HANOVERTON - The South Range and United boys track teams had been dueling through a steady rain the entire night at the Inter-Tri County League upper tier track meet.
With his team down by six points, Raider distance runner Ben Stebelton geared up for the 3200-meter run-the next-to-last-event of the night-knowing his team's run of four straight conference titles was very much in jeopardy. Ten minutes later, as Stebelton came down the stretch flying in front with his teammate Jordan Roush right behind him, he knew the title was back in grasp.
Stebelton's win in the 3200 (10:41.89) -combined with Roush's second-was enough to push the Raiders to a four-point victory Thursday at United High School.
South Range totaled 158 points to United's 154, while Crestview finished a distant third with 53 points. It is the fifth straight ITCL title for the South Range boys.
"How many points we needed was always in the back of my mind," Stebelton said. "The whole race we had to have the mindset that we had to go take it."
Unlike some of the Raiders four previous titles, this one was far from expected for South Range coach Diane Krumpak.
"This year was a pleasent surprise more than anything else. I couldn't be happier," Krumpak said. "I was looking at the times and distances coming in and I wasn't sure we'd make it."
The Raiders held on for the win with a second-place finish in the 1600 relay, anchored by Adam Meloy. Meloy also collected wins in the 200 dash (23.05 seconds) and the 400 dash (52.54).
"We expected a big challenge from United. We knew it was going to be close" Meloy said. "They have a lot of great athletes. I ran pretty well. I really didn't mind the rain."
United's second-place effort was led by Riley Fillman, who won three events to capture the boys meet MVP. Fillman won the 110 hurdles (15.98), 300 hurdles (42.03) and long jump (19-8 1/4).
"It's nice to win three events, but really wish we would have got the win," Fillman said. "We were really close. Everyone ran their hardest tonight."
Fillman battled a stiff back all night in the wet conditions.
"It's been bothering me for a while now, and I definitely was not at my best tonight," Fillman said. "I took a week off last week and have been getting some physical therapy. It's feeling better than it has been"
So dominant were the Raiders and Eagles that they combined to win all but two of the events.
Crestview's E.J. Miller broke through in the 800 run (2:06.77), while Crestview's Caleb McGath won the high jump (5-8).
"We know some of the guys from United and they are always great to compete against," Meloy said. "They are a great program. It was fun going back and forth with them."
Raider girls win
Track is often thought of as an individual sport, but Thursday, the South Range girls team showcased the power of their team mindset.
Using a balanced effort in which nearly everyone on the roster contributed, the Raiders swept aside the competition at the Inter-Tri County League upper tier track meet at United High School.
The Raiders totaled 164 points, while United came in second with 99 and Mineral Ridge finished third with 70. It is the second straight ITCL title for the South Range girls.
"Every one of these girls worked so hard all year," South Range coach Diane Krumpak said. "They realize that this is a team thing and that's what makes me the proudest."
The highlight for the Raider's was senior Raianne Mason's meet record time of 46.53 on her way to capturing the 300 hurdles.
"I was so excited when they announced the time." Mason said. "I had no idea I was so close. My time has been dropping steadily all year. Every meet I've been shaving off a little more time."
Mason is on a mission this year after finishing fifth in the regional finals last season.
"It came down to the last hurdle at regionals last year," Mason said. "It motivated me to work very hard this year, and my teammates have been pushing me all season."
While South Range won the team event, many around the track were talking about the performance of United's Allison Parks, Parks won the 400 dash (60.47), 800 run (2:24.76), 1600 run (5:32.09) and 3200 run (11:55.59) to take home the girls MVP.
"I wanted to see if I could win the four open events," Parks said. "I didn't pass out, I didn't die so we're good." "I've never done the mile, 400, 800 and two mile before so it was fun."
Parks clinched her final win of the night with a closing burst, blowing by South Range's Mollie Pierson in the final stretch of the 3200.
"You never feel like you're going to have anything left at the end, but there is always something there," Parks said. "Mollie set a great pace in that race and gave me a push."