Hail to the champions

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference track championship is one that runs in cycles.

Teams usually find their way to multiple championships in a row when they start winning them and this year’s girls’ races proved that philosophy to be 100 percent accurate.

All four of the champions had been to the winners’ circle in the past. Actually, three of the four were there last season.

The Morgantown girls, who are coached by Shadyside High School graduate Steven Blinco, proved to be the ultimate cream of the crop. The Lady Mohigans racked up 143.75 to fight off Wheeling Park for the overall and 5A crown.

Martins Ferry’s girls, who were the reigning overall champions, tallied 93 points and repeated as the Class 4A champion.

River, which hadn’t won an OVAC team title since 1986, finally got over the hump and captured the 3A banner, scoring 61 points.

And all St. John Central does is win girls’ track titles. The Lady Irish finished sixth overall with 66.5 points and knocked off Steubenville Central by 13. The title is the 12th straight for the Lady Irish.

IN CLASS 4A, Coach Rich Materkoski’s Lady Riders have been the area’s premier team all season and showed that to be true once again.

The Lady Riders had a strong week of qualifying and used their depth to run away and hide from the balance of the 4A field despite not winning an overall title.

“We didn’t run our best today in a few events, but as far as times go, we ran well, so I am pleased with that,” Materkoski said. “You’re never going to hear me complain about winning an OVAC championship. These girls are competitors and they go out every day and do it. Being able to repeat is nice and we’ve told the girls they’ve had the bullseye on their back, but we still tried to come as relaxed as possible and just run our races.”

The Lady Riders scored well in a bevy of places. They received their highest scoring in the pole vault where senior ace Courtney Crolley was second with a 10-feet clearance.

All of the Lady Riders’ relays finished inside of the top six and the usual suspects such as Sunshine Wrenn, Taylr Jenkins, Tyesha Allen, Sarah Applegarth and Nikki Allen all posted solid individual finishes.

“Now we’re going to get ready and go after that Navarre regional,” Materkoski said. “We’re a little banged up right now, but when we’re healthy, we’re a pretty good team. We just have to get healthy for the postseason.”

St. Clairsville’s girls finished a solid fifth overall. The Lady Red Devils were fueled by three individual champions.

Senior Alyssa Robinson continued to prove she’s the premier thrower in the Ohio Valley. Robinson, who is headed to Penn State University, posted a double gold performance in leading the Lady Red Devils.

The reigning Division II state shot put champion made the most of her final OVAC meet, re-writing the meet recordbook in her specialty. She launched the iron ball to a mark of 46-ft-7 1/2, which is an all-time Ohio Valley record, meet record and stadium record, on her final throw of the meet. That mark is a personal best by an inch.

“I had a safe mark on the board, so on my last two throws I just went for it,” Robinson disclosed. “I was pretty excited with the mark because I’d been in a little bit of a slump, so I really think this will boost my confidence heading into the postseason in a few weeks.”

Robinson’s slump had carried over to the discus ring, but she erased that as well when she captured the discus title with a mark of 110-ft-1.

“Discus isn’t my best event, so I am working hard to try to improve and get into the 120s,” Robinson said. “It’s a lot more technical than the shot put, so I am working to get that down. I am going to hit the weightroom pretty hard the next couple of weeks and then get ready for the district.”

St. Clairsville’s other champion came in the 3200 meter run. Senior standout Julianna Madzia turned in an 11:09.25 to win the eight-lap race title. Her time was a meet record. She also finished fourth in the 1600.

IN CLASS 3A, the River Lady Pilots claimed the top prize for the first time in more than 20 years as rookie head coach Bob Cicogna’s team scored an impressive 61 points.

“We’ve got a great group of kids,” Cicogna said. “Our three seniors have done a great job leading our team. We set a goal to get as many kids to the finals as we could and then run to the best of our ability on Saturday and let everything else take care of itself.”

It didn’t hurt the Pilots’ cause that they had senior standout Cassidy McCullough leading the way. McCullough left with four medals around her neck, including another gold in the 300 meter low hurdles.

“We’ve been working really, really hard for this (team title),” McCullough said. “We knew when we bumped up in class who our competition was and we did what we had to do to get this. To be able to end my high school career with a team (OVAC) championship is really nice.”

The defending state champion in the event, McCullough skimmed eight hurdles in 46.26 to win by nearly two full seconds.

“My times are dropping, but not as much as I’d like them to, but I am hoping they continue to come down as we keep going in May,” McCullough admitted.

Along with her low hurdle victory, McCullough was third in the 100 (12.60), second in the 200 (26.18) and third in the long jump (16-ft-5 1/4).

IN CLASS 1A/2A, the St. John Central Lady Irish must have known it was Kentucky Derby day Saturday because they rode their horses to victory.

Coach Paul Xenakis led the Lady Irish to the school’s 15th title thanks to big points from sophomore Fallon Doyle in the distance races and splendid frosh Jessica Alvey in the sprints.

“It’s tough when the classes are combined and it makes it tough on everyone, but amazingly every single girl we had here ran a personal record,” Xenakis said. “

Doyle, who was an all-Ohioan last season, captured her first, and second, OVAC title in impressive fashion. After running an impressive 5:07.66 to claim gold in the 1600 meter run, Doyle came back a short-time later and turned in an impressive 2:21.06 to claim the 800 title and basically push the Irish to the top of the small-school leaderboard for good.

“I didn’t know because of how warm it was if a double like that was possible, but it was a great day,” Doyle smiled. “I kind of fell back a little bit in both races, but I knew I was going to have a good kick. I was very happy with the mile time and coming back in the 800, I was happy with that, too.”

Alvey got the Lady Irish started in the morning field events when she finished second in the long jump (16-ft-8). She then placed third in a deep 400 meter dash field in a time of 59.11. Plus, she was eighth in the 200.

The Lady Irish 4×4 team placed fifth overall to close the deal.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com