoyett (opening leg) also helped the 800 relay team win with a time of 1:38.
Ferster was the top competitor for the Olmsted Falls girls, winning the 400 dash by six seconds and ran the opening leg for the winning 400 relay team. She also finished second in the 200 dash by three-tenths of a second behind Keystone’s Emily Peters.
Vicky Wilkins (100 hurdles) and Liz Neudeck (3200 run) each had runner-up finishes for the Bulldogs.
“I’m happy, but as a coach, you always look at what you could have done better first,” Novotny said. “However, I always look back and say, ‘Well, this went well and this went well.’ We had a few kids that came back from spring break and aren’t quite in shape yet, so they weren’t here (Friday). But they’ll get to work and make us stronger down the road.
“However, most of our stronger kids were here today. We did decently overall, I thought.”
Brookside had one winner on the boys side in Josh Adkins (high jump). The Cardinals finished tied for fifth with Black River with 47 points.