Kennedy boys vying for a Division III title

YOUNGSTOWN – John F. Kennedy’s boys track and field team took a small, but skilled team into last year’s Division III state meet.

The Eagles needed every bit on Chad and Carl Zallow’s 30 points. Chad, a junior and one of the nation’s best hurdlers, won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. Carl, who is going to run for Youngstown State University next season, won the 100.

Kennedy took second in the 4×200 relay for eight points, while senior Zach Watt placed sixth in the 400 for three more.

The Eagles placed third with 41 points, behind Columbus Academy (49) and Lima Central Catholic (43).

“We definitely have small numbers, but we have quality, and that’s big here,” Chad Zallow said. “I think we should have a great season. We have a lot of kids coming up. We work hard and are dedicated to it.

“I’m excited for the season. I think we should do good.”

First-year Kennedy coach Jack Thornton, who worked with the Zallows through the Warren Striders Track Club, wants to help the Eagles along their journey to this year’s state meet. Thornton takes over for Robert Andrews, who is now an assistant football and track and field coach at Glenville High School.

“That helped me connect with the team,” Thornton said. “Then, the other kids, it was a matter of introducing myself to them and understanding what kind of coach I was compared to the gentleman that coached them last year.

“I like to work hard. I like to work smart. I like to work together. I like for them to perform well. And, I like to have fun doing it.”

Now the 4×400 should’ve went further last year, but too many steps outside their lane disqualified the foursome at the Division III Springfield District meet. The relay went an unofficial time of 3:24.4, which would’ve put them as one of the state’s best 4x400s at that time and a favorite to win state in that event.

Kennedy has been snakebit the last couple of years in this event. In 2011, they had a false start at the Division III Independence District. In 2012, the Eagles were disqualified in the Division III Navarre Regionals.

“We don’t get too much luck. Last three years, we’ve got DQed. Hopefully we’ll go further on with that,” Watt said.

That kind of history is hard to forget.

“It definitely doesn’t leave our heads,” Watt said. “We block it out every race we can. Every little thing can count. Every little thing can get you out of the race, whether you think you’re out or not.

“Sometimes what happens, happens. All it was for us stepping out of the line a few times. You can almost not control that.”

Kennedy loses a key ingredient in its relays with Rob Seger graduating. Freshman Jacob Coates is touted to fill Seger’s spot in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays and run with Watt and both Zallows.

“That boils down to the development of Coates as a sprinter,” Thornton said. “The other three sprinters are in pretty good shape at this point and time. He’s the one we’re trying to get at the same level.”

Meanwhile, Chad Zallow is trying to overcome a hamstring injury he suffered about a month ago.

“He’s following his therapy that a physical therapist has given him,” Thornton said. “Since we’ve finished indoor competitions, going back to our general conditioning and strength work, he’s coming along slowly to overcome that injury.

“By mid-April to late April, he’ll be ready to go 100 percent.”

This is a Kennedy boys team led by the Zallows.

“Me and Carl are excited for the season,” Chad said. “We’re working real hard and stronger than ever right now.

“We’re looking to do some big things this year.”