AMHERST — After another long May afternoon of watching his girls varsity track and field team continue to set the bar in the Southwestern Conference, head coach Sam Ulery was grinning wide and enjoying the moment at hand.
In slightly chilly conditions that were favorable for running at Amherst High School last Friday, his Eagles set about maintaining what has become an annual tradition: winning the SWC team championship. The Eagles scored 142.5 points to take the trophy for the third year in a row, edging out runner-up Berea-Midpark (126 points) in the process. Avon Lake (101.5), Amherst (88.5) and Olmsted Falls (66.5) rounded out the top five.
Out of 17 events, the Eagles took first place in four and finished in the top three in nine others.
“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun watching them step up to the challenge and do what they’re supposed to do,” Ulery said. “It’s fun to watch. Now, it’s not necessarily expected (to win) in a conference like this that’s so tough, but to perform the way we do is what we want.”
Do-it-all senior Elizabeth Flynn had a big day, competing in four events. She took first place in the 400-meter dash (58.57 seconds) and was the third leg in Avon’s winning 4x200 relay team along with Melanie Farmer, Gaby Enourato and Lia Sadd (1:45.27). She took second in both the 100 (12.8) and the long jump (16 feet, 10 inches).
As part of yet another talented senior class consisting of 16 athletes, Flynn was excited for the chance to match the expectations created by the previous two SWC championship teams.
“After losing a bunch of seniors last year, they were strong for our team and won the past two conferences,” she said. “This year I feel like we’re still strong and we’ve filled the spots we needed to and we’re just competing really well.”
Sophomore Molly Radcliffe was a standout in the field during the two-day meet that began May 8. She finished first in both the shot put (42-06) and discus throw (131-05).
“I’m really excited about both (wins), just happy,” Radcliffe said. “I’ve worked a lot all season, even in the off-season. I’ve been training since the summer just throwing, lifting all the time, and just wanting this. I’m just happy to be back.”
Avon featured the only gold-medal finishers in the West Life coverage area on the girls side, but rival schools accounted for 20 top-three results. Senior Erica Wetzler led Avon Lake with a second-place finish in the 400 (58.92) and sophomore Brooke Lumpkin took second behind Radcliffe in the shot put (39-11.5) and discus (111-07). Westlake junior Erica Francesconi was runner-up in the 3200 (11:40.05) and senior teammate Haley Brennan was second in the pole vault (10-09).
Senior Lauren Gumeny was busy for Olmsted Falls, taking second in the 300 hurdles (46.7) and third in the 100 hurdles (16.52), 4x400 relay (4:09.19) and 4x800 relay (9:41.7) with teammates Jordan Fusco, Mia Colozza and Mikayla Ellis. Senior Maddie Boka was second in the 100 hurdles (16.14) and the 4x100 relay (51.45) with Molly Reading, Lindsey LaPinta ad Zania Norman.
“You look around this conference and it’s absolutely amazing,” Ulery said. “When you can compete in a conference like this and step up and do the things we did today, that’s awesome.”
Westlake (60), Lakewood (25), Midview (18.5), North Olmsted (14.5) and North Ridgeville (14) made up the bottom five in the team standings.
In boys competition, Amherst scored 113 points to narrowly beat Berea-Midpark (102) and retain the league title. Olmsted Falls (83), Avon Lake (79) and Westlake (77) filled out the top five.
Individually, two area speedsters made their mark on the SWC by successfully defending their titles in multiple events. Seniors Kevin Walls (Westlake) and Tyler Hannah (Lakewood) combined to take first place in seven events as part of a sprint or relay team.
Walls, a 6-foot-6 University of Akron football signee, ran away from the field in the 100 (11.12), 200 (22.04), 4x100 relay (42.76, with Lamar Griggs, Robert Fulop and Austin Norris) and 4x200 relay (1:30.3, with Fusco, Fulop and Austin Norris).
“Honestly, it feels really good (to win) because I knew I had some really good competition in the 100 and 200,” Walls said. “I’ve (had personal bests) twice this week in the 200, so the other (sprinters) have definitely been pushing me to be my best.”
Hannah continued to show his skill in the two hurdles events, winning the 110 (14.6) and 300 (38.08) before teaming up with Devon Brown, Jack Hueter and Cormac Peppard-Kramer for a gold in the 4x400 relay (3:30.79).
As the host of the SWC, Division I District and Regional meets, Amherst’s track has become a comfortable venue for both Hannah and Walls over the last several seasons.
“I feel like this is kind of my home now, even though I don’t go here,” Hannah said. “It’s definitely fun when I’m here.”
Peppard-Kramer, a junior, took first in a photo-finish over Amherst’s Bradley Kirsch (1:59.04-1:59.10) in the 800. Meanwhile, Avon Lake junior Danny Lambert finished second to Walls in the 100 (11.18) and 200 (22.64), and won the 400 (50.03). On Wednesday, Olmsted Falls senior Brennan Winkel won the pole vault with a top height of 14 feet.
Following in Radcliffe’s footsteps for Avon, junior Joe Svec finished atop the field in both the shot put (52-06.25) and discus (169.09), both distances measuring as personal bests. His top discus throw was 19 feet better than his first-place distance last year (150-03).
He attributed his success to hard work and the wealth of tough competition throughout the conference.
“It was a lot of work, and there was insane competition this year,” Svec said. “There were great conditions today, and I made good throws at the right time and (had personal bests) in both of them. It’s an honor (to win). It’s a great conference this year, and I’m just happy to be here.”
Avon (67.5), Lakewood (62), Midview (42), North Olmsted (22) and North Ridgeville (13.5) rounded out the bottom five of the standings.
The Div. I District meet begins today at Amherst and conclude Friday.
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