· Inter-Valley Conference ·

Lady Pirates maintain control of IVC with sixth straight league crown

Claudia Miller and the Lady Pirates keep the streak alive

When it comes to ruling the top spot in Inter-Valley Conference girls track and field, one school has stood above the rest in recent years.

The Garaway girls continued their reign of dominance, accumulating 157 points to run away with the girls title. This marks the sixth consecutive time the Lady Pirates have earned the top spot in the IVC meet. They easily bested runner-up East Canton’s 113 points while Ridgewood was third with 107.5. Tuscarawas Central Catholic (88), Malvern (63), Sandy Valley (54.5), Newcomerstown (44), Hiland (28) and Strasburg (6) rounded out the field.

“I am so proud of these girls for their effort and the way they performed,” said Garaway coach Zach Mottice, now in his ninth year at the helm of the program. “Six in a row is an amazing feat, and it is a combination of having some great athletes coming through the system and the willingness to work hard for something they want. I know these kids have put in the time, and I know how hard they work because this is important to them.”

Garaway’s foursome of Jocelyn Miller, Helena Immel, Claudia Miller and Ariel Wentworth got the day started on the right foot with a second-place finish in the 4×800, trailing only powerful East Canton’s time of 10:24.65. Garaway finished in 10:41.31, ahead of Hiland’s third-place quartet of Isabelle Fowler, Melissa Hostetler, Olivia Mast and Brooke Miller, who ran an 11:16.96.

Garaway speedster Carly Jacobs ran an amazing race in the 100-meter hurdles, flying home in 15.31, a time that beat the conference record of 15.40. However, that wasn’t even good enough to win as Ridgewood’s Alexis Prater posted an amazing 14.95 to blister the old meet record. Garaway’s Emma Warkall placed sixth in 18.14.

Jacobs would get her revenge by knocking off Prater for the title in the 300-meter hurdles. Jacobs ran a 45.88, smashing the former meet record of 46.8 by nearly a full second while Prater posted a 47.97.

In the 100, Zoe Moser of Malvern sped to a meet record 12.63 time to barely nip Prater by six-hundredths of a second. TCC’s Jada Clendenin was third in 13.44 while Hiland was seventh and eighth with teammates Melody Murtaugh and Marissa Sommers.

In the 4×200, TCC rolled to victory with Saints Nicci Zontini, Camry Cummings, Clendenin and Regina Gonano winning in 1:52.46. Garaway placed second in 1:54.81, anchored by the team of Bailey Donley, Jordan Mutchelknaus, Ashton Gerber and Sara Beachy.

In the 1600, Ariel Wentworth of Garaway and Ashlynn Almasy of East Canton waged one heck of a duel. The two went toe-to-toe with Almasy pulling away down the home stretch to win in 5:37.40, compared to Wentworth’s 5:39.13. Garaway’s Jocelyn Miller was fourth in 5:57.80 with Hiland’s Hostetler placing eighth in 6:10.92.

Donley, Gerber, Beachy and Jacobs took Garaway to first place in the 4×100, winning in 53.09, ahead of runner-up Malvern’s time of 53.98. Hiland’s team of Hailey Miller, Anne Straits, Nikki Yoder and Audrey Menuez placed sixth.

In the 400, Garaway’s Mattie Walter zoomed to the front and stayed there, winning in a time of 1:04.80, ahead of runner-up Brianna Martino of East Canton’s time of 1:05.07. TCC’s Cummings placed fourth in 1:06.08, Hiland’s Isabelle Fowler was sixth in 1:06.82, Haley Shutt of Garaway was seventh in 1:07.05 and Hiland’s Brooke Miller was eighth in 1:08.14.

In the 800, Almasy was tops again, finishing in 2:34.56. Claudia Miller of Garaway was runner-up in 2:41.22. Her teammate Madison Steiner placed fourth in 2:47.15. Strasburg’s Jewell Lewis was seventh in 2:54.08.

