The 2021 Track and Field Division I State Championship begins today as 11 Wildcats will compete at Hilliard Darby High School. The Cats will consist of three relay teams and two individuals. Saint Ignatius represents the most state qualifiers in Division I and are hungry to compete for a State Title.
The Track and Field Cats overcame the weather this past weekend at Amherst Steele High School in the Regional Meet. With temperatures in the mid-40s and the wind blowing strong, there was an added pressure for the Cats, but they prevailed. "The weather was the worst regional meet I have ever witnessed," explains Head Track and Field Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "It was a day they had to battle; they were focused and got what we needed to get to qualify."
The 4x100m relay team for the Wildcats were Regional Champions, winning with a time of 43.18. "I knew we were going to have to do an extra-long warm-up because of the conditions," says relay member Anthony Santagata. "We were relaxed and confident, we knew what we had to do and we had the talent to compete."
In the 3200m, Matt Kelly qualified for the State Meet despite the harsh weather conditions at Regionals. "It was a loaded field; I like to run a pretty even race, I don't like to run tactically," Kelly explains. "The wind disappeared in my mind; I just wanted to qualify."
With 11 State Meet qualifiers, emotions have been at an all-time high for the Wildcats as they have worked this week making their final adjustments before heading down to Columbus. Eric Shyne, a member of the 4x100 m relay team, says, "Emotions were running high, they were very happy emotions, we call each other the Legion of Zoom and we were zooming in the Regional Meet and we're excited to see what we can do at States."
"I was excited; we knew it was all going to come together," says Jack McCarthy, member of the 4x100m relay team. "We had rough weather, but we were able to get the job done."
The relay teams for coach Kyle have been nothing short of remarkable this season as the three relay teams include the 4x100m, 4x400m and 4x800m. "Three relays to the state meet are very special," Kyle notes. "4 x 100 is a first in most meets and in that relay, you don't have to be the four fastest guys; it is all about technique on the hand off."
The handoff of the baton has been an integral part of Wildcat relays as that is an area that is practiced often. "We weren't sure who would be on the 4x100m team; it was a competition early in the season," says Santagata. "Handoffs were key, they took a while to learn, but handoffs are what will set us apart."
The 4x400m team will consist of Edwin Abiakl, Jack McCarthy, Max Muresan and Ben Showman. This group of Wildcat runners placed second at Regionals to solidify their spot at the State Meet. For Muresan, this is his first season on the track squad and what a year to be on the team as he'll head to States. "I have been working hard and going to practice every day," explains Muresan. "I am just looking to get better each day."
"The 4x400m was a late-developing team; throughout the season, we saw their times become faster," explains Kyle. "We knew they had the talent, they just had to bring it all together and there is still room to develop."
The 4x400m relay team is a young group for coach Kyle's track Cats as three of the four will return next season with Jack McCarthy graduating. The youngest track Cat heading to the State Meet is Ben Showman, who is finishing up his sophomore year. "Coming into this season, I was an 800m runner," Showman explains. "When I talked with coach (Bob) Wolf '08 about the 400m, I was a maybe, but I ran in the first outdoor meet and progressively have gotten better in the 400m."
McCarthy is a member of both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams heading into the State Meet and notes the 400m is a much more challenging race than the 100m. "The 400m is a bit tougher, but it's fun to be a part of," McCarthy explains. "It is nice being a part of two relay state qualifying teams."
The third relay team competing at the State Meet will be the 4x800m, the first competition on Friday at Hilliard Darby High School around 2:15 p.m. The 4x800m relay team were Regional Champions last weekend with a time of 7:52. "I was nervous coming into the regional meet; it was one of the most nervous races I had my entire life," Peter Fitzpatrick says. "I knew the guys would pull through, winning regionals meant a lot for not only me but for the team and it was a great experience."
An interesting note about the 4x800m relay team that qualified for the State Meet is that this group of guys did not race together until the District Meet a couple of weeks ago. "It has been enjoyable this year," says Aidan Monroe. "We found the right pieces and we're ending the journey with a great team."
"It was a relief," explains Joe Maloney. "It was such a confidence booster; we won regionals, so why not win States?"
Alex Paliga was not a member of the 4x800m relay team during the indoor track season in January and February but now is a key part of the 800m team heading into the State Meet this weekend. "I didn't start with the 4 x 800m in indoor, but I worked hard to get to this moment," says Paliga. "Everyone on this team has improved throughout the season; this is the perfect team."
"This is high caliber running, seven minutes of intensity," Kyle says. "Relays are fun to watch and it is exciting for these kids."
The 200m dash event will feature a member from the Saint Ignatius Track and Field team and that is McCarthy. McCarthy and Kelly are the two Wildcats competing in individual events this weekend. For McCarthy, this is his third event at the State Meet and he appears as calm as ever put in a big situation. "I'm excited and chill about it," explains McCarthy. "This is the most relaxed I've ever been and it is nice being in three events and two different relays."
As the Wildcats have trained all week tuning up for the State Meet, there is a sense of calmness and quiet confidence heading into the final meet of the season. "We're confident and believe in each other," says Edwin Abiakl, who will be competing in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. "I'm Excited but a bit nervous, but we're ready to show what we can do as a team."
The Track and Field Cats loom to prove the early projections wrong at the State Meet. "We're the underdog," says Kelly. "We are going in hungry and looking for some wins and getting on to the podium, looking to surprise some people."
"Top 8 is our basic goal to get on the podium," says Showman. "I'm excited and was excited when we qualified; we can't wait to compete in Columbus."
The Wildcats are hungry for a State Championship and they have the talent to bring home first-place finishes in the relays and individual events. The opening events will be Friday around 2:30 p.m. and Saturday will open around 3 p.m. at Hilliard Darby High School. Good luck to all of the Wildcat competitors, as 11 members square off in the State Meet.