By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The Geneva girls track team has competed at — and won — bigger invitationals. A precious few of them carry as much meaning as the Karl Pearson All-County Track Meet. Even fewer of those meets were dominated in quite the way the Eagles owned the latest edition of the meet.
Geneva netted 223 points — more than double that of second-place Lakeside’s 91 on Saturday at Laker Stadium.
The Eagles weren’t just aiming to win their individual events, they were shooting to make history in the process.
“The goal is always to come in, win the meet and get better,” Geneva assistant coach Dave Yost, filling in for coach Bobby McQuoid, said. “But I think you know how well we did when one of the goals was to set meet records and be part of history. This is a storied meet, why wouldn’t we be proud (of winning so easily).”
The bulk of Geneva’s competitors are underclassmen, making the landslide that much more remarkable.
“I think what makes us really is proud is that we are so freshmen heavy,” Yost said. “We also have a nice core of seniors in Emily O’Dell, Natalie Thomas and Lyndsey Armstrong. They’ve really shown the girls that hard work and dedication lead to recognition.
“I can’t say enough about those seniors. They’ve taken the underclassmen under their wing.”
Geneva set four meet records and won 13 of 17 events on the day.
“We’ve had a lot of success at invitationals this year,” Yost said. “The younger girls are starting to get a feeling of pride in what they do. It sounds selfish, but they like that medal being put around their necks. That’s what it’s about for these girls.”
O’Dell claimed the 800-meter record in 2:23.59, a second and a half better than the previous mark. Alexia Russell toppled the previous record in the 200 with a time of 26.29 — three tenths better than the previous best and Ally Thompson bettered the pole vault standard by six inches, clearing 10-6. Hailey VanHoy, Summer Arndt, O’Dell and Emily Deering toppled the mark in the 3,200-meter relay by eight one-hundredths of a second with a time of 10:00.45.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling,” Deering said. “We’ve worked so hard. The practice has paid off. It’s a cool feeling.”
The Eagles credit their coaches for their success.
“It’s not just all of the hours we put in,” O’Dell said. “The coaches do, too. They show us they care and support us. If it wasn’t for them, we’d be nowhere.”
The Dragons claimed wins in two events in placing second and Pymatuning Valley won the other two in taking third with 76 points. Edgewood was fourth with 70, Jefferson fifth with 42, Grand Valley sixth with 22 and Conneaut seventh with two.
Russell, just a freshman, was named meet MVP in winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes and competing as part of the 800- and 1,600-meter relays.
“When I was younger, I knew I was fast,” Russell said. “I knew I was a good runner. To be MVP let’s me know I’m really good at something. It’s an unbelievable feeling knowing people look at you a little bit differently (after you beat them).”
“We’ve tried to compare her to (former SS. John and Paul great) Mary Mahoney,” Yost said. “Mary was a Division III national champ and she’s got the records. That’s what (Alexia) wants.
“We’ve had good teams in the past, but we’ve never had sprinters who would go out and win meets and set meet records. There have been some great girls who have come out of this county and to have someone be in that group... There’s a lot of pride there.”
Russell’s teammates in the 800-meter relay were Thompson, Deering and VanHoy. She was joined by O’Dell, Arndt and Deering in the 1,600-meter relay.
Thompson claimed the crown in the pole vault crown and 300-hurdle, in addition to placing second in the 100 hurdles.
“It’s good to know the team is No. 1 in the county,” Thompson said. “All of our work paid off. As a freshman, it’s nice to be No. 1 in the county and win the 300 hurdles and pole vault.”
The Lakers’ Geena Gabriel was the only other competitor to claim multiple wins taking titles in the long jump and shot put.
Armstrong won the 100 hurdles and was second in the 300 hurdles, Riley Doherty won the high jump and Thomas won the discus for Geneva. Emily Andrus anchored the champion 400-meter relay team for teammates Alyce Simoes, Desha Repko and Alivia Puckrin and was third in the pole vault.
Karen Barrientos won the 3,200-meter run and Carlie Watt took the win in the 1,600-meter run for the Dragons.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.