It was a night for the home team at Friday’s Tiger Booster Track Invitational.
Hagerstown’s dominating girls team took the title for the sixth straight year, and the combined teams won the overall title for the fifth time in a row.
But late success in distance races pulled the Tigers ahead of a pack of contenders on the boys side, and Hagerstown won the team crown for the first time since 2000, in the 31st annual event at Cory Field.
Individually, sprinters from Wayne County schools scored the most points in the meet. Lincoln’s Kassidy West took both the girls 100 and 200 meters, was second in the long jump and seventh in the 400 meters. Northeastern’s Quest Schwab won both the 100 and 200 meters and ran on the winning Knights’ 400 and 1,600-meter relay teams.
And Centerville had a solid night as well, finishing second in both the boys and girls standings. The meet featured eight schools, Blue River, Knightstown, Shenandoah and Tri from Henry County and the four Wayne County Tri-Eastern Conference schools.
Hagerstown’s girls won every track event except the two won by West. Senior Lindy Smith won both the 100 and 300 hurdles for the Tiger girls and was a part of two of the team’s three winning relay teams.
She topped Knightstown’s Emily Thomas in a battle between two of the area’s best in the 100 hurdles, then ran away from the field in the 300 hurdles to win by more than four seconds.
“This year is my last year, and I have been working harder in practice to be more successful,” Smith said.
Hagerstown girls coach Karen Matanich was smiling and taking pictures on her phone after her squad piled up more than twice the points (191) of the second-place Bulldogs (94).
“This is a great group of competitors. They all compete against girls like Lindy Smith in practice, and our No. 2 and 3 runners push our No. 1 runners like Lindy,” Matanich said.
Senior Hayley Rogers, an IU East signee, easily won the girls 800 and 1,600 meters, plus also competed on two winning relays. Sydney Denhart took the 400 meters, Amelia Dick won the 3,200, and, in field events, Kaley Caudill took the high jump and Aimee Hoodlebrink the long jump.
On the boys side, longtime coach Kent Gray enjoyed the win, as the Tigers bested Centerville and a strong third-place Northeastern performance in sprint races.
“It’s been a long time for our boys team, so it is really enjoyable to get the win,” Gray said. “Our distance kids, in particular, did a great job, with Matthias Ritter having a great time in the 800 meters.”
Ritter won the 800 meters in a good time of just 2:02.88, while Mason Bledsoe won both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. The Tigers won the 3,200-meter relay to start the meet.
“I knew if I could be close at 300 meters, I could stride it in, and it worked out for me,” Ritter said of his approach in holding off Tri distance ace Chris Flowers.
Hagerstown was in a close team battle, but the win by Bledsoe and the third-place finish by Jevon Osborne in the 3,200 gave the hosts enough points to sew up the long-sought title.
Northeastern’s Jacob Austerman won the boys 400 meters, then anchored the winning Knight effort with Tyler Sandlin, Schwab, and Shane Stiner to end the meet.
All of the Wayne County TEC schools will compete in the conference meet next Thursday at Union City.
A pair of streaks will be put on the line as Centerville’s boys go for a 14th straight team title and Hagerstown’s girls compete for a fourth consecutive crown.
Centerville had 12 straight Tiger Booster victories before Lincoln won in 2013.