AUSTINTOWN — Conneaut speedster Matt McBride says running is 100 percent mental.
At Thursday’s regional track meet at Falcon Stadium in Austintown, though, McBride was simply 100 percent fast.
A senior and three-time state qualifier, McBride set a new Conneaut school record in the 400 meter dash with a time of 49.07 — the same event in which he placed third in at the state meet a year ago. He’ll be back in Austintown on Saturday looking to shave his time down a little more.
What he ultimately wants, though, is a spot atop the podium at Jesse Owens Stadium next weekend.
“I’m definitely looking to go below 49,” he said. “I know there is somebody that has a better time than me and there will be a couple other people that will too, but knowing that I am up there, it makes me nervous, but it also makes me very excited knowing that I have a chance to go out there and win that.”
Even though he’s been to the state meet all three years of his high school career, McBride said he is not above having to manage the nerves and excitement of knowing his season could hinge on a bad start or a slip ripping around the curve. The difference between going to Columbus versus staying home could come down to fractions of a second.
“It’s 100 percent mental honestly,” he said. “Almost always, the worst possibilities go through my mind and I see those, but I just try to relax and focus on what I need to do.”
“Nothing rattles him,” Spartans coach Denny Distelrath said. “He’s very level minded, he’s always mentally and physically prepared. The school record has been a goal of his all year and he finally did it. I feel like that’s a weight of his shoulder because that was like the first goal in order to win a state championship — it was school record, regional championship, state championship.”
McBride also anchored a pair of Spartan relay teams that will be back on Saturday looking to punch their ticket for Columbus. The 4x400 team of Aiden Thomas, Seth Fedor, Austin Pinkerton and McBride missed the school record by one second as they took first place with a time of 3:24.2.
Prior to that, the 4x200 quartet of Jay Green, Thomas, Logan Mucci and McBride were fifth with a time of 1:31.82. The top four finishers in each event on Saturday will advance to the state meet.
McBride is the anchor, but team depth has been a big reason for success.
“We have a deep team this year,” Distelrath said. “We have five or six guys that we can plug in there and not miss a beat, so we fully expect to be in the top two or three on Saturday.”
For most of the others Ashtabula County competitors, the meet brought the season to an end. Only Terril Skinner and Maddie Pierce, both of Jefferson, will be back on Saturday.
Skinner, took another step in getting back to Columbus by taking third in the 110 meter hurdles with a time of 15.01. Pierce finished the 300-meter hurdles in 47.42 for seventh place. Pierce also competed in the 100 hurdles and came in 13th.
The only other athlete from the county to hit the podium was Jefferson shot putter Claire Allen. Allen’s first heave measured 36-06.25. Unfortunately, she was not able to improve on that distance, though, and finished sixth overall. Only the top four qualified for state.
Also from Jefferson, freshman Taylor Skinner was 14th in the 400-meter dash in her first regional experience.
The Falcons girls 4x200 relay team of Pierce, Tracy Squatrito, Avery Arendas and Skinner were 12th. The same group of girls took 13th in the 4x400 event.
The boys 4x200 team of Blake Burns, Skinner, Colton Sinkko, and Drew Morgan finished 13th, while the 4x100 team of Daniel Bruckman, Burns, Skinner and Morgan took 12th.
The 4x800 team of Nick Diehl, Luke Robinson, Tom Nemitz and Jason Mayes took 12th. Conneaut’s team, in the same event, of Chase Carpenter, Jed Nadeau, Logan Poore and Tyler Hayes were 14th. The Spartans 4x200 team of Rylan Davison, Kareem Singleton, Green and Fedor came in 13th.
In the pole vault, Garrett and Reid Boczar both cleared the bar at 12-00 which tied for the sixth-highest height. Grand Valley’s Jake Glavickas got as high as 11-06. The cutoff was 13-00 to move on.
Edgewood also had a 4x800 of Lauren Kister, Eve Brunell, Lydia Randolph and Bailey Roberts that finished 11th.
Edgewood’s Dylan Hanna took 10th in the long jump with a bound of 19-11.25.