BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Despite having a few weeks of practices under his belt, first-year Maumee track and field coach Paul Barney wasn’t sure what to expect from his teams in their opening meet of the season.
There were plenty of smiles and cheers going around after the 39th annual Maumee Relays at Kazmaier Stadium last week after the boys won the team title and the girls finished fifth out of eight teams.
The Panthers boys team led from start to finish in the team standings, scoring in all 13 events. They totaled 89 points, seven ahead of second-place Lake.
They had first-place finishes in the field events – discus and long jump – and the 3200-meter and distance medley relays.
Maumee placed second in four other events, with the worst finish a fifth place in the 1600 relay.
“With Southview and Central (Catholic) coming in, I was thinking there wasn’t going to be much of a shot,” Barney said. “I told them (Thursday) was going to be bad weather, so it’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s about effort.
“If you give good effort, good things are going to happen. Times will come later when the weather is better. Sure enough, they really laid it down, a lot of surprises everywhere.”
Barney pointed to the throwers as one of those surprises. In addition to their win in the discus, they finished second in the shot put. Junior Preston Johnson recorded the longest individual throw in the shot put and second longest in the discus.
“We just kept taking seconds and thirds everywhere, and we got some occasional firsts – things just kept piling up for us,” Barney said. “The strength was, we kept scoring well in every event. Some of the teams may have put some impressive performances out there, but not in as many events as we did.”
The Panthers also relied on what could be their bread-and-butter, the distance events. While Barney and the coaches knew what to expect from standout runner Eric Board, the other distance runners proved themselves as well.
“We knew Eric would be fine, but we were looking at some of the other distance runners, and for a couple of them, it was their first time competing in track and they did a wonderful job as well,” Barney said. “It was team victories in all those distance races.”
The girls team finished with 51 points, one behind Southview and three behind Central Catholic. The lack of numbers on the girls roster allowed Maumee to score in only 10 of the 13 events.
On top of the already short roster, star distance runner Lucy Porter was sick and unable to compete, meaning the coaching staff had to perform some last-minute maneuvers.
“With the few girls we have on our team, we had to do a lot of juggling around,” Barney said. “We did the best we could. When they were in their races, they all laid it down and had their best efforts as well.”
The Panthers girls took wins in the distance medley relay and the throwers 400 relay, second in the long jump and thirds in the 3200, shuttle hurdles and 1600 relay.
Barney pointed to a pair of girls, Sydney King and Shannon Tolbert, as standouts for the team. They were among the girls who were pressed into duty in events and on relay teams where they don’t normally appear.
“That was something I was kind of unsure about the team because I had never seen them compete before,” Barney said. “When we had to move them around in different events, many times athletes get all, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that,’ but for these kids, it wasn’t an issue for any of them to jump into unusual races.”
He was also pleasantly surprised by the throwers relay team of Jocilyn Kleeberger, Cait Smalley, Evelynn Schneider and Anna Zheng.
“That was another unexpected performance out of them,” Barney said. “Everybody there put together great performances.”