Rockets continue to shine

J. Patrick Eaken

When Oak Harbor enters the Northern Buckeye Conference in 2023, Eastwood’s dominance in track may be challenged. 

Eastwood boys had won 19 straight boys titles until this year, when they were edged by Genoa. 

But Oak Harbor boys coach Andy Augsburger, a Pandora-Gilboa graduate, credits his friends and associates, Eastwood coaches Brian and Nicole Sabo, for helping him when he first came onto the scene.

“Brian and Nikki are doing an amazing job over there. I have the utmost respect for them,” Augsburger said. “I love competing against them. They are just a great group of coaches who want the best for track and field. If I am thinking about the people who when I first started sort of encouraged me throughout that time, they were both there encouraging and happy for successes and stuff like that for any coach. That shows the character of those two coaches for sure.”

The Eastwood girls have won 20 straight NBC titles, but Oak Harbor girls have won 12 Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division titles under coach John McKitrick, including 11 straight.

“It will be fun when we come into the NBC,” McKitrick said. “The SBC has been phenomenal, but Eastwood is obviously a team that we see every year at districts, and it is nice to see them there. It almost seems like coming home a little bit. I’m looking forward to it.”

Eastwood had one Division II state qualifier, sophomore Julia Sabo, the daughter of the coaches, who tied for fourth in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet, six inches.

Oak Harbor had seven girls qualify for the Division II state meet with one individual and one relay team placing.

“Right now, we have a little buzz going about us and we are excited about that but at the same time it causes a little extra pressure on us,” said McKitrick, who has been coaching since 1999.

“I think they have bought into the recipe,” McKitrick said. “It’s a lot easier group to coach when they’ve seen the successes that we have shown along the way. We have to do this, that and the other, and those kids make that happen throughout the season.

“I used to struggle to get kids to complete events throughout a meet or run the 4x400 or do something extra but now these kids are just biting at the bit. Seniors, they do not want to take a day off. Occasionally, you want to give your kids a day off, say, ‘Hey, it is getting a little cold, let’s not run this 4x400 today.’ 

“I do not mind doing that as a coach, but they are afraid if they come off the relay they might not be going back on because the next kid might want that spot. It is competition within the program that has helped overall.”


Mizelle overcomes freshman start

Leading the Rockets was junior Amelia Mizelle, who qualified for state in both hurdles events and placed third in the 100 hurdles. Her time of 15.32 placed her behind Akron Buchtel junior Damya Barker (14.75) and Gilmour Academy junior Karah Henderson (15.22). The road to state has not been easy for Mizelle, who also qualified for state in swimming as part of multiple relay teams.

“Amelia Mizelle obviously has come into her own this year,” McKitrick said. “As a freshman she had a real promising year but had a real letdown at districts. I felt like we left something on the table her freshman year. I’m also the hurdle coach, but I also spend time in other areas, and I feel like I let her down as a freshman. She just wasn’t ready, not that she was going to make it to state, but she should have gone to regionals and we just had her down at the preliminaries at districts and we weren’t ready for that day. 

“I made her a promise as a freshman that we’ll make sure we’ll honor that. We’ll work harder next year and then next year never happened. This season she showed up on the track and we thought we had a good group of hurdlers already on the track waiting for our swimmers to show up. She showed up that first day and showed that hey, she is the top hurdler in the program. There was no kidding. She was really ready to go this year, a few years older than she was a couple years ago, and ready — an absolute pleasure to coach this year.”

Mizelle’s challenge this year was Margaretta junior Kenna Stimmel, who she finished second to at the SBC Bay Division meet, but Mizelle beat her at the Oak Harbor Invitational.

“This is a young lady who is a 4.0 student, she is cognitively gifted, and she doesn’t talk a lot. She listens, she analyses what she has to do, and she puts it into play. She just did a great job and really one of the only kids to beat Stimmel this year and she can check that off her list, that hey, I got Stimmel at the Oak Harbor Invitational,” McKitrick said. 

“It just shows that she was on the right path, and she is able to compete with these big names so when we got to state, and maybe our time wasn’t looking that great because we are running at regionals into a 20 or 30 miles per hour wind and our time just didn’t show that she was one of the top hurdlers in the state. We know otherwise. It was just a phenomenal finish for her.”

The Rockets 4x200 relay team of seniors Paige Clune, Emily Haar, Elayna Krupp and sophomore Rylee McKitrick placed sixth at state with a time of 1:45.29, less than four seconds behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (1:41.97).

“The relay did a nice job,” Coach McKitrick said. “Out of the three relays that we were hoping to get to state it was probably the one we were less focused on and we just had some bad luck with the other two relays. The 4x100 relay dropped the baton at regionals and they had the No. 1 relay team in the state of Ohio and then the 4x400 gets disqualified at state on a call. I thought they were going to be second or third. But overall, it was a good year for the kids. It’s part of the sport and something we’ll use next year to say, ‘Hey, practices are meaningful.’”







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