Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 18, 2017
Track and field coaches usually rely upon one or two heavy hitters in each event to go out and score points for their teams during conference championship meets.
When entering a third athlete in an event, oftentimes the message is to go chase a personal record and see what one can do on the eve of district competition.
But during the second edition of the realigned Western Reserve Conference championship last Thursday at the Spire Institute in Geneva, the Kenston boys weren’t chasing best times or lifetime marks.
The Bombers were going strictly for scoring positions, and they wouldn’t have been able to defend their league title without third-tier points in the 800-meter run, the 1,600 run, the 3,200 run and the high jump.
In posting a trio of top-eight finishes in those events, the Kenston boys scored 147 points to hold off runner-up Chardon, 135 points, third-place Mayfield, 118 points, and the rest of the eight-team field.
Not only was it the Bombers’ second straight WRC title, but it was their ninth consecutive league banner overall – previously winning seven straight Chagrin Valley Conference crowns – under head coach Chris Ickes.
During this year’s championship effort, the Bombers only won two individual events and one relay to extend their streak.
Leading a one-four-six Kenston finish in the 800 run, senior Sam Slezak posted a winning time of 2:00.98 to best Madison runner-up AJ Dietrich, 2:01.57, while fellow Bomber seniors Evan Sanders, 2:05.42, and Chris Smith, 2:07.16, held their own.
That Kenston trio of Slezak, Sanders and Smith had a busy day, putting sophomore Matt Iklodi on the leadoff leg of their triumphant four-by-400 relay that clocked a 3:29.86, besting runner-up Brush’s performance of 3:30.92.
Smith, Sanders and Slezak also put together a runner-up effort in the four-by-800 relay, with sophomore Jakob McConnell on the anchor leg to stop the watch at 8:26.93, bested only by Chardon’s triumph in 8:15.58.
Smith, McConnell and junior Sam Markel also laid the hammer down with a two-three four finish in the 1,600 run, with Smith clocking a 4:30.82 to come just 0.32 second shy of Chardon champion Nate Kawalec. McConnell stopped the watch at 4:34.22, while Markel hit a 4:36.82.And in the 3,200 run, junior Will Grendell led a Kenston stampede with a fourth-place finish in 9:55.97, while McConnell took fifth in 10:07.56 and Markel was sixth in 10:07.79.
The high jump, meanwhile, was the Bombers’ highest scoring event of the meet. Junior Michael Swartz and senior Kenny Indiano both cleared 5 feet, 10 inches for first and second place, while senior James Thigpen cleared 5 feet, 6 inches on his first attempt to finish fourth.
A workhorse in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes, not to mention taking on the anchor leg of the four-by-100 relay, sophomore Bransen Stanley scored 16 points for Kenston. He took runner-up in the 200 dash in 22.92 seconds, just 0.02 shy of Chardon’s Ben Baierl, while teammate Iklodi finished fourth in 23.29 seconds.
In the 400 dash, Stanley took sixth in 51.85 seconds, while Slezak scored third in 50.88 seconds. Chardon’s Jon McKnight won the race in 50.28 seconds.
Stanley also placed sixth in the 100 dash in 11.56 seconds, while junior teammate Kee-shaun Merrill finished fourth in 11.44 seconds. Chardon’s Joey Dinko won the race in 11.16 seconds.
Merrill, Iklodi and Stanley teamed up with sophomore Dorion Talley as their leadoff leg in the four-by-100 relay, circling the track in 44.57 seconds to finish runner-up to Chardon’s winning effort in 43.80 seconds.
And in the four-by-200 relay, Talley, Iklodi, Merrill and Thigpen exchanged the baton for a third-place finish in 1:34.74.
In the 300 hurdles, meanwhile, junior Nick Cordiak finished fifth in 42.88 seconds, while freshman Alex Castro was seventh in 44.31 seconds.
In the pole vault, Andy Dicker cleared 11 feet for sixth place, while fellow junior Brendan Byrnes cleared 10 feet, 6 inches for seventh.
And in the discus throw, junior Michael Burge marked 118 feet, 6 inches for seventh.
In the girls competition, meanwhile, sophomore Kate Taylor and freshman Elyse Myles led Kenston to a third-place team finish with individual triumphs. The Lady Bombers scored 88 points, bested by Chardon, 213 points, and Willoughby South, 107 points.
Myles won the 200 dash in 26.33 seconds, besting Chardon runner-up Haley Frank by 0.15 second, while Kenston sophomore Rhianna Patrick finished sixth in 27.42 seconds.
Myles also finished fourth in the 100 dash in 12.90 seconds, while Kenston sophomore Megan Randall took seventh in 13.22 seconds.
Winning the four-by-200 relay, sophomore Brianna Yurkovich, Randall, Patrick and Myles posted a 1:49.09 to best their nearest competition by 2.28 seconds.
Also triumphant in the four-by-400 relay, Myles, Taylor, sophomore Izzy Gabram and Yurkovich clocked a 4:11.66 to best runner-up Riverside by 1.75 seconds.
Taylor, meanwhile, turned in a triumphant 2:20.99 in the 800 run to beat Chardon runner-up Denali Selent by 3.01 seconds.
Taylor also finished third in the 1,600 run in 5:22.89, while Selent won the race in 5:21.65, and Kenston senior Gabriela Salvini took fourth in 5:28.41. Salvini also finished third in the 3,200 run in 11:55.91.
Taylor and Salvini joined forces, along with Yurkovich and junior Loren Gormely, to finish fourth in the four-by-800 relay in 10:16.20.
In the four-by-100 relay, Gabram, Randall, Patrick and senior Lexi Neal circled the track in 52.26 seconds for third place.
Gabram also grabbed a pair of sevenths in the 100 hurdles, 17.50 seconds, and 300 hurdles, 53.20 seconds, while junior Dara Paglia finished eighth in the 300 hurdles in 53.42 seconds.
And the Lady Bombers’ lone scorer in field events, sophomore Ariana Vaughan cleared 4 feet, 8 inches in the high jump for fifth place.
Up next, the Bombers and Lady Bombers will compete in the finals of the Division I district championship meet at 5 p.m. Friday at Austintown Fitch. The top four finishers in each event move on to regionals.
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