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West G's Richardson wins state hurdles title
West G's Richardson wins state hurdles title
By TONY LANGE
The Solon girls' track and field team sent five girls to the Division I state championships last Friday and Saturday at Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. All five of them placed and stood on the winners podium.
Meanwhile, West Geauga's team sent two girls to Columbus. They also finished on the podium, with sophomore Chantel Richardson being crowned a state champion.
In the 100-meter hurdles, Richardson clocked a 14.39 to win the race by 0.03 second. The finals race was close among all the competitors, with the seventh-place finisher only 0.39 second behind the winner.
Richardson also competed in the long jump, finishing 13th in with a mark of 17 feet.
Also competing for the Lady Wolverines was senior Kelly Williams, who finished eighth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:16.39.
For the Lady Comets, podium finishes came in the four-by-200-meter relay, 1,600-meter run and 300-meter hurdles.
"Always, your goal when you take girls down to the state tournament is to try to get them to earn podium recognition in the top eight," Solon head coach Leigh Ann Leugers said. "I was thrilled, because each one of our girls did that."
The four-by-200 team of freshman Tinisee Kandakai, junior London McNair, freshman Jelvon Butler and junior Paige Yaeger placed fourth with a time of 1:40.57, setting a new school record.
"In our second leg, London McNair ran phenomenal," Leugers said. "She ran her fastest split all season. So did Jelvon Butler. And Tinisee and Paige ran what they normally do. They do a great job for us every single time."
Being able to compete in the four-by-200 relay at the state level was unexpected, Yaeger said.
"I know that it's an awesome experience to go down as a freshman, so I know that London and I really wanted to get those two girls the opportunity to go to states as a freshman," Yaeger said. "We did not expect to get down to states in the four-by-200 in the beginning of the year, but we did it, and it was an awesome experience, and I know that the girls really had a good time with it, and it was a great opportunity for them."
Putting a freshman in the starting block, Kandakai, is a real tough thing to do, Leugers said. Just as freshmen in general competing at their first state meet, one could see from the stands how nervous Kandaki and Butler were during the prelims, she said. The finals was even more thrilling to watch because of the finish, she said.
The fourth- and fifth-place teams had the exact same times, but Solon was awarded fourth because of Yaeger's lean, Leugers said. "The timing system has a camera, and they saw by the photo," she said. "It's the torso, not the legs, the head the arms or anything like that that some people get confused by. It's the first part of your torso to cross the line. It was great to watch."
Yaeger said she loves being the anchor, because she is able to chase people down. "It's very nerve-wracking to be anchor, but it's just great to be able to catch the person in front of you or hold someone off," she said. "You just have to leave everything on the track. You can't leave anything behind."
Yaeger also competed in the 300-meter hurdles, placing fourth with a time of 44.35. That also was a close finish as she beat the fifth-place finisher by 0.08 second.
"At the last 100, that's just when I push it and give it my all," she said. "The last 100 happens to be my strongest, so I usually pass a couple of girls. It's all endurance. I just give it all I got and try to catch the girls in front of me.
"My goal was to get top five, so I got my goal," Yaeger said. "I didn't get my time as low as I wanted to, but I still PR'd, so I was happy with that," she said of a personal record.
After placing ninth last season and missing the podium by one place, Yaeger said she was happy to podium finish.
"It was real exciting, because I had always wanted to place individually, because I had placed with a team before, and it was just great being on there by myself knowing that I achieved it individually and got to where I wanted to be," Yaeger said.
In the distance, Solon sophomore Therese Haiss competed in the 1,600 and 800 for the Comets. In the 1,600, she finished seventh with her best time, 5:00.46. In the 800, she finished 10th with a 2:18.78.
If you ask her about her podium finish, she'll say she is satisfied, Leugers said.
"That's Therese," she said. "She's someone who is a huge competitor. Even though she hit the podium and we were really proud of her and all so glad she was able to get on the podium, she was also like, 'Why didn't I go faster? Why didn't I go faster on this lap?' And that's just the competitiveness and what she is going to bring to the table next year."
Haiss is always all in for the mile, and the 800 is a bonus race for her, Leugers said. It's tough running both races, because from the time the gun goes off until the next one, there is only 50 minutes. That includes running the mile, cooling down, getting water, resting, stretching, warming up and refocusing, she said.
"Not a lot of athletes can handle that mile-800 combo, but Therese is one who can and at the state level," Leugers said.
After going undefeated in dual meets, winning the Northeast Ohio Conference meet and districts, placing fourth at regionals and only graduating three four-year letter winners, Leugers is really excited about the future of the team, she said. However, this was her last season as a coach, as she is expecting her first child at the end of July
"I really hope whoever takes over does well, and they have a great team to work with, and I'll be around to support them as much as I can," she said. "It's a really tough thing to be a coach and mother at the same time. It was a really tough decision and really hard, because they are such great girls. I had to give up something I love for something that I'm going to get in return."
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