AUSTINTOWN - Two final pushes, by two freshmen, helped qualify two Warren G. Harding 4x100 relay teams for the state track meet.
Justice Richardson's swift move in the fourth leg allowed the Raiders to earn second place with a time of 48.4 seconds, just six-tenths of a second ahead of the Beaumont team.
"I felt like it was a secure spot for us," Richardson said. "It's a great feeling."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding’s Aminah Wesley makes the turn during the first leg of the girls’ 4x100 meter relay at the regional meet on Friday.
Keemari Murry's kick in the final 20 meters, with a lunge at the end, gave Harding's boy's team a fourth-place time of 42.72.
"I just tried to keep pushing," Murry said. "I looked to my right a little bit and I saw who was in front of me, so I went harder. There wasn't much I could do except keep going."
The last-second heroics weren't finished, though.
Jimmy Rumple wanted to redeem himself in the 4x400 relay after he came in seventh in the open 400 with a time of 50.95.
"My hamstring was tightening up, so I didn't have a kick in the end," Rumple said. "So, this was going to be my only event. We just had to go and make it happen."
He flew past a Solon runner in the last leg for a 3:21.18 time, while the Comets had a 3:21.73. It helped give Harding a fourth-place finish.
"Hey, we're going to state," Rumple said. "That was my first thought. Now we just have to do something down there."
Marcus Boomer, Zavien Bennett and Kevonte' Jordan are also on the 4x400 team. Jordan joins Murry, LeShun Daniels and Dalyn Gattison in the 4x100.
"I'm leaving my senior year in Columbus just how I wanted it," Gattison said. "It's about to be amazing. We're going to come home with a medal. Hopefully, we're first with some kind of ring."
Aminah Wesley, Chyna Stroud and Gariana Bercheni are on the 4x100 team with Richardson.
"We knew we were going to state since the beginning of the year," Stroud said. "There was no doubt about it."
FLYING FALCONS: The Fitch boys and girls teams placed second in the team standings with 57 and 42 points, respectively. Solon won both team titles. The Falcons boys 4x200 team of Darrin Hall, Joe Harrington, Gary Gibson and Nathan Bowlen ran a 1:26.82 for first place - nearly two seconds off their qualifying time. The boys have three-straight district and Mahoning County championships.
"It's not something that was just given to us," Bowlen said. "We worked so hard for months and months."
Last year, the Fitch 4x200 team placed fifth at the state meet in Columbus.
"That's not good anymore," Bowlen said. "We're hungry. We want to be No. 1"
Cleveland Heights, who finished a spot ahead of the Falcons at Jesse Owens Stadium in 2012, did not qualify for the 2013 4x200 state race. The 4x100 team of Bowlen, Gibson, Harrington and Tyreese Anderson placed third on Friday. Harrington, was third in the open 200 with 21.7.
"When I was coming around the bend, I knew I'd be at the top," the Harrington said. "It's just all about effort."
FAMILY TRADITION: Fitch junior Sam Ortz started practicing hurdles in seventh grade at his mother, Connie's persuasion.
"She did hurdles at Fitch and actually held some Mahoning County records," Ortz said. "I guess the form just came naturally."
He finished eighth in the 110-meter hurdles at regionals in 2012. His 14.26 time on Friday earned first place.
"Last year I was a sophomore going with a bunch of seniors," Ortz said. "It was intimidating. Getting a year more of experience really helped."
HURLERS ADVANCE: Fitch's Gabby Figueroa placed first in the discus, while Boardman's Giovanni Silvestri was third. The girls had throws of 135-flat and 127-03, respectively. Figueroa and teammate Tradezia Merchant qualified for state in the shot put on Wednesday. It's the juniors' first appearance in Columbus, though Figueroa qualified for three-straight indoor state tournaments.
"This is the first year where I feel like I can be competitive in meets constantly," she said.
Billy Price was second in the shot put at 57-00.5 after winning the discus on Wednesday.
"I first went down as a sophomore and it changed everything," he said. "It blows your mind how crazy it is."
LOCAL NOTABLES: Canfield's Emma Lunne placed fourth in the 1600 with a time of 5:07.21. Boardman's Darrin Hall was fourth in the 100 with a 10.79. The Spartans' Mark Hadley was second in the boys 1600 with a 9:26.92, while Ryan Sullivan of Howland was third with a 9:31.16. The Tigers' Brendan Cope advanced to state in the long jump with a third place finish on Wednesday.