MACEDONIA — Sarah Berger couldn’t wait to get the baton Thursday afternoon.
With the bitter taste of last season’s loss in the 4×800-meter relay final at the Suburban League Championships still lingering, the Wadsworth junior wanted to rinse it away.
Berger helped the distance relay do that and then some in winning the title. She headlined a host of Medina County athletes that claimed wins on the first day of the meet at Nordonia’s Boltantz Field.
Last season, Berger and lead leg Courtney Palange were on the 4×8 that saw its lead with 200 meters left erased by Green. They faced the same scenario Thursday.
Berger built off a lead maintained by Palange, Madi Salem and Michalla Gordon. The foursome cruised to a winning time of 9:34.08, outlasting Nordonia by more than 9 seconds. Highland was fourth, while Cloverleaf placed fifth.
“I was really nervous because last year we lost here and then got fifth at districts. I worked really hard this year to make the ending better,” said Berger, who was anchoring for the first time this season after serving as the relay’s lead for most of the spring. “When I got the baton, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is actually happening.’”
The group, which came in with a seed time of 9:40, had a tough time hiding its excitement in the infield when the race finished.
“Coming back and winning this year is amazing,” Palange said. “I love my team. We couldn’t have done it without each other. It’s a really good feeling.”
The county had four other individual champions. Wadsworth thrower Nick Seme won the discus with a meet-record distance, while Cloverleaf’s Angela Landrum had a personal best in winning the shot. Highland’s Rebecca Koval and Mason Simmons also won championships in the high jump and pole vault, respectively.
Seme continued to take out records held by former Grizzly Nate Held, erasing Held’s 1987 SL record in the discus. The Ashland recruit, who bettered Held’s school record earlier in the year, twirled the disc 167 feet, 4 inches on his first attempt to win his first SL crown and beat the previous mark of 166-1.
“It was exciting the first time I broke his record, especially since I met him the year prior and it had been like 25 years,” said Seme, who opted to not compete in the shot put. “I was pretty confident (about the first throw), and when another meet official went out to measure for a meet record that was really exciting.”
With a win in the shot already in the bag, Landrum uncorked the best throw of her career, pushing the metal ball 35-8¾ to beat county rival Martha Szekely of Highland (33-6¾).
Landrum, who has now won two straight SL titles in the event, had no idea she had already won prior to her final toss.
“I expected (to win), but I didn’t realize that I actually had it in the first place,” she said.
In the high jump, Koval made up for losing the league crown a year ago on misses by clearing 5-3 to edge Nordonia’s Erin Velazquez by an inch.
“She’s been close the last couple of years, so it was awesome to see her make it this year,” Highland coach Paul Lushes said. “It wasn’t her best day, but she hit the jumps she needed when she needed to.”
Simmons matched his career best in the pole vault by clearing 13 feet. He needed that jump to separate from a field that saw five others clear 12-6.
The Highland 4×8 boys relay also had an impressive day, as Mason Rorapaugh, Cole Vandenberg, Stuart Arbuckle and Adam Holowecky clocked a season-low 8:08.36 to place second. Tallmadge won in 8:02.73, while Wadsworth was fourth and Cloverleaf took eighth.
Wadsworth’s Clay Smalley had the best long jump of any countian, soaring 20-6¾ to take fifth.
Despite being hampered by an Achilles injury, Wadsworth’s Gordon looked strong in posting the second-fastest prelim time in the 400 (59.56). Fellow Grizzly Ryan Looser placed second in the 110 hurdle prelim and was third in the 300s. Hunter Williams (100, 200) and Eric Yetzer (400) also had the third-best prelims times heading into Saturday’s final.
After pulling his hamstring earlier this season, Highland mid-distance runner Julian Hadley is done for the year, according to coach Josh Victor.
Former Cloverleaf standout Jon Walkup served as one of the timing volunteers.
Contact Dan Brown firstname.lastname@example.org.