AUSTINTOWN - To say Austintown Fitch High School boys track and field is balanced would be an understatement.
"If you look anywhere we've gone, the times and distances are there," Fitch boys coach T.J. Konowski said. "I think we got the right guys in the right events. We have four to six sprinters that anybody could step in. We have two to three good throwers. We have two good jumpers. We have six to eight good distance guys. I think it's a numbers game. We don't have one or two guys. Billy (Price) is probably our biggest individual stud with Sam close by him. Now we got Darrin Hall stepping it up in the 200-meter dash, which I wasn't expecting him to be at 22 low already - him stepping in for one of our best 200 guys that hasn't even ran (Rob Venters). To have the young guys step it up this year is nice."
The Falcons captured many dual and invitational titles coming into Saturday's Optimist at Fitch Falcon Stadium. Fitch, which is the defending Division I Austintown District Champion, displayed its prowess during this top-flight invitational - showcasing some of the best track and field talent in northeast Ohio.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Austintown’s Sam Ortz competes in the boys high jump event during the Optimist track meet on Saturday.
Fitch had plenty of credentials heading into the Optimist.
Dylan Latone went 13 feet, 3 inches prior in a dual meet against Canfield. He took fifth at the Optimist.
Saturday, the sprint relays led the way.
The 4x200-meter relay team of Gary Gibson, Nathan Bowlen, Darrin Hall and Joe Harrington left Glenville behind as the Falcons beat out the Tarblooders 1:28.00 to 1:28.59. Then, the second-place Falcons 4x100 team and first-place Cleveland Heights both broke the meet record. Fitch ran 42.31, while Cleveland Heights went 42.18.
At the end of the day, defending Division I state champion St. Edward edged out Fitch for the team title, 72-70.
"We can contend with them," Fitch senior Billy Price said. "We beat them in a meet before. We definitely have the caliber to do it, it's just whether or we can do it on that day."
Price was upset with his discus and shot put throws Saturday. He took second behind St. Edward's Aaron Zedella, who set a meet record in the shot put with 63-11.50. Price took second with 60-9.25.
"It's an athlete mentality," Price said. "I was disappointed in myself because I changed one thing. Things could've ended differently, especially in the shot put. I have 64-plus in me. With one thing, you change something and its frustrating. When it does come out, it's like, 'If you weren't such a knucklehead, things could've changed.'"
In the discus, Salem's Anthony Shivers broke a meet record with a throw of 198-1. Zedella was second (185-7) and Price took third (180-6).
Zedella's shot put and Shivers' discus throws are tops in the state, according to milesplit.com.
Price, who will play football at Ohio State this fall, does appreciate facing Zedella.
"He's a great kid going to Ohio State for throwing," Price said. "He is the kind of caliber thrower that is going to take a state championship this year. For me, to get that kind of competition against him, it's a good feeling to compete against him. Again, the perfectionist comes out in me. I was just being a knucklehead."
Price, who threw 189-9 last weekend in Poland, has been consistent this season, Konowski said.
"I remember regionals last year waiting for his last preliminary (discus) throw to make final in a low 170s," Konowski said. "Now, he's throwing 170 pretty much any time he wants with two or three meets in the 180s and one in the 190 last week. His consistency has stepped up.
"If he's consistent at those high marks, when he tries to go after it, who knows how much he can add. Right now, he's not even trying to blow the top off it. He's just trying to be consistent at a high level."
Another athlete at a high level is Sam Ortz, who is a versatile athlete. Time is of the essence for Ortz. During Saturday's Optimist, he took second in the 110 hurdles, third in the high jump, competed in the high jump and other events.
With prelims and other events, Ortz estimated he had 15 minutes of spare time in the meet. Focus is the key to succeed.
"If I have one event that goes wrong, I can't put that on my other events," Ortz said. "It might help me relieve some stress running out faster or jumping higher, but you've got to stay focused."
He's run 14.2 in the 110s, went 6-6 in the high jump and jumped over 20 feet in the long jump prior to Saturday.
"He's a prototype decathlete-type of guy," Konowski said. "He has a chance to make the state meet in a couple of events. I would like to see him make it in something, keep competing well, help us win a league title, help us win a district title. After that, try to get himself down to state."
It's all part of a Fitch boys team that has found a way to dominate in this area.
"We've always had people that kind of showed up and either jumped or threw or ran really well," Ortz said. "Joe Harrington, sophomore from Indiana. No one really knew him. He came to track and he's fast as lightning."
MAKING HISTORY: Alan Scharsu's 1,600 stadium record has finally fallen. The former Austintown Fitch great, who ran 4:14.10 in 1977, set the previous mark. Hudson's Kyle Mau, who ran 4:11.95, and Boardman's Mark Hadley, who ran 4:13.71, both broke Scharsu's mark.
FALCON CREST: The Austintown Fitch girls won the team title over Stow-Munroe Falls, 63-52.5. Fitch's 4x200 of Lauren Bower, Maddy Miller, Jayme Ritchie and Ebony Davis won in a time of 1:44.87. The 4x100 relay took second.