AUSTINTOWN - The state track meet can serve as a pedestal that gives younger athletes a chance to showcase their talents in front of a capacity crowd at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for the first time - or as a means of redemption for returnees.
This year, Hubbard junior Matt Jones and Lakeview senior Jordan Lowther are examples of both groups.
Both are state-bound in the boys shot put throw after placing in the top four this past weekend at the Division II regional meet at Austintown Fitch High School. Jones clinched his first state berth with a throw of 54 feet, 5 inches and finished second to Edgewood's Matt Fitchett, who edged Jones by an inch and a half.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Jordan Lowther watches his final throw during the shot put event at the Division II regional meet last weekend. The throw earned him a state berth.
"It was a better throw than I've had in the past couple weeks, but I still got something left in the tank," Jones said.
Lowther narrowly got out of the region with a fourth-place finish and throw of 51-9.5, a mark that eluded Lowther since his regional run last season.
"I haven't hit 50 feet in a long time," Lowther said. "I knew it could be my last throw for a long time, so I figured I'd go for it."
A trip to state is not the only thing these two have in common. They are both seeking redemption for the way their seasons ended last year.
This is not Lowther's first rodeo at state.
He made an appearance last year, but for him, it was a day to forget. He came in 15th place with a throw of 48 feet, and knew he was better than that.
"I didn't do very well at state last year," Lowther said. "It was just a bad day."
This time around, Lowther said he won't settle for anything less than a 55 - a mark for which he has always strived - in his long-awaited return to state.
"I haven't had a good one since last year," Lowther said.
Last season Jones did not make it to the big dance in Columbus. While Lowther placed fourth and advanced to state with a throw of 51-7.75, Jones came in fifth, missing state by 2 feet, 7 inches. This season, though, the tables turned for Jones, with him coming in second and Lowther barely making it out of the region with the fourth-place spot.
"He's the one who beat me last year," Jones said of Lowther with a smirk.
There's nothing like a little friendly competition between local standouts. Because they both attend Trumbull County schools and moved up through the Division II track ranks together from the district finals at Lakeview High School all the way to state, they stick together and share a local bond.
"I was really pushing for him to move on, me and him are real good friends," Jones said. "It's gonna be good to have somebody down there that I know and talk to and am comfortable with," Jones said.
Like Lowther, Jones has set a goal for himself for when he arrives in Columbus this weekend.
"My main goal is 60 feet, but I just want to beat my PR and compete against myself," Jones said.