Nicholas Elswick took this week off.
After winning a state title, setting the Chardon High School record, and graduating as the greatest distance runner in Chardon’s history — an important superlative given the Hilltoppers’ long and storied running tradition — Elswick deserved the rest.
“It’s kind of humbling,” Elswick said. “To say that I am the greatest runner from Chardon. We’ve had a lot of talent come through.”
Just like another Chardon distance legend, Emil Heineking, Elswick redeemed himself after a runner-up finish in 2013 by winning the 2014 state championship in the 3200, finishing in a time of 9:02.41. In 2007, Heineking came off of a second place finish in 2006 to win the state championship in the 3200.
Undoubtedly, Elswick felt comfor-table on the track at Jesse Owens Stadium, and he will join the Ohio State University Buckeyes running teams in the fall.
This was Elswick’s third trip to the state meet in Columbus; he finished in fifth place as a sophomore in 2012. Elswick joins Heineking and Ben Robinson (2004) as the boys state champions in school history.
Chardon senior Stephanie Ferrante advanced in all three events to the finals for the second consecutive year. She would end up finishing fourth in the 100 (12.23) and the 400 (55.65) and fifth in the 200 (24.92). Ferrante finished her career with four straight trips to Columbus and seven top-seven state finishes, as one of the most decorated track athletes in Chardon history, and will begin her new career at Oklahoma State in fall.
She was asked in an email what Chardon has meant to her.
“I could write pages about my track career at Chardon, but to kind of sum it up I would say that the experiences and memories that I have made these past four years are indescribable,” Ferrante wrote. “Being a part of this team changed me as a person in the best way possible. Also I would for sure like to give the biggest shout out to my coaches, because I would for sure not be where I am today if it were not for them.”
Sophomore Rachel Banks kick-ed off her state meet career with a ninth place finish in the 800 (2:14.14). She qualified for her first state meet by winning the regional champ-ionship last Friday at Austintown-Fitch.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to run at the state meet this year with my teammates,” Banks wrote. “I was also blessed with one more race under coach Combs, who retired from coaching and teaching yesterday. He is a great man, and the contributions he has made to the running program and education at Chardon High School the past 35 years are tremendous.”
West Geauga’s Paedyn Gomes said at the regional meet that his goal going into the state meet was to qualify for both hurdle events. He not only did that, he ended up on the podium for both events. Gomes finished fifth in the 110 hurdles (14.36) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (38.12).
He had qualified for the 110 hurdles in 2013 and finished in fourth place. Gomes will continue his career at Yale University in the fall as a member of the track and field program.
Fellow Wol-verine Audrey Rabe made her second state meet appearance in Pole Vault. She cleared 12-3, good enough for a third-place finish.
Only a sophomore, Joe Bistritz of Chagrin Falls has had a year to remember. He finished second as an individual at the state cross country meet in October, then followed that up in the spring with a second place finish in the 1600 in his first trip to the state meet.
Bistritz finished in a time of 4:18.80 just behind CVCA’s Ryan Adams (4:18.44). He would also get on the podium with a fifth place finish in the 4×800 with teammates Tyler Bryant, Eric Sampsel and Michael Rose. He also qualified for the 1600, finishing 13th.
Berkshire junior Christin Dornback finished in fifth place in the open 800, while fellow junior Melissa Koziol finished in 11th place. Koziol was making her second appearance at the state meet; she finished in sixth place in 2013.
Berkshire track coach Julie Cole thought Berkshire’s relay performance was uneven.
Their success was mixed, Cole said. After underperforming in the 4X800 on Friday, the team had to dig deep.
“They had to regroup a little bit,” Cole said.
Dornback said she had to step back and let that performance go.
The day after the race, she reflected in an email on what her thought process was.
“I told myself to go with who was there and just leave it all out there,” Dornback wrote. “For me, the first lap felt really comfortable, and I was kind of shocked by it, and at one point on the backstretch, I found myself in the lead.
“When the girls came up and passed, I wasn’t shocked at all; they’re all incredible racers. So by then, my main goal was to finish strong. It’s a blur, honestly. My coach had to explain to me that fifth in the state was great and something to be proud of, and I definitely am, although I intend to use this season and that race as all the more motivation to come back next year.”
Indeed, Cole and the Berkshire underclassmen have already talked about next season.
“The entire high school is a growing experience for everybody,” said Cole, a hall of fame coach who has continued to make Berkshire’s running programs some of the best around. “I think it takes them a while to understand. Now they realize if you want to be really, really good you’re going to have to put in the work.
“They work hard. But you can always do more.”
Dornback and Koziol were joined by Suzanne Koziol and Kylie Scott in the 4×800 relay. The team of underclassmen would finish in seventh place, and look forward to a return trip to Columbus next year.
The Koziols, along with Dornback and senior Alison Moss, also qualified in the 4×400 relay.
Geauga County had a successful spring on the track, qualifying 12 individual athletes and three relay teams for the state meet in Columbus.
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