MACEDONIA — Trailing second place by two points heading into the final event, the 4×400-meter relay, Wadsworth’s girls track team knew what it needed to do to earn a share of the Suburban League championship Saturday.
The quartet of Courtney Palange, Leah Runkle, Sarah Berger and Michalla Gordon won in a season-best time and helped the Grizzlies grab a share of the elusive title.
“(Wadsworth) coach (John) Burton said if we won and beat Nordonia, we would be co-champs,” senior Palange said. “It honestly feels amazing because as a freshman I came into the program knowing that Wadsworth had a tradition of winning so many league titles in a row … so to be able to win it and be a part of a great team is amazing.”
The Grizzlies were 6-1 in duals, but defeated Nordonia in the team standings Saturday to mathematically earn a share of the banner. Green won the meet with 118 points to the Grizzlies’ 112. Highland was fourth with 100 points, while Cloverleaf took sixth with 58⅓.
“We had a great league meet season, with the one downer here at Nordonia, but it’s a good feeling,” Burton said. “We’ve been out of it for the last two years, so it’s nice to be back.”
It ended with the 4×4, which broke the 6-year-old meet record by an eye-popping five seconds in 3:56.08. Wadsworth beat Nordonia by more than 10 seconds to break the previous standard set by the Grizzlies in 2007.
Runkle and Berger also posted strong individual days, winning the long jump and 1,600 run, respectively.
With a season-best performance, Runkle cleared 17 feet, 1 ½ inches to take the long jump crown after placing second last season. The junior also paced the 4×2 that won in impressive fashion, as she joined Gordon, Aly Malkowski and Palange in clocking a 1:44.
“Yesterday at practice, our handoffs were actually shaky,” Runkle said of the 4×2 win. “Today we were like, ‘We’ve got this. We’ve done this a million times.’ We were so happy and we knew we could do it and our handoffs were perfect today.”
Runkle also was runner-up in 200 in 25.93, while Gordon and Palange were 2-3 in the 400 final.
In a Medina County showdown, Berger was third heading into the final lap behind Cloverleaf’s Ashley Murray and Highland’s Carlee Rhoads but used a strong kick to win in 5:08.76.
Murray was second in 5:09.69, followed by Rhoads (5:10.70).
“I don’t how I did that,” Berger said with a smile. “I really didn’t know what I was doing. It just happened. I pulled that out of nowhere.
“I took whatever I had and just went for it.”
Murray bounced back in the 3,200, as she outkicked Rhoads in the final mile to win by more than 10 seconds in 11:18.21.
It was her first career league title.
“I knew my pace was slow for the first mile,” she said. “I was kind of tired because of this heat, but once I get to districts pushing me at my back, you bet I’m going to break 11 (minutes).”
Highland’s lone event win of the day came in the 4×1 as Sam Duale, Paige Springhetti, Hallie Sours and Lauren Zuro ran a 50.20 to beat Copley by 0.11.
“It was really exciting,” said Zuro, who also was third in the 300 hurdles. “We’ve really succeeded this season and have gotten better. I’m really proud.”
Daule was third in the 100, registering a 12.92, while Martha Szekely took second in the discus just two days after a runner-up finish in the shot.
Paced by sprinter Hunter Williams, Wadsworth’s boys also were second as a team.
The junior bounced back from third-place finishes in the 100 and 200 prelims on Thursday to win both events. Williams clocked 11.17 to win the 100, anchored the 4×1 and 4×2 relays to third-place finishes and ended his day with a personal-best 22.18 in the 200 to help the Grizzlies compile 122 team points.
Nordonia won with 144, while Highland (6th, 56 points) and Cloverleaf (8th, 27) round out the county squads.
“After the prelims, I didn’t know if I was going to make first,” Williams said. “I came out here today and gave it all I had and it seemed to work out pretty well.”
Nick Winkler gave it all had in the final lap of the 1,600 final to take the lead away from Tallmadge’s Brian McGovern. It resulted in a career-low 4:24.17 for Winkler, an All-Ohio linebacker.
“Me and McGovern have been going at it — that was like our third time — and it comes down to the end every time,” said Winkler, who also was third in the 800. “He got me at regionals and I got him in the mile and 800 this year, so we’ll probably see each other again at regionals.”
Wadsworth also picked up a pair of seconds from Ryan Looser in the 110 hurdles (15.36) and 300 hurdles (40.01), while Eric Yetzer took third in the 400.
Stuart Arbuckle shocked the field in the 800 by crossing the finish line in 1:58.23 for Highland’s lone champion.
It was a breakout performance the veteran had been waiting for.
“Actually, I think I did (have it in me),” he said. “It felt great. I thought this heat was going to be bad, but it wasn’t.”
In the field, Cloverleaf junior Tom Wangler won his first SL crown by taking the shot put. Wangler uncorked a 46-10¾ toss on his last attempt.
“I think in the next two weeks, a lot of great things are going to happen for Tom,” Colts coach Bob Lake said. “He’s form is really coming on, and (throws) coach (Mike) Pritchard does a great job with him. I think the best is yet in front of him.”
Two our meet records were broken on Saturday. Green’s Morgan Estes broke her record in winning the pole vault (12-6), while Nordonia’s boys 4×2 clocked 1:29.35 — breaking the previous mark set by Wadsworth in 2010.
l Most of the SL teams will be back at Nordonia this weekend for the D-I district meet. Cloverleaf, Copley, Highland, Revere, Wadsworth and the host Knights will be in attendance.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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