Cope, Airhart win Division I district titles

AUSTINTOWN – When Howland senior Brendan Cope walked away with the Division I district long jump crown on Wednesday afternoon at Austintown Fitch High School, he had one man to thank most of all: T.K. Fortson.

Cope’s junior teammate won the same event at the All-American Conference, American Division meet held the week prior, motivating the senior to come back and take care of business at the district meet with a jump of 20 feet, 10.25 inches. Fortson came in third at the district meet with a jump of 20-2.75.

“It feels pretty good (to win district),” Cope said. “This year, I’ve had a great competitor with me on my team who’s really pushed my butt this year. That’s been the main difference.”

While the two have gone back and forth in the meets, the two Tigers compete against each other everyday, according to Cope, Fortson and high and long jump coach Scott Stoner. This also includes a little talking to go along with the action.

“They go after each other everyday at practice,” Stoner said. “It’s a lot of talking because they played football together. It’s great.”

After a week of bragging rights, Fortson will no longer be top dog going into next week’s regional meet at Fitch High School, but that will motivate him to turn the tables again, Fortson said.

“It’s a friendly competition, but we push each other to be the best that we can be,” Fortson said. “It’s rough when he beats me, but I know that when I beat him, he feels the same way.

“This week during practice, it’s going to be rough, but I believe I’m going to beat him. I’m coming for him.”

Another Tiger, Erika Airhart, claimed the girls high jump district crown.

The only senior on the Howland girls track team, Airhart won the event with a jump of 5-4, beating a host of girls who finished at 5-2.

“It’s a shock,” Airhart said. “I was hoping to get into regionals, but I wasn’t expecting to be in first. I knew that I could jump 5-4, but with nerves and whatnot, (you don’t know).”

Her coaches weren’t surprised by Airhart’s win, as she didn’t miss a single jump at the district meet until she tried to go after the Howland school record of 5-7.5.

Although she couldn’t do it on Wednesday, Stoner is confident she’ll be able to break the record and cross that 5-6 threshold that normally signals a berth at the state meet.

“The high jump is: You do your run up consistently, your jump consistently, your movement consistent,” Stoner said. “That’s what she’s doing, and that’s why she’s getting so much better. In her mind, she knows that she can jump 5-4 every single time and never miss it.”

Multiple Fitch Falcons clinched a spot in next week’s regional meet held at their high school, including district pole vault champion Dylan Latone, boys discus runner-up Billy Price, boys long jumper Sam Ortiz, girls high jumper Paige Henley and girls shot put throwers Gabby Figueroa and Tradaiza Merchant.

Others from the area moving on for Boardman are: Steve Brown in pole vault, Morgan Hambrick in high jump, girls shot put champion Giovanna Silvestri and boys 4×800 relay team of Mark Hadley, Alan Burns, Jacob Kelleck and Justin Maroni. Emma Lune, Bailey Fischer, Devin Foley and Jennifer Love advanced to regionals as members of the Canfield girls 4×800 relay team.