Moser got the daily-double in the sprints, blazing to victory in the 200 in a meet record time of 26.13, beating the old mark of 26.60. Clendenin placed second in a good time of 28.06. Garaway teammates Gerber and Beachy earned sixth and seventh.

In the 3200, Wentworth was as good as gold in running a 12:43.17, easily flying past runner-up Emily Cain of East Canton’s time of 12:53.94. TCC’s Sydney Lorentz was fourth in 13:20 while Garaway’s Lindsey Goehring was sixth in 13:33.

In the day’s final competition, the 4×400, Garaway would sew up its IVC title in style, the team of Walter, Mutchelknaus, Shutt and Jacobs pulling away from the field to win in 4:22.44. TCC’s team of Zontini, Clendenin, Cummings and Gonano was second in 4:24.10. The Hiland quartet of Fowler, Brooke Miller, Nikki Yoder and Hostetler placed fifth in 4:31.58.

Over on the field side of the meet, Malvern standout Kelci Hulit continued her reign of dominance. The big thrower chucked the disc 123-10 to easily beat out runner-up Jade Johnson of Newcomerstown’s throw of 110-05. Garaway placed third and fourth, getting efforts of 103-05 and 101-11 from Katya Misko and Makayla Miller.

Hulit doubled down by winning the shot with a heave of 38-05.75. That got her past runner-up Theresa Woods of TCC, who grabbed second at 36-02.25. Misko placed fourth with a throw of 31-08.5 while TCC’s Angelica Mendoza was sixth at 29-05.75.

In the high jump, Sandy Valley’s Baylee Offenberger jumped 4-08 to win, followed by TCC’s Adele Pruni and Ridgewood’s Felicity Caudy, who both cleared 4-06, but Pruni took second on misses. Beachy of Garaway was fourth while Straits of Hiland finished seventh.

The long jump title belonged to Prater, who continued her stellar day by launching herself 17-02.5, more than an entire foot beyond that of runner-up Halie Sciury’s effort of 16-01.5. Garaway’s Walter placed fifth while her teammate Donley was eighth.

Zontini helped TCC’s cause by clearing 9-06 in the pole vault to claim that title. Garaway’s Warkall cleared 9-00 to grab second place with her teammate Olivia Young taking fifth.

Mottice said the team deserves to celebrate this accomplishment, and with just two seniors on the team, that being Wentworth and Misko, the future remains as bright as the present.

“Winning a league title is always difficult,” Mottice said. “It takes a lot of balance from the entire team, and it takes a little bit of everything. I told the girls they should really feel good about celebrating this accomplishment. One of our biggest goals is to win the IVC. That means a lot to us, and that is where it starts.”

Next up comes the district level, where the Lady Pirates have won three straight titles and are looking for a fourth.

Asked which one means more to him and the program, Mottice said it was too hard to tell.

“The district title carries so much weight because that means we are moving a lot of kids on to the next level, and that is what it really is all about, competing and making it to the highest level of competition that is the state meet,” Mottice said. “But at the same time I know what the competition level is in our league, and to have won it six straight times is something special.”

Mottice said the encouraging thing is that through track, all of the school’s multisport athletes are gaining ground. He said that coupled with a group that has really worked hard to hone its respective skills makes it fun to coach.

Now as the season winds down, he said that emotions are growing as is the excitement level, which is only helping to spur the team on.

“Our coaching staff and supporters have been amazing, and these kids have shown a willingness to work for what they want,” Mottice said. “We are feeding off the success of each other right now, and that is motivating us to work even harder. Which has created a lot of success.”

That success has only helped fuel the fire at the junior high level and in the youth program, something Mottice said can’t be overlooked when it comes to success.

“It has taken a lot of people to make this program the success it has become,” Mottice said. “We have grown from a handful of kids in the program to now having 125 kids from seventh through 12th grade. That is unbelievable and extremely exciting to see.”

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