Mineral Ridge’s Dukes, Smith prep for regionals

MINERAL RIDGE – Ethan Dukes’ knee was never the same after he torqued it during a kickoff this past football season at Mineral Ridge.

The 6-foot-1 senior endured the pain throughout basketball season.

When it came to his first high jumps of this track and field season, the pain became too much to bear.

Dukes had patellar tendinitis, which is also called Jumper’s Knee.

“It felt like you were getting stabbed in the knee caps, not being able to bend it,” he said. “You can’t sit for too long. It was just bad.”

Things quickly changed for the Mineral Ridge senior as he took physical therapy.

His jumps quickly improved.

Last Friday, he went to a new height – going went 6-2 to win the Division III Springfield District title in the high jump.

Dukes cleared 6-0 and 6-2 on his first attempts.

Then, he took the bar to 6-4.75 because the Mineral Ridge record is 6-4.

“Instead of tying it, he’d rather own it,” Mineral Ridge boys track and field coach Ron Toth said. “When he went at 6-4, he leaned into the bar the first time. The second time, he didn’t see where the bar was. He pulled out of it. He was over it. He pulled out of it and knocked it off. His last one wasn’t even as good as his first one.”

As for Mineral Ridge junior Logan Smith, his steps were right behind McDonald’s Bobby Johnson as the Mineral Ridge distance runner took second in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at Springfield – going 4:29.27 and 9:55.93. Neither one was a personal best.

“It was hard work staying up with him,” Smith said. “I did the best I could. I kind of died off on the last lap. I had second place and that’s OK.”

Smith has run at Youngstown State in the offseason to prepare for this season and said he learned plenty about his heart rate while running.

Toth said Smith has increased his mileage and did some speed work. At regionals, he’ll need to run balanced splits to be successful.

That said, Toth is happy with the training he received at YSU.

“I’m told him my forte has not been distance. I’m learning,” Toth said. “He is writing the narrative of the distance excellence here at Mineral Ridge. The other athletes, I’ll tell them stories of past 4x100s, hurdlers and past jumpers and things that they’ve did that God allowed them to accomplish.

“Logan is the one who is writing the script at this point and time for the distance races. Things he’s getting from those folks, I’m very appreciative of because I just don’t have that wisdom that they do.”

Prior to Friday’s finals at this week’s Division III Navarre Fairless Regional, Logan will decide if he’ll do the 1,600 or the 3,200.

“To be honest with you, we’re praying about that,” Toth said.

As for the team’s 4×100 relay with Dukes, Johnn Bourgoin, Michael Eaton and Tait Rummell, they ran a personal best 44.61 to advance to regionals.

Toth said his quartet needs to fix two handoffs prior to Wednesday’s regional semifinals.

They can’t rest on the 44.61, which is one of the tops in the region.

“That number could evaporate in a second if we have one bad handoff,” Toth said. “There are good teams that are here. There are great teams in the region.

“There’s a promise that’s there. I’ve got great hope for them.”

As for Dukes, he hopes to go where no other high jump has gone for Mineral Ridge.

That will be determined during Friday’s regional final.

“To be the first person from Mineral Ridge to go to state in the high jump would be just phenomenal,” Dukes said.