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By SARA WELCH | Staff Writer
Twenty-four Portage Trail Conference athletes emerged from the Youngstown Division II Regional meet as state qualifiers on Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School. Four competitors finished the day as regional champions and five qualified to compete in more than one event.
Putting together the most outstanding performance of the day, Streetsboro's Dakari Carter qualified to compete in four events next weekend. He took first in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes and ran legs on the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, which both made the cut for Columbus.
After making it to the finals with the second-fastest time in both the 100 and 200, Carter managed to displace both of the top qualifiers, running a 10.96 in the 100 and a 21.97 in the 200.
"It felt good," Carter said. "I feel like I've been there before, so I try to stay pretty much humble. I just wanted to go out and run my race. I had
the confidence I could win both."
With a full schedule next weekend Carter is excited to run all four events at the state meet. Fatigue should not be an issue for the freshman, who has been training for this point of the season all year.
"I feel like I've been conditioned to run four events all season," he said. "Running the 400 this year helped me a lot. It got me conditioned."
Throughout the season Carter was put in the open 400 as a strategic move to help Streetsboro win track meets, chasing its overall goal of winning the PTC County Division. The Rockets fell just short of defeating Woodridge; however, the periodic placement of Carter in a much longer sprint than he normally runs paid off for him in the long run.
"We were trying to win meets and just kind of moving people around to put us into position to try and win the league," Streetsboro head coach Tom Fesemyer said. "It was an awful tough track league this year and you've seen it here today. We've been very well represented at the regional meet. The things you do during the season you do to try to win the season. The things you do during the postseason you do to try to move kids on. I mean that's the ultimate goal, we want to put kids at the state meet."
In Fesemyer's 21 year of coaching the Rockets, more athletes from this team have made it to regionals than any other year and more athletes got out to state than ever before.
Thirteen athletes represented Streetsboro in the regional finals today, five girls and eight boys. Of the regional qualifiers the Rockets had eight will be going to state -- two girls and six boys. The success this group has found can be credited to not only the work its put in, but the focus and supportive atmosehere its had throughout the season.
"First of all I'll say these guys are a real tight group. They've been a tight group all year long. They've done everything we've asked and probably more. They encourage each other and no matter what changes we've made they've been very supportive of doing the things that's best for the team. I'm ecstatic for them," Fesemyer said.
While Carter highlighted the boys' achievements of the day for Streetsboro, Destiny King, who has been battling shin splints all year, qualified for both the 100 hurdles and the long jump. As the meet's defending regional champion King was only able to take second. However, it didn't seem to phase her at all as she hugged every athlete in her heat and congratulated Meredith Fennell of Northwest, who won the race.
"Destiny will coach anybody in anything that she does and she excels at everything she does. She's just one of those kids. She's the nicest kid on
the team. You watch her before a race and she hugs every kid. You watch her at the end of a race, she hugs every kid that she's competing against win or lose. She's always done that since she's been a freshman. That kind of leadership, that personality, that's just her and we're going to miss her dearly. Thank God we have one more week to run with her," Fesemyer said.
Out of the blocks in the 100 hurdles King caught the first hurdle, throwing her off for the remainder of the race. She did not run her best time with a 15.26, but Fesemyer believes next week could show different results as King's competitive spirit shouldn't be underestimated.
"She did not run her best time here, but I will say this. As a senior in her fourth year she's a competitor. She's probably the most fierce competitor on this team guys or girls. I never ever take her out of a race because she is that much of a competitor. Once she hit the first hurdle, at this level you can't recover from that, you're not going to. It's too good of a regional," Fesemyer said.
The tape that covers her legs from knee to ankle in every race is evidence enough that King's will to compete propels her to the finish every time. Coming out of indoor track with severe shin splints, King didn't run at the beginning of the season. Her first race took place at the Newton Falls Invitational in which she ran the worst time she ever has because of the period of time she needed to try to recover.
Continuing to fight pain in every race, King seems to beat the odds and move on week after week.
"It's a lot of credit to her that she's fought through a lot of pain and she's endured an awful lot throughout this season. She's probably been in
an ice bath more this spring than she's ever been in her life just because we're down to that point and we're living in ice right now with her legs,"
Rounding out Streetsboro's state qualifiers, Marra Woods will compete in the high jump, Prince Franklin will join Carter in both relays, Myron Jones and Daniel Sapp will fill out the 4x200 and Victor Glass and Parris Burton will complete the 4x100.
While the Rockets found much deserved success, Garfield throwers Edie Svonavec and Lauren Jones ended the day with the same feeling. Svonavec took first in the shot put and also qualified for the discus, taking fourth. As a freshman Jones surprised even herself ending the day as a regional champion in the discus with a throw of 137-02, her best effort of the season by 13 feet.
"It's overwhelming," Jones said. "I wasn't expecting to get first. My goal was just to make it to finals and go from there. I've been practicing all
week and working really hard. It helps throwing against Edie every day because she is so good. She really builds up my confidence. She helps me a lot with form. I have a great coach on top of that, so it's just really exciting."
Expecting to see a tough field of throwers at the regional meet, Jones altered her tempo to spin faster towards the end of her throw. The change gave her an edge that would be enough to claim first place. The minor adjustments she made paid off for her so much that she plans to work out every little detail of her form before making the trip to Columbus.
"I'm not the biggest one out there. A lot of girls just have so much more muscle than me, so I have to rely on my form, while other girls can just muscle it," she said.
After being able to take first among a talented group of peers Jones is motivated to make her trip count, but more than anything she just feels
fortunate to have the opportunity to continue her postseason.
"Being there at Ohio State in Columbus is exciting. I'm just happy to be there," she said.
Crestwood will also have a regional champion at the state meet. Abby Soltisz won the two-mile run, beating her time from districts by nearly 20
seconds to stave off her competition. Soltisz will also compete with teammates Maddie Sorrick, Marissa Midgley and Challis Roberts in the 4x800 relay, which took fourth.
Representing Field, Gage Landis will be the lone athlete the Falcons send to the state meet. Landis tied for third place in the high jump with a jump of 6-2.
Madison Spreitzer headlined Woodridge's effort as the Bulldogs' only athlete to qualify in two events. She took third in the mile with a time of 5:15.89 and also anchored Woodridge's 4x800 relay. She will be joined by teammates Erin Kiley, Julia Moore and Allyson Dryer in the 4x800, while Aijah Albert finished third in the 100 hurdles.
The Woodridge boys 4x800 also qualified for next week, taking fourth place with a time of 8:08.76. Dan Kiley, Noah Bullock, John Harry and Tim Faiken will run the 3,200-meter relay for the Bulldogs next week, concluding the long list of PTC state qualifiers to make it out of the Youngstown Division II Regional meet.