September 18, 2014

Medina
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Sports commentary: Track always provides theater

Sometimes I forget just how spoiled I am.

Over the last five seasons, I’ve had the pleasure to cover Medina County’s best track and field athletes at the state meet in Columbus, a tradition that will continue today.

While typing up the list of local athletes that have dreams of standing on the podium in front of thousands of fans at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium this weekend, I started to think about all the great moments I’ve witnessed.

From Medina’s Taylor Burke breaking the state high jump record in 2011 with a leap of 6 feet, 1¼ inch to capture her third straight gold to Wadsworth’s boys 4×800-meter relay of Jacob Sussman, Aaron Tipton, Russ McCune and Jake Hiltner setting the Division I mark in 7:39.72 en route to a win, there are almost too many to count.

While as a reporter you must stay objective, it’s hard not to have a rooting interest in the athletes that you cover year-round or have written about for four years. It’s special to watch those you’ve followed from run-of-the-mill regular-season meets to postseason greatness accomplish their goals in one of the best high school sporting events around.

Then there are the moments you never saw coming.

No one expected Medina’s boys 4×1 to win a state crown in 2011, but the group shocked the state by winning with ease. I will admit that after watching Sam Chester, Jason Suggs, Walter Bailey and Malik Tuck post the best preliminary time the night before, I was skeptical they could do the very same thing the next night. They proved me wrong in beating Columbus Beechcroft in 41.71.

Then there was Medina’s Anna Boyert using a sprinter-like lean at the finish line to help the girls 4×8 capture the championship. After Alexis Smith, Sarah Pack and Taylor Wickey set the tone; it was Boyert who found a way to edge Cincinnati McAuley’s Danielle Pfeifer in an ending you would normally see in the 100 dash.

Let’s not forget Black River’s Becca Herte and Medina’s Alex Wasik winning state titles in Division II and D-I pole vault competitions, respectively, on the same day. Wasik won in thrilling fashion based on misses over Jennifer Foster of Cloverleaf, while Herte cleared 11-9 to win by three inches.

There’s almost too many to count.

I can remember Brunswick sprinter Brianna Neitzel winning the 400 without using blocks, or even ones like the Foster sisters, Jennifer and Stephanie, competing in the pole vault in 2009 and then sharing tears on the infield after.

This trip down memory lane of just the last five years has me wondering what this weekend has in store.

Can Wadsworth’s girls 4×8 of Sarah Berger, Madi Salem, Courtney Palange and Leah Runkle make the most of a second straight trip to Ohio State and come away with a win, or will a newcomer to the state meet like Highland distance runner Carlee Rhoads make an instant name for herself?

Will field event athletes from Medina dominate D-I, with thrower Mike Hierholzer, high jumper Andrew Stenger and pole vault specialist Kyle Hutchinson all vying for the state’s top prize?

Will Medina resident and St. Edward standout Steele Wasik place in both hurdle events, the high jump and long jump and help the Eagles to another big-school championship?

Whatever happens, win or lose, the weekend will provide memories that these athletes will take with them for the rest of their lives.

And give this reporter another column full of top moments.

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