Harding girls easily win title

CORTLAND – Justice Richardson, Aisha Jackson, Gariana Bercheni, Ka’Naylah Cox.

The four senior athletes amassed six individual victories to help Warren G. Harding’s girls track and field team win its third straight Trumbull County track and field title Thursday at Lakeview High School.

The Raiders distanced themselves from McDonald, 122-102. Girard, which split the county title with WGH last season, finished third with 73 points.

Cox won the 400-meter dash. Richardson won the 100 and 200. Jackson took the high jump and 100 hurdles, while Bercheni, who was the overall girls MVP, claimed the 300 hurdles and took second in the 100 hurdles. Those three, in individual events, claimed 58 points.

“I wanted my seniors to leave on a good note,” WGH coach Charles Penny said. “They earned it. Gariana, Aisha and Justice, it’s no secret, those three girls are the backbone of this girls program. They carried on the tradition of the girls like Angelique Cunningham, Aminah Wesley and so forth. Those three girls deserve to leave here with a county championship. I did everything in my power to try to get as many points so they can leave with smiles and cheers. I think it’s important to them.”

It was about history as well.

Richardson, who is a Syracuse University recruit, became the first athlete since the county meet has been run at Lakeview (1995) to win two events for four straight years.

“I think it’s safe to say she’s the greatest female sprinter, as of now, to ever come out of the county,” Penny said. “Hands down. The proof is in the pudding.”

The proof for Richardson, who was the running events MVP, is that she won the 100 in 11.96 seconds and the 200 in 24.82 seconds – both personal best times for this season.

“I was so excited after the 200 to be a part of history,” she said.

Even though WGH was up by more than 30 points after the 800, Harding did not let up in any event.

“I’m proud of how everybody made good decisions, ran well, competed hard,” Penny said. “Even when some of the races were a little out of touch, they still ran hard and worked hard throughout the whole process.”

Harding even prepared for the future with sophomores D’Ann Toles and Charity Hall part of the winning 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

“What this meet does, it allows us to take some of our younger kids, get them acclimated at a high-level competition,” Penny said. “When we lose Gariana, Aisha and Justice next year, those girls are ready to step in. Maybe not at the talent level, but the maturity to compete at a high level.”

Harding’s girls weren’t the only ones showing off some high-level talent.

Throwing events MVP Kayla Barreca won the discus on Tuesday and took second in the shot put Thursday.

McDonald sophomore Malina Mitchell set a meet record in the 1,600 (5:13.24), while senior teammate Heidi Hoffman etched her name in the county record books with her fourth straight 3,200 victory. The close-knit Blue Devils helped Hoffman achieve that mark.

“I hear teams all the time saying, ‘I see McDonald. Everyone’s together. Everyone’s having fun. I want to go there,'” Hoffman said. “We had a girl say that to us one time and it was the best feeling. We’re just a family, and they pushed me to get four in a row.”

Penny said his team likes to display their talent to the rest of Trumbull County.

“It gives them an opportunity to see some really good kids we have,” Penny said.

Three straight county titles and the seventh since 2007 is proof of that fact.