ANDREW Hamilton thought he was heading to state; he had the fastest qualifying time coming into last year's Division I 300-meter boys hurdles regional final.
The top four moved on. However, a simple false start put an end to all of that - a dream of going to the state meet.
"That's probably something that will haunt me for the next few years, just knowing I could've got to Columbus," said Hamilton, who ran a personal best 39.80 seconds in the regional semifinals. "But, they called me on a false start in the finals. It's something I could be upset about, but I'm grateful I could make it that far."
Hamilton knew he had to be mentally stronger this season; talent was never the issue. He draws on his wrestling roots. Hamilton qualified for the Division I Alliance District tournament this season at 132 pounds.
"That mentality of keep going, pushing yourself," he said. "You can always achieve greater. It carries over into this season."
The 300 hurdles isn't just a simple race, running 300 yards around a track. Jump after jump. Hurdle after hurdle. It wears on the body and mind as the race goes along.
"I think I have more stamina," Hamilton said. "A lot of people don't want to do it because they think it's intimidating. I think I'm one of those people who goes after challenges, like this race. I enjoy the challenge of running a full lap."
He hasn't been challenged all that much this season - that is until Tuesday when Howland took on Austintown Fitch in a dual meet at Howland Middle School.
Fitch senior Daniel Rivera, who made it to state last season, came in as the area's top 300 hurdler. He ran 39.37 earlier this season in Twinsburg.
The two faced each other with Hamilton coming out on top, running 39.9.
"Up until this point, I hadn't raced anyone who would push me," Hamilton said. "I was able to run a 40.6. I knew he had a chance to beat me and that would push me to go faster."
Now, he's in position - a better state of mind this time around when districts and regionals come around this year.
He's shooting for the Howland school record of 39.2 and eventually hoping to find himself in the 38s.
"Running against people this year, I have a little experience coming into district and regional competition," Hamilton said.
INITIAL JUMP: Girard senior Nate Bucci, who is the reigning Division II regional high jump champion, hadn't had an attempt all season - until Tuesday's quad meet at home with Brookfield, Newton Falls and Niles.
Bucci, who has been throwing discus and shot put this season, hasn't gone up and over the bar and on to the mat below because of an enlarged spleen.
His doctor cleared him to compete Tuesday and he won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches.
Incidentally, Bucci also won the discus and shot put.
TIGER TALE: Newton Falls senior Shannon Montgomery placed second in the shot put at Saturday's Laker Invitational at Pymatuning Valley High School.
Montgomery broke the 18-year discus record held by current McDonald coach Mary Domitrovich. Montgomery threw 131-6. The old record was 131-1.
At the same meet, Newton Falls' Marissa Toensing won the 400 and the Tigers' boys 4x100 team of Brian Moser, Brandon Fuller, Jarrod Matas and Tim Begeot also won.