By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Lakeside’s Otis Conel and Brandon Lopez may have put on the best individual efforts of the day at the Laker Invitational track meet at Pymatuning Valley on Saturday, but it was the overall dominance in scoring as a team, especially in the long distance events, which propelled the Edgewood Warriors to the team title with 118 points.
Maplewood used a first and second place finish in the 3200-meter run and a fourth in the last event of the day, the 1600 relay, to sneak past Jefferson with 90 points, The Falcons totaled 78, Harvey had 64, McDonald added 62, Pymatuning Valley scored 61, Lakeside 58, Chanel had 39, Mathews had 33, Grand Valley was close with 30, Beachwood had 17, Perry totaled 7 while the Conneaut Spartans had 5.
Conel paced the Dragon efforts on the day by winning both the 100 and 200 meter dashes and running legs on both sprint relay teams as well. Coach Olajuwon Cooper was impressed, to say the least.
“Otis was just phenomenal today,” he said. “I just told him to trust in his preparation. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to make it in the 200 finals, but when it came time to running the race, there he was.
“It was all a matter of trusting himself and his work ethic.”
The Warriors won the team title with balance and having several athletes step up their performance levels.
“Mike Didonato did just a fantastic job today,” coach Jim Sanchez said. “Brandon Kluge stepped up big time, too. We had several kids put out PRs today, and some of them are good enough to qualify for state under the right conditions. The Lemay boys (Chris and Josh) ran superbly in the mile and two mile races, and when Riis Smith came up with a mild hamstring pull, James Lyle stepped right in and we didn’t miss a beat.
“First and foremost, though, I need to thank our coaching staff for all the extra work they put in to get us to this point. Joe Gerics, Coach (Beth) Simpson, coach Stephanie Simmons, and even Ken Ankrom, who helped us with our hurdlers lately, just did a great job of preparing us for this meet. I’ve always looked up to coach Ankrom, and he doesn’t even coach here, but took the time to work with our kids when I asked him to.”
Connor Lynch won the 300 hurdles for Edgewood, Kameron Manhard took thirds in both the high jump and long jump. Jon Pendleton took second in the 110 hurdles, Kluge won the 800, and the Warrior sprint relay teams took first and second, respectively, in the 200 and 100 relays. That team consisted of Jacob Cardona, Connor Lynch, Riis Smith and Mike DiDonato.
The key to maintaining their lead late in the day came in the distance races at the end of the day.
Chris Lemay took a second place in the 1600 and brother Josh took fourth as both made a late dash to close up the final four.
Maplewood overtook Jefferson for second place overall by finishing the 3200 race 1-2. In winning, Wyatt Hartman won the Dan Dunlap Award, commemorating the late Laker star. The award was presented by his brother, Tom. Chris Lemay took third for the Warriors, and Josh Lemay grabbed fifth.
Jefferson had a good overall effort under tough conditions.
“I think we had a good overall team effort today,” coach TJ Furman said. “David (Chase) was sick, so he didn’t do as much as he would have liked. We had a few young kids step up, though, so I’m pretty happy.”
Jacob Hamilton won the pole vault for Jefferson with a 12-foot leap, Chase took the high jump with a jump of 6-0. The Falcons grabbed thirds in the 400, 800, and 1600 relays and a fifth in the 3200 relay.
The Falcons also got a stellar effort from Nathan O’Connor, who took second in both the shot put and discus.
Otis Conel of Lakeside won both the 100 and 200 dashes, narrowly nipping Pymatuning Valley speedster Quintin Ratliff both times. He ran the first leg of the second place 1600 relay team.
Stephen Pop of Maplewood won both throwing events with heaves of 49-feet-2.5 inches in the shot, and 149-4 in the discus.
Grand Valley’s Alex Oscar finished fourth in both events for the Mustangs.
Ratliff won the long jump for PV as well.
“I would have liked to do a little better today, since it is so nice,” PV coach Kevin Brown said. “We’ve got a few kids that are sick, though. Our shot putter hit 40 feet. Quintin did 6-5 in the high jump last time out , and I feel bad for Matt Silvers today. He ended up fourth or fifth in the preliminaries against the top runners in the event, so he didn’t make the finals. I’m really impressed with how this tournament is run, though.
“We have some great competitions, as evidenced by the races between Conel and Quintin, and with Quintin and David Chase, when he’s healthy. When you add in prom night, and there’s just a lot of stuff that affects this meet today.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.