MADISON TOWNSHIP – If you see Michelle Smith with a purple streak in her blonde hair it’s not because of a bad dye job.
It’s because of a good track team. Hers.
Led by distance dynamo Dominique Clairmonte, Smith’s Lexington girls out-distanced Ashland 124-112 to end a nine-year title drought in the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet Friday at Madison High School.
Her girls chanted “Purple Hair … Purple Hair,” wanting a complete hair makeover in one of the school colors from Smith. She compromised and agreed to a streak.
Clairmonte did her streaking on the oval, setting OCC records in the 1,600 meters (5:10.14) and the 800 (2:16.05). She also anchored the winning 4 x 800 and 4 x 400 relay teams and was named the meet’s female running events MVP.
The reigning cross country state champ took a break from the 3,200, but sounded like she would have run five events if the rules allowed.
“I have the energy to do it,” she said, smiling, before the 4 x 400. “I really like the 3,200, but when I don’t run it that’s OK because the 800 and the 400 (split) help with my speed. At the end of the day I’m still doing (races) that will help me.”
Lex also got a first from another Clairmonte, Sophie, in the discus (113-4) and exhibited team depth with double-placers in a handful of events to deny Ashland the crown and dethone two-time defending champ West Holmes.
Collaborating with Dom Clairmonte in the 4 x 800 were Abby Miller, Whitney Wendling and Ashley Basham, while her 4 x 400 crew including Basham, Caitlyn Haas and McKenna Curtis-Collins.
Wooster repeated as champ on the boys side, but not without a scare from Mansfield Senior, which boasted the male running events MVP in quadruple winner Quez Wellington.
His fairy-tale season continued as the senior first-time performer won the 100 and 200 dashes in 11.26 and 22.59, respectively. He also anchored the winning 4 x 200 and 4 x 100 relays, joined in both races by Kaz Sutton.
“I didn’t think (about being MVP) at all,” Wellington said. “Coach pumped it into my head (it could happen) with hard work and I started getting a little more confidence.
“I felt like I ran the curve (in the 200) better than I ever did.”
Sophomore Joe Ellis, another first-year track participant for the Tygers, may have one-upped Wellington when it came to improbable stories. Just two weeks after suffering a high-ankle sprain he wore a brace while clearing 6-4 to win the high jump and ran the pop-off leg on the winning 4 x 200.
“It’s just hard work,” said Ellis about overcoming the injury and practicing only once this week. “I wanted to do as much as possible to get ready for districts. I really want to jump 6-6 next week. I’ve done 6-4 a couple of times, but haven’t really tried 6-6 yet.”
Tyger coach Khalil Ali was against Ellis competing Friday, but he was overruled.
“The kids begged me to let him run because they know how talented he is,” Ali said. “He’s long-jumped 21 feet and hasn’t even hit the board yet. He’s behind it 18 to 24 inches every time. If he ever hits the board, he’ll hit 23 feet easy.”
Also running on the winning relays were Jornell Manns, Brian Benson and George Swarn.
“Since I’ve been back (in Mansfield) this is the most talented group of kids I’ve had,” said Ali, who spent time as the sprint coach at Westerville Central, producing three state champs in four years. “They just have to eat the food (advice from the coaching staff) we put on the table for them.
“Look at Quez … they just have to do it.”
Madison’s Frank Douglas, wearing what looked like a cumbersome brace on his left knee, three-peated in the 110 and 300 hurdles without even being pushed. Because of a bone bruise suffered in practice, he hadn’t run hurdles since he stunned state champ Chad Zallow of Warren JFK in the 300s at the Mehock Relays in mid-April.
“The brace slows me down a lot; I’m just happy I was able to run in my last OCC meet here at home,” Douglas said. “(The bone bruise) is painful. The doctor said all I can do is ice it and hope it goes away. I can’t bring my trail leg up as much as I want to.
“I’ll do my best and hopefully have a story to tell about how I ran with a knee brace.”
Helping him off with his brace after the 300s was his biggest area rival — Mansfield Senior’s Kaz Sutton. It might have looked strange to anyone who didn’t know they were cousins.
“I love him; he’s my big cousin,” Sutton said. “It’s nice having someone you’re related to you can race against.”
Sutton will be attending Baylor University on an academic scholarship to study mechanical engineering. He tried to talk Douglas, being courted by some Division I track programs, to join him.
“Texas is too far away,” Douglas said, smiling.
Ashland’s Cirrus Robinson was a double winner, winning the girls high jump (5-4) and 400 meters (1:02.6). The Mansfield Senior girls 4 x 100 team of Alaysia Grose, Alysse Wade, Makenna Hawk and Alaya Grose took first (50.36) and the two Grose cousins claimed the short sprints. Alaya won the 100 in 12.59 and Alaysia took the 200 (26.3).
Clear Fork’s Eric Jackson and Brad Studenmund won the discus (162-7) and 400 (51.95), respectively, and Ashland’s Leif McFrederick finished first in the 3,200 (9:34.9).