Salem, United make dash for county titles

SALEM – Salem and United will be battling it out at today’s 110th annual Columbiana Track and Field Meet.

“I’ve got it all looked at,” United girls coach Nancy Miller said. “It’s going to be the same two schools.”

The United and Salem girls have finished in the top two for eight straight years and expect to do so again at Reilly Stadium.

The Salem boys have won four straight county titles and eight of the last nine.

“We just kind of move guys around for the regular season, until the county and the league meets, when we plug guys into the right spots,” Salem boys coach Todd Huda said.

The county meet gets under way at 4:30 p.m. today with the boys discus and high jump and girls shot put and long jump along with the running preliminaries.

The Salem boys don’t look the same as their recent county championship teams.

“We’re really different. Our field events are really strong,” Huda said. “At one point, it was distance, then it was sprints and now it is field events.”

The Quakers except to get off to a strong start with two of their best athletes – discus thrower Anthony Shivers and high jumper Zack Wukotich. Both are the defending county champions.

Shivers – last year’s Division II state champion – won the Optimist Meet on Saturday with a county-record toss of 198-feet-1, currently the third best in the nation.

Wukotich has jumped a personal-best 6-foot-6, a half foot higher than anyone else in the county this year.

Salem’s other defending county champions are Caleb Quinn in the 110-meter hurdles and Shivers in the shot put.

“Our kids are doing a great job,” Huda said. “We’re undefeated in the dual meets and came in first in the East Palestine Relays and second in the Cope.”

The Quakers hope to build a big enough lead in the field events and hold off United’s distance runners, which won the last two county cross country titles.

“It’s going to be tough because United has some good distance runners and they have enough in the other events,” Huda said. “It’s going to be (a margin of) 10 points.”

The girls race expects to be even closer.

United, which has won five of the last eight county titles, has not run against Salem this season. The Eagles have opted not to run at the local bigger meets, but ones against different teams to prepare their athletes.

“It’s easy when we go locally,” Miller said. “When we go to Waterloo and Tusky Valley, we see schools a lot bigger than we are and we don’t know their times and what they are able to do. Sometimes it’s nice to go in blind.”

United features defending county champions Allison Parks, who has won the 800 run the last two years, and Emily Guappone in the 1600 run. Salem’s Mallory Maher (3200), Ciera Trybend (shot put)?and Marissa Swindell?(200)?will try to defend their county titles.

It will be another friendly duel between Miller and Salem coach Amie Cochran. Cochran ran on three Salem county championship teams in high school when Miller was her coach.

“It’s almost like coaching against myself,” Miller said. “Our styles are alike, our philsophies are alike and our teams are alike. I enjoy it being that way.

“You make a move and wonder what the counter move is going to be. The weather isn’t going to be a factor. It all comes down to whoever has the best night.”