June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Track: County has good opener

MACEDONIA — Another week, another season-best time for Wadsworth’s girls 4×800-meter relay.

The foursome clocked a 9:31.93 Wednesday to finish runner-up at the Nordonia Division I District, securing a spot in next week’s Youngstown Regional.

Leah Runkle

Mason Simmons

Just days after posting their lowest time together on the same track at Boliantz Stadium, the group of Sarah Berger, Michalla Gordon, Courtney Palange and Madi Salem lowered it again while finishing second to Solon (9:31.13).

“They’re talented, very talented,” Grizzlies coach John Burton said. “You’ve got girls like Sarah and Courtney and then Michalla and Madi are still learning; they’re just a group that is athletically talented and motivated.”

The race went as most expected, as Solon and Wadsworth came in with the best times and among some of the state’s top 4×8 relays.

“It feels really good to run our team’s best,” Salem said. “This definitely gives me, not necessarily a confidence, but more strive to do better. We’re going to work hard in practice and get ready for next week.”

Four individuals punched tickets to regional competition, as Cloverleaf’s Adam Podolak (high jump), Highland’s Mason Simmons (pole vault) and Wadsworth’s Zack Metz (pole vault) and Leah Runkle (long jump) earned top-four finishes.

A year after winning the Nordonia District crown, Runkle took third in the long jump with a season-best 17 feet, 4 inches.

“I’m just happy that I was consistently at 17 feet,” Runkle said. “I was around 17-3, 17-4 all day and I’m starting to get consistent and improving every week.”

On the boys side, it was a county showdown for the final two spots in the pole vault, with Metz and Simmons earning regional trips. For Metz it will be his first regional appearance, while Simmons advanced for the first time since his freshman season.

Metz did it in style, as the junior cleared a personal-best 13-3 to take third. His best jump had the bar shaking for almost a full minute.

“I was hoping it would (stay up),” he said with a laugh. “As I was coming down, I was like, ‘Oh,’ but it was a new pole; I’ve never practiced on that one.

“It feels awesome. All the hard work pays off. I was expecting 13 feet and I knew I could get it.”

Highland’s Simmons matched his career mark by soaring 13 feet.

“It feels really good,” he said. “I did it my freshman year, but we were at an easier district, so being able to get it at one of the hardest districts in the state felt good.”

Rounding out the regional qualifiers was Cloverleaf’s Podolak. The junior cleared 6-1 and beat Nordonia’s Jermaine Muse on jumps for third place, but the duo had to wait to see what Solon’s Hari Fair did after the Comet passed on 6-1 and then missed his three tries with the bar at 6-2.

It was worth the wait.

“I’ve wanted to do this the whole time I’ve been in high school, so now that I’m actually there it feels awesome,” Podolak said. “I’m just so excited.”

The day had some heartbreak as well, as Highland thrower Martha Szekely, a regional qualifier in the discus last season, finished an inch off of the fourth and final qualifying throw.

Highland’s boys 4×8 also was stuck in the dreaded fifth-place spot, finishing in 8:13.15, along with Wadsworth sophomore Alex Seme in the shot put.

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.