By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
There may be no better way to have started the event finals at the Premier Athletic Conference meet than the way Hailey VanHoy did for the Geneva girls track team in the 3,200-meter relay.
The momentum VanHoy passed along as she handed over the baton to teammate Summer Arndt after a blistering first 800 meters, was symbolic of the way the Eagles piled up enough points to claim their first PAC Meet title since 2010.
VanHoy, Arndt, Emily O’Dell and Emily Deering set the Ashtabula County record in winning the 3,200-meter relay in 9:39.33.
“The middle distance and relays were huge,” Geneva coach Bobby McQuoid said. “They set the county record in the (3,200-meter relay). That was a PR by six seconds. They killed in that race. It was an unbelievable race from start to finish.
“That’s one of the first events in the finals. It sets the tone for the entire meet.”
The previous mark of 9:45.12, set in 1999, was held by Christina Kachersky, April Pandora, Heather Nappi and Amy Balmford of Harbor.
VanHoy’s split in the 3,200 relay was a personal best.
“The first lap for Hailey was fast,” McQuoid said. “She finished that lap in 66 seconds, that’s a PR by three seconds. She was sick as a dog Saturday.
“I was nervous. I’d never seen her go out that fast. She passed a girl in the last 100 meters and probably had 30 meters distance.”
The remaining three runners fed off that start.
“They turn and hear the splits and once they hear its a PR, they think it’s their turn to do the same. They’re truly a relay. It’s exciting to watch them do that.”
Arndt’s second leg was solid, holding the team steady through the second leg.
“She ran exceptionally well today,” McQuoid said.
O’Dell just had to run as she had trained to. Deering, left unchallenged on the anchor leg because the other three Eagles ran so well, closed out the record-breaking performance.
“We always have a gameplan with the splits,” McQuoid said. “(O’Dell) just had to hit her marks where she was trained to pick up a second here and there. She ran against the clock. She looked strong at the finish.
“(Deering) had the toughest job because she had to finish by herself. As anyone in track will tell you, it’s tougher to run races like those. It’s like having two anchors with O’Dell and Deering.”
Those four runners kept passing the baton amongst themselves for the remainder of the meet.
“Once the girls hear they set a county record and another set a PR, it gets rolling and the next girl up thinks its her turn to PR,” McQuoid said. “That same group runs those middle distance events. They’re a tight group. Once one of them starts to do well, the rest feed off that energy.”
Deering set a school record in placing second in the 400-meter dash and O’Dell won the 800-meter run with a school record.
The Eagles claimed the 800- and 1,600-meter relays, as well.
It wasn’t just the runners who carried the Eagles.
“The field events had a great day,” McQuoid said. “We were 1-2 in the disc. The girls who won, Hannah Ellsworth, set a PR. That was big. I didn’t project us getting 18 points in that event in the conference meet. That stood out.
“There are pretty good shot throwers in the PAC and we took fourth, fifth and sixth. Getting three in the top eight is like eliminating a first place.”
Every Eagle found a way to contribute.
“They were definitely running for every point, every position. It was fun to watch.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.