St. Paul preps for big state weekend

Mark Hazelwood • May 29, 2018 at 9:53 PM

NORWALK — Paul Pearce grew up a baseball player.

And yet his St. Paul athletics career is going to end inside Jesse Owens Stadium this weekend at the Division III state track and field championships.

After battling a shoulder injury for years, Pearce switched to track this spring, and is part of the Flyers’ 4x100 relay that will compete at 10:55 a.m. Friday in the 18-team preliminary race.

Sophomore Cam Caizzo starts the relay, followed by Pearce, junior Treg Smith and senior Joey Catalano.

“It’s been an experience — I never thought my career would end with track,” Pearce said. “I’ve played baseball since I was little, but looking back on it, now that I’m going to finish my career at state track … it’s crazy really.”

The team qualified with a 44.28-second run last week at the regional meet held in Tiffin. The week before that, the group set a personal-best with a time of 44.01 — which it will likely take at least that, on paper, to reach Saturday’s championship race.

But that is something Catalano says the group is well aware of.

“For state especially, we’ve done all we can,” he said. “All we can do now is beat our PR — so really our biggest competition is ourselves.

“Our goal is to beat the PR, and go after the school record,” Catalano added. “To go from 44.01 to 43.40 isn’t that far away. That’s really the goal, to etch ourselves at the top and see where that gets us at state.”

Catalano noted the group started 2018 strong from the outset, turning in times early that they didn’t reach until about three-quarters of the way through 2017.

“really from there it’s just been working on handoffs to save the most time,” he said. “But it’s a great feeling. Knowing you get to go down to Columbus with your team the whole season and find out how well you can do — that’s always the goal.”

Meanwhile, the St. Paul boys 4x800 distance relay also earned one of the new at-large bids. Taking advantage of all nine lanes, each region was guaranteed the top four teams per usual, but then the next two best times also earned state bids.

The team of sophomores Zach Stine and Nate Tokarsky, junior Noah Avendano and senior Jared Arnold ran an 8:14.57 to reach the state field. Despite the fifth-place finish at the regional in Tiffin, that time seeds 11th out of the 18.

Also for the Flyer boys, junior Davis Hedrick will compete in the discus throw. His toss last week of 152-feet-1 seeds him eighth out of 16 competitors over the two flights entering the 4 p.m. Friday event.

“All the hard work we’ve been doing, my teammates and everyone around us has been doing — it’s all paid off this week,” Pearce said of 16 athletes in nine events reaching state in boys and girls. “Now we’ll see what we can do down there.”

On the girls side, every relay made it to state with the 4x800, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 teams. Olivia Powers will also run in the 100-meter dash.

Senior Gabby Scavuzzo will run in the three sprint relays for the Lady Flyers, including the lead runner in the 4x100 and 4x200 events.

“We have a solid group of runners and we all trust the process and trust our coaches, and most importantly, each other,” she said. “We’ve been able to make it work.”

The 4x100 enters Friday’s preliminary race with the third-best time (50.19), while the 4x200 (1:45.47) has the fourth-fastest time entering the event.

The 4x400 time of 4:01.32 is second only to Covington’s 3:59.67. Joining Scavuzzo in the 4x100 and 4x200 is Meghan Hedrick, Gwen Olcott and Olivia Powers, while Lily Dowdell swaps in for Olcott in the 4x400.

Dowdell will also compete in the 1600 run individually, seeded 14th going in with a time from last week of 5:25.54.

“We’re just going to do what we know how to do, and whatever happens will happen,” Scavuzzo said. “We’re hoping for the best, but it’s an honor to even make it down to state. So whatever we perform, we will all be proud of each other.”

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