SALEM - Two of the best girls track teams in Division II showed just why they're the best in the first day of the two-day district tournament Thursday at Reilly Stadium.
Both West Branch and South Range, who have recorded numerous wins throughout the season, earned spots in next week's regional meet at Austintown Fitch High School.
The Warriors picked up its first spot following a second-place finish in the 3200 relay (10:01.58) run by the team of seniors Erin Carver and Rachel Carver, sophomore Haley Davis and freshman Calista Waters.
"This is by far one of our best races," Erin Carver said. "I've been part of the relay all four years, and this is probably the best race we've done."
Rachel Carver has also noticed the improvement of the team throughout the season.
"We started slow in the beginning, but everyone on the team has improved a lot," Rachel Carver said.
The team's familiarity with Reilly Stadium has also been an advantage for the Warriors as noted by coach Nate Heddleston.
"We've run with a lot of confidence here," Heddleston said. "This has become sort-of a home away from home for us. We've competed more here (at Salem) than we have at our own place, so the girls are more familiar with the track and we've gained a lot of confidence."
The Raiders, meanwhile, finished behind the Warriors in third place (10:07.89) in the 3200 to also earn its first spot in next week's regionals courtesy of the team of senior Matti Dunham and sophomores Kameron Hobbs, Madelyn Kimpel and Mollie Pierson.
"Our team is doing really good this year because we've been pushing each other this year," Pierson said. "We've have that good competitiveness that's been able to help us improve. I'm definitely ready for regionals."
The Raiders' excitement also comes for the Raiders as they compete in their first Division II tournament, having competed in Division III in years past, and despite being nervous about the switch, Dunham likes the direction which the Raiders are heading.
"I was sort of nervous at first about moving," Dunham said. "I think we've done better than we thought in this competition, and I think we're going to do really well especially in regionals."
West Branch and South Range also placed second and third, respectively, in the shot put competition as Lea Bock (37-4) and Catherine Schuler (36-5 1/4) both advanced.
"I'm definitely excited to be able to move on," Bock said. "Today I hadn't thrown as well as I thought I would, but I'm happy to advance and look forward to going back to regionals, and hopefully to state."
Both teams also qualified in the high jump, but for this event it was South Range on top as Andrea Oliver (4-11) not only punched her ticket to regionals, but also won the event following a jumpoff with Reyna Kirschner of Alliance (4-10).
West Branch's Brianna Long hit a personal best as she finished third in the high jump (4-10). Heddleston noted that for Long, clearing the opening height of 4-6 in the high jump wasn't exactly easy.
"She was thrown off her game a little by by starting at 4-6," Heddleston said. "They started at such a height where it knocked half the field off. She had her first two misses, yet she's the calmest competitor I've ever seen for a sophomore, and as a freshman last year, then she hit 4-8 and hit 4-10."
The district finals in the remaining field events will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by the running finals at 12:30 p.m.
- Salem senior Hannah Texter took the eighth and final spot in the girls 100 dash in a close finish. Texter's time of 13.729 seconds edged out Salem freshman Elizabeth Aukerman (13.744) and Poland sophomore Abby Musluk (13.748).
- No preliminaries were held for the boys and girls 1600 and 3200 runs. All participants in those races will compete in the finals on Saturday.