Raiders rebound at regional

AUSTINTOWN – After Wednesday’s Division I regional preliminary at Austintown Fitch High School, virtually all of the Warren G. Harding girls vowed that Friday would be a better day – and a better day it was.

The Raiders were anointed regional runner-up, and scorewise, they are closing the gap on the Solon girls, who are predicted by many to win a team state title.

The Comets won with 81 points, but Harding was not far behind with 60.50 points. Unlike Wednesday, it just seemed like everything was clicking for the Raiders.

After barely making it out of the 300-meter hurdle regional prelims, sophomore Aisha Jackson was one of the Raiders who vowed to perform better Friday. She made good on that statement by taking home an individual title in the 100-meter hurdles and placed second in the 300 hurdles to advance to state in both events.

“I’m so proud of my team,” Jackson said. “For me, (there’s) a little bit more to improve in the 300 finishing my last hurdle, but I’ll be good to go.”

Jackson said she prepared herself better this time around for the regional finals than she did for the prelims. She took a nap, hydrated and added a little superstition to her routine.

“I had a teaspoon of honey, which really kicked in,” Jackson said. “My friend Nautica Hill’s mother told me about it, and I tried it in indoor, and it worked, so hopefully from here on to state, it’s my thing now.”

Honey may be Jackson’s personal good-luck charm, but its magic seemed to spread to the rest of the team. Everyone improved, and other than Solon, they dominated the meet, especially in the 4×200-meter and 4×100 relays, which they won.

On Wednesday, the Raiders tried to change the lineup of the relay by replacing freshman Gariana Bercheni with Jackson and moving Hill into the four-spot, but it didn’t work.

But Friday was different. After running a subpar time of 1:44.13 Wednesday, the girls bounced back with a team-best 1:40.71 and a first-place finish.

“We made some adjustments, we went back to the way things were before,” said junior Chyna Stroud, who is the first leg of both the 4×200 and 4×100 teams. “Everything was great, things were on point, we did what we had to do and we got it done.”

Richardson also had a much better day. She placed first in 100-meter dash to advance to state and was conducive to both the 4×100 and 4×200 first-place finishes.

The only Harding girl who caught a bad break Friday was Hill, who did something almost unheard of in most track meets.

She finished the 400-meter dash in a dead-heat tie with Wadsworth’s Leah Runkle, and the two were forced to have a run-off 30 minutes after the boys 4×400 to determine the fourth and final state qualifier.

Hill lost the run-off to Runkle, but will compete in the state meet as part of the 4×100 and 4×200 teams.

OTHER TRUMBULL QUALIFIERS: Harding junior Ja’vone McCollough placed fourth in the boys shot put with a throw of 53-09.25 to qualify for state… Howland junior Taylor Craigo placed fourth in the girls 1600-meter run to advance to state. She ran a personal-best time 5:11.83. … Howland senior Ryan Sullivan placed fourth in the mens 3200-meter run to advance to state. He also ran a personal-best time at 9:21.59.