JOHNSTOWN — Hosting the Mid-Buckeye Conference meet, the Johnstown Johnnies made the most of their home track and field advantage and parlayed that into a pair of conference titles on Thursday night. The Johnnies edged Fredericktown for both the boys (147-142) and girls (160-151) titles.
“We knew Fredericktown was going to be tough. We knew Utica and Loudonville would be tough as well,” said Johnstown coach Mark Thomas. “They gave us some stiff competition. ... We had really, really good performances; the kids really stepped up. I thought the difference on the girls side was the performance of some of our sprinters in the relays. We won the 4x400 and the 4x100, and took second in the 4x200 as well. For our guys, we finished second in the 4x200, first in the 4x100 and second in the 4x400.
“We know the track and we had the crowd with us,” added Thomas. “We know the wind factor. We talked about it (Thursday). If the wind is blowing a certain way, you’ve got to run this way. We were working real hard on it, especially with our relays.”
The Johnnies got contributions from nearly everyone on the team, including its distance runners. Senior Jeremy Hornick had one of the most impressive performances of the night on Thursday, beating Fredericktown’s Isaac Potes to the finish line in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter run.
“We wanted to win it last year, but we didn’t have depth,” said Hornick. “Our team is a lot better. We train a lot and the training pays off. We are very happy to win this.”
Rounding out the MBC finish for the boys was Utica (107 points) in third; Loudonville was fourth (total unavailable); East Knox fifth (64 points); Centerburg took sixth (46.5 points); Northridge was seventh (19 points); and Danville finished eighth (6 points).
“We are a little disappointed because our goal at the beginning of the year was to get the championship back to Fredericktown,” Fredericktown boys coach Will Hartley said. “We came up a little short. A few ifs and buts cost us. On our 4x400, we had a kid go home with the flu and he was our second-fastest 400 runner. We had a bad hand-off in the 4x200, which caused a four-point swing there. It was really close, and in a championship meet, those kinds of things are going to make or break you.”
With Johnstown ending Fredericktown’s nine-year reign atop the MBC, the other teams in the league fell into place. East Knox took third in the girls competition (87 points); Northridge finished fourth (68 points); Centerburg fifth (64 points); Loudonville was sixth (58 points); and Utica and Danville tied for seventh with 35 points apiece.
“This is really tough, but I am proud of the girls,” said Fredericktown girls coach Bob Geiger. “Coming in, I thought we would get beat by about 14 or 15, and we only got beat by eight. They ran hard, and some of them surprised me today. We ran better than I thought we would.
“I was really happy with the way our sprinters and hurdlers really stepped up. They placed a little higher than I thought. You could really tell we were gunning for a championship.”
Hornick’s running really set the tone for Johnstown. After his 4x800-meter relay team won on Tuesday, he was ready for an encore, which is what he gave all those in attendance.
“I was very surprised; in the 3,200, I got the school record and I am pretty proud of that,” said Hornick. “I knew I could run something like that, but I didn’t know I could run an amazing time like that.”
In the both the 1,600 and 3,200, Potes was breathing down Hornick’s neck the entire way. Hornick could never shake him, but did hold him on down the final straight-away.
“It is always like that,” Hornick said of Potes on his heels. “Every race, we are always close. At Loudonville, I ran a 4:32 and he ran a 4:32. Here, I ran 4:34 and he ran 4:34. It has always been close; it always come down to the last 100 yards and a dead sprint.
“Coach yelled at me to not look over my shoulder. I was thinking in my head that we had to win. If we hadn’t, Fredericktown would have won the MBC. The two-mile (3,200) was a big race for us. It is what set up the 4x400 win and the title.”
“They push each other and make each other better,” said Hartley of Potes and Hornick. “I think that will pay off at the district meets. It has turned into a rivalry. Isaac was a little disappointed in the two-mile (3,200); I think he thought he was going to win that, but give Jeremy credit. He ran a great race. He really came through for his team when it needed it.”
Hornick and Potes weren’t the only runners giving it all they had, however. Johnstown freshman Stephanie Loshbaugh took first in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, and Danville senior Kendra Mills claimed victory in both the 100-meter dash and long jump.
“I feel a lot better about the whole track thing this year,” said Mills. “I feel like I got off to a better start than I did last year, so it is really cool to accomplish this.”
In the 100, Mills edged out Centerburg’s Kayla Bosworth in a very close finish. She also lost the 200 by the same close margin. With so many close races, one has to wonder what’s she is thinking about while competing.
“A lot of things go through my mind when I am running; I just try to stay focused,” Mills said. “I was focused on winning and getting ahead.”
While Mills had a season-best time in the 100, she believes better things are still to come. With the district meet next week, she is hoping to continue her ascent.
“I am improving my times,” said Mills. “I improved some early in the season, and I am improving now instead of at district. I feel like I am more prepared. ... Hopefully, I will still get better. I have goals set for myself that I haven’t met yet.”
The East Knox boys relay teams also had a strong showing on Thursday. The Bulldogs won the 4x200- and 4x400-meter relays, and just missed winning the 4x100.
“This feels pretty good,” East Knox’s Khai Haralson said after winning the 4x400-meter relay. “We expected to get first in all three of our relays, but it didn’t turn out that way. We’re happy we won two of the three.”
In the 4x400, Haralson and Johnstown’s Jay Orders were locked into a heated battle. Haralson started out in front with Orders passing him on the back straight. A late push around the last turn and strong kicking gave East Knox the victory, however.
“I don’t like to lose,” said Haralson. “He got ahead of me and I knew I couldn’t let him get too far ahead of me. I had to keep up with him, and I passed him down the stretch.”
In the field events on Tuesday, Johnstown senior Mychelle Furlan destroyed two MBC records in the shot put and discus. Those two wins were another reason the Johnnies took home the title.
“Mychelle Furlan set both meet records in the shot and the discus,” said Thomas. “Even though they weren’t her personal bests, they were the league records.”
Like all coaches, Geiger believes only positives can come from such a close conference meet. With the postseason beginning next week, he believes his team is prepared.
“This is something we can build on,” said Geiger. “They are disappointed as a team, but they are happy with their individual performances.”
For Johnstown, winning the MBC couldn’t come at a better time. A new levy passed less than two weeks prior gave the athletic teams a new lease on life, and for that, all of the athletes are thankful.
“This is big for the team, but it is also big for the community,” Thomas said. “We talked about this before the meet. I told them, ‘We owe this to all of the voters that passed our levy.’ We wanted to bring home the two titles and say thank you for believing in us.”
Editor’s note: Complete results were not available at press time. Results will be printed in a future edition of the News when received.