Soph leads Girard trio to state

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Girard’s Jalaya Brown won the long jump competition Saturday at the Division II regional meet.

AUSTINTOWN — Jalaya Brown is stunned she jumped 17 feet, 5.75 inches.

It was her first jump of six on Saturday in the Division II Austintown Regional girls long jump competition.

Girard High School track and field coach Kevin Hetrick was amazed his sophomore long jumper was able to do that right away, winning the event and earning a spot at next weekend’s state meet in Columbus.

“She popped off that first jump and sent a message to the rest of the field, ‘Come and get me.’ “ Hetrick said. “They didn’t. To be a regional champion as a sophomore is amazing.”

Brown has been one of the best long jumpers in the area.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Nick Malito, left, runs the in the Division II boys 100-meter final Saturday at Austintown Fitch. He qualified for the state meet this week in Columbus.

Beachwood junior Ashley Perryman had her first jump go 17-3.5. That was good enough for second place, but it didn’t make Brown feel any easier. The top four in each regional final advance to the state meet.

“I was very nervous,” Brown said. “The whole day I had butterflies in my stomach. Then they said, ‘Jalaya, you’re up.’ Gosh, I didn’t know what to do.”

Brown knows she wants to work on the height of her jump, which would enable her to jump farther.

Her next aim is 18 feet, eventually trying to reach 19-1.25, the school record. It’s held by one of the most decorated female track and field athletes in Ohio — Cachet Murray, who won four Division II 100- and 200-meter state titles, along with two long jump titles.

Murray is Brown’s cousin.

“She’s a good part of how I got to where I am right now,” Brown said. “It feels great.”

How about the long jump in middle school?

“Eighth grade year, my coach forced me to do it,” Brown said. “I had no idea what I was doing. All of a sudden, I’m in eighth grade going to state. I’m like, ‘I want to do it.’ “

Brown also ran the 100 and 200, breaking records in middle school. She’s more of a long jumper now, but Murray said Brown should take up sprinting again to help with her speed down the runway.

“It takes a lot of dedication,” Brown said.

This week, she wants to break another personal record. She’s done that for the past two weeks.

“Right now, I’m looking to break more records, break my own records,” Brown said. “I have two years left. It’s not that I doubt myself, but baby steps. You can’t be too heavy-headed.”

Girard senior Daryl Smith advanced to state in the boys discus on Thursday. Saturday, he finished fourth in the shot put, his main event.

“He put a lot more effort into shot,” Hetrick said. “That was his focus. This year, your senior year, let’s give yourself the best chance to go. He started to take discus more serious, and that showed.

“He had a great year in shot, but he showed he could focus on both. The 160 in the discus should get him a long way next week, too.”

Hetrick told junior Nick Malito that his start was essential in the 100-meter dash final.

“We worked on his block work,” Hetrick said. “I told him you’re catching the best kids in this area up to regional semis. In the regional finals, I said, you’re not going to be able to catch these guys. So, we’ve got to get out in the first 20 meters.

“When I saw the start today, I had a good feeling it was going to go well.”

Malito got out of the blocks quickly, a weakness earlier in the season. He was automatically in stride. Malito’s arms were in motion, moving down the track toward a third-place finish.

This is his second state competition of the season. He was Girard’s main wide receiver as the Indians advanced to the Division IV football state title game. Current Youngstown State University freshman and Girard quarterback Mark Waid was in attendance Saturday.

“The 100 meter is the most similar feeling I can get to a football game,” Malito said. “When that gun goes off, being able to run. When the whistle blows, next play in football when he calls hut.

“I’m very excited to be down there.”