The Press Newspaper
Eastwood returns to the top, finishes third at state
Eastwood boys track is back.
After winning the Division II state title in 2009 and 2010 and finishing second in 2008, the Eagles had several "down years” before returning to the elite ranks of Ohio's track and field programs by finishing third at the state tournament this season.
Although you could hardly call them “down years” because they still won league and district team titles during that gap, just nothing at the state level.
At Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University, this year Eastwood finished with 38 points, just behind Dayton Dunbar (47) and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (46).
The Eagles won a state championship in the 4x400 meter relay, finishing in three minutes, 18.09 seconds.
Eastwood teams finished second in the 4x800 and third in the 4x100. Individually, Tim Hoodlebrink was third in the 800 (1:53.88) and Devin Snowden finished fourth in the long jump (21 feet, 8½ inches) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (38.65). Both athletes contributed 24 points apiece to the team.
The 4x400, the final event of the day, consisted of Tim Hoodlebrink, Joe Salinas, Brennan Seifert and Snowden, and won in convincing fashion, coming in nearly two seconds ahead of Dunbar.
All four members of the state championship relay team are Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Co-Athletes of the Year, joining Genoa state shot put champion Logan Bryer. Any other Eastwood athlete who won a league, district, or regional title, or qualified for state is on the All-Press Track & Field Honor Roll. Eastwood coaches Brian and Nikki Sabo repeat as Co-Coaches of the Year after leading the boys team to a regional title.
At state, Gabe Fredericks, Logan Baugher, Noah Smith and Tim Hoodlebrink were part of the Eastwood 4x800 team that finished in 7:55.79 and the quartet of Grant Geiser, Snowden, Seifert and Jake Hoodlebrink made up the 4x100 team.
"I think we did great," said Snowden. "We just performed like we're capable of doing. As long as we give our best effort, the points will fall where they should. It feels great because you can share the feeling with three other guys. I was satisfied with long jump and the 300 hurdles and I was satisfied to get my team points and help them out. It's an honor when you put on the track uniform because you get to carry on the tradition that has been there for so many years."
Winning the 4x400 was the first state title in that event for Eastwood.
"Coach (Brian) Sabo just came up to us and said, 'We have a chance to make history,” Snowden said. “We could be the first team in school history to win the 4x400 and he told us that the best place that they'd gotten before was second in 2003. That gave us the motivation to run to the best of our ability."
Tim Hoodlebrink, who put the team in second until he handed the baton to Salinas, added, "Our coach usually says that the first guys are important because you want to make the anchor feel comfortable. I started off and hoped I'd run fast enough that they can get a boost off my energy. And when we got the baton to Devin, we were about 20 meters ahead."
The Eastwood athletes said that third-year coach Brian Sabo doesn't put too much pressure on them by expecting them to finish in certain places, Instead, he measures them on their effort.
"Every time we go to events, (Sabo) tells us that if you give effort, and he can tell, then I'm always going to be proud of you no matter what," Hoodlebrink said. "Last year, when I was running the 800, he told me that I was young and I had nothing to lose, so that helped me relax and I did what I could."
It's helped Snowden, too.
"It's great because (Sabo) is obviously not putting the pressure on us to do something spectacular," Snowden said. "He tells us to do the best we can and whatever happens, happens."
It was another banner year for the Eagles, who won their 14th consecutive Northern Buckeye Conference title, multiple invitational meets, and were district and regional champions, most of which came in convincing fashion.
There's a strong possibility next season could be just as successful, assuming Eastwood replaces its seniors. The team will lose one runner from each of its three relay teams. Snowden and Tim Hoodlebrink, who scored a combined 14 points in their individual events, could fare even better next time around.
"This gives us a lot of hope that we can repeat what we did and improve on it more because we only have to replace a few guys," Snowden said. "It gives us motivation to work hard and hopefully get some guys in there to replace them."