June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Track and field: Medina County’s run of titles ends

COLUMBUS — Medina County has been spoiled recently at the state track and field meet. An individual or relay was atop the podium every year since 2009.

While no county residents made it to the elusive spot this year, it still was a successful meet as four individuals — all of whom were making their state debuts — and a relay earned Division I recognition Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

Wadsworth’s Sarah Berger competes in the 1,600-meter run. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RAY RIEDEL)

Wadsworth’s Sarah Berger, Cloverleaf’s Ashley Murray and the Grizzlies’ 4×400-meter relay team all placed seventh, while Medina’s Mike Hierholzer and Kyle Hutchinson were eighth.

“It feels good,” Berger said with a smile. “I feel like I kind of psyched myself out a little bit. I’ve never made it past districts before and to be competing in states is kind of surreal a little bit.

“I’m glad I got my best time and I’m glad I got to place. I just hope I can make it here next year and do better.”

Berger clocked a personal-record 5:04.08 in the 1,600-meter run — it marked the second straight week she broke her career best — to earn All-Ohio accolades with a seventh-place finish.

The junior was focused on herself rather than getting caught up in the runners around her.

The strategy paid off.

“I tried to run my race,” Berger said. “I know it’s to my advantage if I don’t go out too fast because I always try to beat people with a kick. I have more foot speed than some milers because I run the 400, too, so I just try to beat people with my kick, so not going out too fast benefits me.”

After earning the ninth and final qualifying bid for the finals, Wadsworth’s 4×4 found a way to move up the standings. Berger, Courtney Palange, Leah Runkle and Michalla Gordon finished in 3:55.39 and placed seventh.

They didn’t want to leave without a medal.

“All of (Friday) night we were talking about that we have worked so hard for this and we want it so bad, so we just wanted to pass one person because we wanted to be on that podium,” Palange said. “It was our first year, all four of us together, and the first race we started we knew we had something special. Being seeded ninth in this race and coming out and placing and getting on the podium, our dream has come true.”

Murray was making good pace in the 3,200 final, but lost the stride. The Cloverleaf junior took seventh in 11:09.73, which was one of her top times of the season since setting her career standard of 11:04.98 at the Comet Relays.

Murray was hoping for a higher spot on the podium after registering sub-11 minute times in tempo runs leading up to Saturday’s final, but the plan didn’t turn out the way she expected.

“It was just hard because there was such a big gap between the other girls,” Murray said. “It was hard to keep up, and I actually lost pace because the girls in front of me slowed down. I’m happy I got podium, but I know I could’ve done better.”

A pair of distance runners fell short in their quest to become All-Ohioans. A week after winning the Amherst Regional in impressive fashion, Brunswick’s Tyler Menear was 14th in the 3,200 in 9:46.53.

Medina sophomore Sarah Pack got off to a slow start in the 800 final and was 15th in 2:20.85.

“There was just a really good field of girls that were running today, and I think just nerves got to me,” Pack said. “They went out really quick, and talking to my coaches (before the race), they didn’t want me to go out with the pack if it’s way too fast. I was a little slow the first lap and that sort of messed with me and I just fell back.”

Hierholzer and Hutchinson placed in the shot put and pole vault to headline a busy day in the field.

Hierholzer tossed 59 feet, 5 inches on his second attempt. While the junior was happy to place, he wanted more.

“It felt good getting up there, knowing that I’m eighth in the state, but I had higher expectations for myself. I was hoping top four,” he said. “My throws didn’t feel bad, but some days you just have those days and I couldn’t get over 55. If I would’ve PR’d, I would’ve been in the top four. I mean, it happens, but I still have next year.”

Hutchinson had the same feelings after his 14-0 vault earned him eighth. The junior, who had only cleared 13 feet before this season, thought he pressed a little after missing on his first two tries at 14-6.

“My first two attempts at 14-6, I’m not blaming it on the wind, but the wind did spiral around a little bit and got to me,” Hutchinson said. “On my last attempt, I was thinking about how it was the last attempt I had to clear it and I kind of gave it too much energy for that pole.”

Medina senior Cari Pallini finished 10th in the shot (39-2¼) and 13th in the discus (117-1), while Wadsworth’s Nick Seme qualified for the finals in the discus before falling short with a ninth-place throw of 170-5.

Sophomore Alyssa Acevedo of Medina cleared 16-9 to take 10th in the long jump and teammate Jenna D’Errico placed 12th in the pole vault after recording 11-0.

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