Warren sweeps: Warrior boys, girls capture Fairweather Relays

VINCENT – By midafternoon Saturday Mother Nature was all too happy to prove that the harsh winter weather isn’t quite behind us just yet, leaving a light blanket of snow in the valley by Sunday morning.

But even the rain and fierce winds that cancelled track meets across Ohio, including the Jerry Neal Invitational in Maysville where the Waterford Wildcats were set to compete, couldn’t begin to put a damper on the smiles of the athletes from six schools in the annual Fairweather Relays in Vincent.

That’s because for a few brief moments, they got to get outside on the track and run. And run, jump, vault and throw they did, with the Warren boys and girls claiming the overall team titles in the annual meet once again.

“With the weather this winter, it’s been hard getting ready. We weren’t sure where we were going to be,” said Warren girls’ track coach Sally Maddox.

As it turns out, the athletes on the track were very good given the brutal winter and the brisk conditions Saturday. In fact, the boys and girls competing for their school colors surpassed the expectations of their coaches in many regards, with school records falling and close races down to the final event.

While the Warren girls’ took the overall team title with 92 points, just 10 points separated them from third and only 20 from fourth, as the Marietta Lady Tigers, Eastern Lady Eagles and Fort Frye Lady Cadets all sought to keep pace.

“All things considered I’m very happy with the performances (Saturday),” said Marietta girls’ track coach Mollie Schramm. “There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises.”

Finishing in a tie for second place with Eastern, the Marietta girls’ were still chasing the Lady Warriors, who claimed first place finishes in four events – including the shot put, pole vault, sprint medley and 4×200 relays.

The 4×200 relay team of Casey Ontko, Raelyn Gardner, Katie Rauch and Julia Hamrick were involved in one of the closest races of the day as both they and the Lady Tigers turned in times of 2:01.8, with Warren getting the lean at the finish line. Such was the way the meet went, with the outcome not officially decided until the final race of the day – the 4×400 relay, which was won by the Lady Eagles to essentially assure Warren of the team victory.

“I’m very pleased with the results,” Maddox said. “I really liked their competitive spirit today (Saturday).”

Along with their four first place finishes, the Lady Warriors also took a pair of seconds and four third place finishes to narrowly edge the Lady Tigers and Lady Eagles.

Marietta claimed the long jump and 4×100 relay titles while Eastern won the most overall individual relays with five. Fort Frye’s Lady Cadets were fourth in the team standings with 72 points, 10 behind Eastern and Marietta, as they claimed both the distance events with the quartet of Phoebe Thompson, Mary Kate McElroy, Katie Hart and Natalie Hart.

“Overall I thought our boys team and our girls team did really well,” said Fort Frye track coach Bobbi Webb.

On the boys’ side, it was a day of balance for the Warriors as they claimed another Fairweather Relays title.

Of the 13 events in the meet the only one where the blue and white didn’t finish in first or second place was the one they were disqualified in for an infraction in the exchange zone.

“I was pleased with the way they ran. I wasn’t pleased with some of their decisions on handoffs,” said Warren boys’ track coach Al Riffey.

Despite their miscues in some of the exchange zones, the Warrior boys still paced the field as they finished 30 points better than second place Marietta.

All told, the Warren boys took first place in over half of the 13 events, and of the events they won just a single one of them had the second place team within comfortable striking distance.

“I’m always happy to win the first meet of the year, especially at home,” Riffey said.

On the tails of the Warriors was second place Marietta, which won four events including the high jump where all three athletes cleared over 5-10, including Aaron Elliott at 6-2. Warren’s Colt Cantley had a leap of 6-1, but Marietta’s balance still gave them a victory by over a foot.

Along with tremendous performances in the jumping events, the Tigers also claimed a pair of victories in the sprints, where youth and experience combined to guide the way for the orange and black.

“We had some really nice, solid, crisp handoffs in the sprint medley, 4×1 and 4×2,” said Marietta boys’ track coach B.J. Mayer.

The Tigers tried to keep pace with the Warriors, but a lack of depth hindered their efforts as Marietta failed to field a team in either of the distance races, which the Warriors quickly capitalized on with the likes of Parker Blain, Sam Goodman and Brent Ash.

Fort Frye also capitalized in the distance races as the team of Ford McElroy, Jordan Anderson, Matt Cheeseman and Jon Anderson claimed the 4×1600 in a school record time of 19:19.3 while finishing second to Warren in the distance medley.

Nelsonville-York finished in third place in the boys’ team standings while Eastern and Fort Frye finished fourth and fifth respectively. Parkersburg Catholic, which brought a limited number of athletes, finished in sixth in both boys’ and girls’ team standings.

As is usually the case, the first meet of the year offered a chance for all the teams to see what they have to work with over the course of the upcoming track season. “It was a good meet to give our younger kids some experience,” Webb explained.

Sometimes, those young kids prove they need a little more work. And sometimes, they turn out to be stars in unexpected places as the first meet of the year inspires them to soar to greater heights.

“I’m pleased but not satisfied. The kids will tell you the same thing,” Mayer said.