Sams, Greenmen find reason to smile

Jonah Rosenblum
Record-Courier
Aurora's Aiden Henderson competes during the boys 400 dash Wednesday night during the Division I Austintown Regional.

AUSTINTOWN — Donovan Crawford started the day by breaking an Aurora record that had stood since 1977 and becoming its first discus thrower to make state in decades.

Aurora's 4x400 capped Wednesday's Division I Austintown Regional with another school record, earning the top qualifying time entering Friday's final with a 3:23.17.

It was, in short, a good day from start to finish for the Greenmen.

"I've lost count at how many school records we've set this year," Aurora coach Chris Radtke said. "It's a lot."

Aurora’s Donovan Crawford competes during the boys discus Wednesday night during the Division I Austintown Regional.

Crawford's good day began with his very first throw, a 164-09.

"It took a lot off my shoulders," the Aurora senior said. "I really felt like once I got that one throw to really get to state, I could just relax and just let a good one rip."

It turned out that 164-09 would have been enough to finish third and qualify for state but Crawford wasn't done. He went up to 169-10 on his second throw, setting a school record, then quickly broke that record on his very next throw, tossing a 172-04. That allowed him to make state with relative comfort, by a margin of greater than 17 feet.

"It feels good," Crawford said. "A lot of hard work went to it. I've basically been chasing this record all year, actually since I got here. I saw the record board and that was a big goal of mine."

Aurora's 4x400 had a trifle more drama, as junior Ryan Kotora gave senior Max Manderbach the baton with the Greenmen sitting solidly in the top three, then Manderbach kicked late to take first approaching the halfway point of Wednesday's relay.

"I like to start it out fast but not too fast," Manderbach said. "I just kind of coast behind the guys for the first 250 (meters), and then once I hit that 150 meters to go, I just start all-out sprinting and try to catch everyone I can."

For a moment, it appeared junior Aiden Henderson would get caught by the two runners trailing him. Instead, he held his lead entering the final curve and then exploded into the final straightaway.

"I heard his footsteps behind me," Henderson said, explaining his burst.

Given a big lead, senior Noah Harrison wasn't about to let it slip.

"It's all of them," Harrison said. "Them being able to get me in the lead puts me so comfortable and relaxed when I get that baton."

After the race, the four couldn't stop smiling, almost in disbelief at setting the school record yet again. Kotora, reflecting on the 4x400, exclaimed, "This is the best race ever."

"It's a man's race," Kotora said, explaining his love of the 4x400. "You just got to go out there once you hit that 300 mark and you just got to kick it in."

The Greenmen weren't the only happy ones Wednesday.

The Rough Riders also found cause for celebration.

Roosevelt’s Olivia Sams competes during the girls 300 hurdles Wednesday night during the Division I Austintown Regional.

While Roosevelt sophomore Olivia Sams came two spots shy of qualifying for Friday's regional final in the 300 hurdles, she easily set a PR with her time of 48.83.

"She's worked really hard this year and ran her PR by almost a full second today," Rough Riders coach Aaron Carlton said. "She's dropped consistently for the last three, four weeks."

Considering that Sams had never run the 300 hurdles, or high school track at all, entering this season, finishing 10th at the Austintown Regional left the sophomore smiling.

"Since COVID (canceled my 2020 season), I'm kind of like a freshman running track and field," Sams said. "So I started the season running 53s, never doing it before and it just feels great to have PRed so much."