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It’s more about the competition in the long run

May 24, 2010

Congratulations to all the local high school athletes who spent Friday and Saturday at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field in the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships.

I do not care which state you are in, making it to the state meet is a great thing.

It's the largest stage for high school track and field athletes.

Most will not go to college to compete, so this is it.

Emotions run the gamut.

And, Weir High's Marty Zangus had those emotions.

You see, in a regular track meet, which the state meet is not, Zangus would have run the 110 hurdles and, as expected, won a state championship. He was the favorite by a landslide in the highs and did not disappoint.

He should have really enjoyed that moment.

But, he didn't and, in his mind, couldn't.

The state meet is not a regular track meet because the events are not in order. So, what the athletes have been training to do all year has to be tweaked for the ultimate meet.

The first sprint races are usually the hurdles and the 100.

But, because this is West Virginia and things are done differently, the first championship hurdles race Saturday morning are the two heats of the 300 hurdles.

Zangus was in the fast heat.

Although not expected to win, other than in his own mind, he was expected to compete for the title and, in any hurdles race, you never know what's going to happen.

And, it happened.

Zangus went out as fast as he ever had and, for whatever reason, hit the final hurdle and the tartan track.

"I've never done that before," he said. "It's the first time I've ever fallen. Period.

"I've never fallen in practice, warming up - nothing.

"I really do care that I won in the highs because I've wanted that for four years, but there was more competition in the threes and it just meant more to me. I like competition better than just being out there by myself."

Now, that's being truthful.

I like the fact that Zangus cared more about not winning than he did about winning.

He said over and over again that he loves competition and losing a race is not a big thing. He wants to compete against the best with losing not a reason not to run.

If you play any athletic event and care more about winning and losing than the process of playing the game, it's time to check the priorities.

It's all about competition.

It's all about pushing yourself past the boundaries you have set.

Weir's Sarah Cline knows that and teammate Kelsey Ferguson just found that out late Saturday afternoon.

"I can't feel my body," Cline said after she was the lead runner as she teamed with Ferguson, Tricia Marker and Monica Pennacchio to win the 4x400 relay, defending their state championship. "I think that's pretty good. If you fall over and your legs feel like Jello, it means you did well."

Ferguson, who makes her name as an elite swimmer and a four-time state gold medalist in the pool, learned about those-Jello-legs-thing after her tour of the oval.

"I've never had to have help getting up, ever," she said. "I needed help today."

That is track.

Track is running your hardest, throwing up really hard, getting up, recovering and begin preparing for the next race.

Now, onto Jesse Owens Stadium June 4-5 for the Ohio state meet.

Sports isn't all about the final score.

It's actually about the process and what it takes to get to the final score.

That final score can be an 11.05 to win a state meet, a 4-3 loss in the baseball playoffs, or a perfect football season.

It can be about the girl who just ran her best in the 3200, knocked 32 seconds off her best time and finished eighth.

In golf, it's all about your score after 18 holes.

Your score after nine holes means nothing.

I've seen too many people go 34-47, 46-36, 40-55 or 53-38.

An oh-for-3 means nothing when you come to the plate in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded, one out and the winning run is at third base.

Sports is also about sticking to your convictions.

A case in point happened last week.

From the Dayton Daily News:

Franklin High School's doubles team will not be permitted to advance to Thursday's district tournament, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced this morning.

Roxanne Price, OHSAA assistant commissioner, said senior Cody Buffenbarger and junior Stefan Mangroo were disqualified because the team didn't play in Saturday's sectional semifinals.

Mangroo, a Seventh-Day Adventist, decided not to play Saturday because that's his Sabbath.

Price said the rules clearly state that teams that don't play can't advance to the next round.

At the seed meeting on May 2, Price said the Franklin coach or someone from the school should have mentioned that Stefan can't play on Saturdays. At that time, she said, the schedule may have been adjusted.

Earlier, the state said New Richmond, which lost to Franklin 6-1, 6-1, in the sectionals would advance in Franklin's place, but Price said only three teams would advance.

I am all for Mangroo and his decision.

My problem, though, is that his decision impacted his doubles partner.

Coaches know far in advance what the dates for playoffs are.

This problem should have been brought up long before this mess happened.

I am all for freedon of religion.

I am all for a young man sticking up for what he believes is right.

But, this should not be that big of a deal because the state tennis tournament is this Friday and Saturday, which means even if the doubles team would have never played on a Saturday, they would have had to do so if they reached the state semifinals, scheduled for Saturday.

Price said the rule No. 13, assures that teams "participate" and don't forfeit.

She also said the OHSAA cannot adjust its tournament schedule based on students' obligations, such as proms, graduation, school field trips and advanced placement tests.

If the doubles team had showed up, and lied about an injury, they would have lost the match, but advanced to the next level, everyone agreed.

That's one big issue right there.

If the kid would have showed up and lied, the doubles team would have been able to advance.

Anybody else see a problem with that?

What the OHSAA really needs to look at is allowing school's to play or practice on Sundays.

That has to go.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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