GENEVA — By now, the Northwest Mohawks have mastered running indoors.
Hence, the motivation moves to the outdoor season, which the Mohawks and everybody else missed last spring because of the coronavirus threat —so Northwest will most definitely try to make up for lost time.
But first, the Mohawks —earlier in March — were represented by a quartet of competitors at the annual Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches state indoor track and field meet, which was held inside the Spire Institute in northeast Ohio in Geneva.
The foursome of Mohawks — which included junior Kailan Marshall and seniors Gabe Morrell, Josh Shope and Landen Smith — qualified in two relay races, the opening 4x800m and the closing 4x400m.
They also qualified in three individual events, as did Minford senior Dutch Byrd in the two-mile run.
As a team, Northwest finished seventh in the standings —thanks largely to Shope capturing the championship of the 800m run and the 4x800m squad finishing as runner-up.
Shope, who placed 16th in the two-lap dash a year ago, ran what head coach Adam Schroeder deemed “the race of the day” in winning the 800.
Shope pulled in front for the last half of the race, and held on to win in a time of exactly two minutes.
“Josh (Shope) ran and executed the perfect strategy to win the 800. The lead runner made a mistake by giving up the inside of the track, and Josh took full advantage of it by leading the last 500 meters and holding on,” said Schroeder.
Before that, Shope joined Morrell, Marshall and the anchor Smith for the opening-event 4x800m, as the Mohawks were ranked fourth for fastest times heading in.
Beachwood, Schroeder said, was the heavy favorite —but Northwest never wavered, as the race came down to the final 60 meters and the Mohawks muscled their way to second place.
The Mohawks’ time of eight minutes and seven seconds from that Saturday stands 21st nationally.
Last season, that Northwest quartet consisted of all juniors —Ricky Gambill, Morrell, Shope and Smith — as that foursome finished sixth in the 4x800m and earned all-Ohio honors as a result.
Schroeder, who heads up the Mohawks’ indoor squad along with serving as the head cross country coach in the fall and an assistant track coach in the spring, explained the entire indoor process —and talked about his runners’ experience.
The coach was most impressed with the way his harriers handled the 4x800m, and nearly shocked big-time favorite Beachwood.
“I was proud of our kids and the way that they came into the meet with confidence knowing that they can compete with some of the best in the state. For the 4×800, I watched all of the Beachwood races and we came up with a strategy where we thought we could have a chance to pull out the win. We ran out front to try and force Beachwood into oxygen debt trying to catch up. Our strategy worked really well, and the kids were a second away from pulling it out and scoring a huge upset. I think that the loss is okay, because it will give them a lot more motivation to come back during outdoor (season) and try to get the win,” said Schroeder. “During the 4×800, someone asked Gabe Morrell what time we were trying to run and he said ‘We aren’t worried about times. We want to run fast enough to win’. I think that is the perfect mindset from an upperclassman.”
Those four returned for their third race of the day and second relay together, finishing seventh in the 4x400m in a time of 3:41.
Besides Shope, Morrell ran the 800m in two minutes and six seconds —and placed 14th.
In the two-mile, Marshall ran a 10:14 to take 15th, as Smith clinched all-Ohio honors by placing seventh in the one-mile in 4:33.
Last season, Smith secured a ninth-place effort in the 1,600m run —and missed all-Ohio accolades by a mere 44 one-hundredths of a second.
For Byrd in the 2021 two-mile, he was 12th with a personal-best time of 10:04.85.
Per Minford coach Jesse Ruby, Byrd shown “great improvement upon” his previous best time of 10:15 from the 2020 indoor season.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to have an outdoor season last year due to the circumstances of COVID-19, so it was great for Dutch to compete this winter, improve on his times, and just have fun with the competition,” said Ruby. “It was an honor for him to compete at the state indoor competition after qualifying for the state cross country meet in the fall.”
Speaking of cross country in the fall — and state qualifying — that is something that Morrell, Marshall, Shope and Smith did twice, as members of the Mohawks’ team.
Smith was twice an all-Ohioan, including crossing the finish line sixth in the Division II boys race this past season, while Shope was also an all-Ohio honoree.
Now, for those four, they step outside and into the elements —but plan to more than make the most of their final season of running together.
“We didn’t have outdoor track last year, so these kids are doing everything that they can to capitalize on this season,” said Schroeder.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved