For Eastwood boys, 20th straight title remains elusive

J. Patrick Eaken

The Eastwood boys and girls track teams were both going for their 20th consecutive league championship — dating back to their days in the Suburban Lakes League.
Since the Northern Buckeye Conference formed, Eastwood has been the only school to win a league track championship, boys or girls.
Their chance to defend was denied and the season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They did get to compete at the state indoor meet over the winter.
Senior Nate McCauley-Benner, who will run track at Ohio Northern University, qualified for two indoor state events as one leg of the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams last March. He also competed in the outdoor state meet in 2018 in the 4x400 and was one of the team captains this year.
Mostly a sprinter for Eastwood, Sabo believes ONU may extend his skills to other events, and that extends beyond track and field.
“He’s mainly a 400 guy, but I could see them bumping him up to an 800 as well. Interestingly enough, I think he’s going to do e-sports as well. He wants to major along those lines,” Sabo said.
Another senior, Jaden Rayford, will compete for the University of Toledo football team next year. He was the 2020 state indoor runner-up at the indoor state meet with a jump of 21-3¼.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Rayford helped Eastwood to an 11-1 record in 2019 and a deep run in the playoffs. The four-year letter winner earned all-state honors during his career and helped Eastwood to a Division V state runner-up finish as a sophomore. His 4,710 career rushing yards are the most in school history and the most by any player in conference history. He was a three-star prospect, according to 247 Sports and is expected to play safety for the Rockets.
There are other Eastwood track seniors who could play collegiate sports, says Sabo.
Senior captain Logan Wendt qualified to the indoor state meet in the 60-meter hurdles and 4x200. Senior captain Montgomery Kramer qualified in the 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams, and another senior captain, Trey Tuttamore, qualified in the triple jump. Senior Luke Coffman qualified in the 4x800 relay.
Other senior captains were Austin Kieper and Riley Welker and Mason Steele was the team’s junior captain.
Sabo believes some of these student-athletes would have pursued participating in college, too, if they wanted to. He says two athletes are considering it but remain undecided.
“We had a couple other kids who had a lot of interest from colleges, and it may be financial or something, but they just chose to go to a BG (Bowling Green State University) or someplace like that, because it just kind of a little better financially,” Sabo said.
“But we were fortunate to have some good athletes and a good senior class. Not only were they fairly talented, but they were great kids and great leaders, and that’s including the freshmen, the girls — it didn’t matter who you were, you were included. That’s what I kind of missed the most.”
Sabo said some of his seniors might have had a breakout season, which he has seen before.
“I’ve always said this. I run the weight room, so either in the weight room or in track I always see a big jump between the sophomore and junior year or junior and senior year,” Sabo said. “It might be two jumps — one might be big, and one might be little. Who is to say what could have happened with some of them?”
Sabo said since the season was canceled, getting to compete during the indoor season at least gives the track athletes some experience.
“It’s optional. We like to have kids who aren’t doing anything to do something to obviously keep them active,” Sabo said. “It’s a way to keep them competitive, but it’s pretty low key. We have some that I think just like to do it. The nice part about with indoor is it is 70 degrees all the time and there is no wind and no rain.”
After the pandemic shut things down, Sabo could see even more reason for the Ohio High School Athletic Association to begin sanctioning a winter indoor track season.
“Especially after this year, it might be a way to get money back,” Sabo said. “There is not much of a cost for indoor as far as travel and things like that and I know that indoor state meet makes pretty good money. The district and regional is eliminated, so it’s really just qualifying at college meets that you go run at.”


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