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Woodridge's Mally and Starvaggi each take silver at state track

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: June 11, 2017 12:00 AM
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With some kids, it just seems like everything they touch turns to gold.

That's certainly the case with Jacob Mally.

The Woodridge senior secured silver for the second straight year in the 110-meter hurdles at the Division II state track meet June 3.

Mally's time of 14.58 seconds was just .04 of a second behind Versailles junior Josh Steinbrunner, who took first at 14.54. If Mally started the way he normally does, Carney said, he might have taken gold.

"If he starts the way he normally does, he probably would've won the race," Woodridge coach Les Carney said. "He was chasing the whole time and he's usually out in front in the 110."

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Mally once again shone on the big stage, something he has made a habit of during his time at Woodridge.

It's not just track and field -- Mally also was a First Team All-PTC Metro linebacker for a Woodridge football team that won its first 12 games this season. Nor is it just athletics, with Carney noting that Mally has frequently been selected for solos with the school choir and has been named the lead in school plays.

Recently, the coaches, somewhat humorously according to Carney, came to the conclusion that "he's perfect."

"It's one of those situations you get sometimes where whatever he touches turns to gold," Carney said. "He's such a talented kid. He's just that kid."

Naturally, such a multi-talented kid couldn't qualify for state in just one event. In addition to his second-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles, he made state for the second straight season in the 300-meter hurdles and the high jump, clearing 6-fee-t4 to win the Austintown-Fitch Regional and hitting six feet at state.

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"He's really outstanding and had an outstanding season," Carney said.

Mally wasn't the only Bulldogs track and field athlete to lug a silver medal home from Columbus.

Senior Max Starvaggi, a versatile runner who does everything from the 200 to the 800 for Woodridge, placed second in the state 800-meter run.

"He's been our best middle-distance guy for the last couple of years," Carney said. "He just keeps getting better and better."

His time of 1:54.68 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Starvaggi finished just .22 seconds behind state champion Taylor Hopkins of Heath.

Starvaggi also participated in Woodridge's state-qualifying 3,200-meter relay. Carney credited his diversified workout routine in 2017, when he added swimming and cross-training to his normal mileage to ensure he stayed healthy.

"He's just been outstanding," Carney said.

As much as Starvaggi improved, Ryan Palm might have posted the biggest gains this year. Last season, the senior didn't make it to state in an individual event, placing sixth in the 3,200-meter run at the Austintown-Fitch Regional with a 10:06.60. This year, he shaved 18.42 seconds off his time to advance to state, then shaved another 5.75 seconds off to place sixth in Ohio.

"He's exactly what you want to see out of your seniors at the end of their careers," Carney said. "He continued to improve and peaked at the right time."

Senior Steven Neveadomi also made enormous strides in 2017. Last season, Neveadomi finished short of Columbus, placing eighth at the Austintown-Fitch Regional after jumping 11-feet-6. This year, he entered the season jumping 12 feet , according to Carney, and only got better, leading to a magical run at this year's regional meet. Not only did he place third at regionals to make it to state, he cruised to 13 feet.

"When the opportunity was there, he was ready to take advantage," Carney said. "When the time was coming and the bright lights came on, he was ready this year."

On the girls side, Natalie Fleming and Nicole Fleming ran dominant splits as Woodridge's 3,200-meter relay took fourth at state. After their final high school relay together, Nicole Fleming noted how much she enjoyed running with her twin sister.

"It was a lot of fun," Nicole Fleming said. "Natalie wasn't in our relay sophomore year, so it was really exiting to have her in there last year and this year."

The two complemented each other well.

"We definitely push each other a lot," Nicole Fleming said. "She's better than me in the 400 and I'm better than her in the mile, so the 800 is kind of the middle ground."

Molly Howard and Katie Kearns were the other two legs of the Bulldogs' 4x800 relay, while junior Noah Perrin and senior Yousef Elkurd joined Palm and Starvaggi in the boys 3,200 that placed 12th at state.

Junior Nicole Seff placed 16th in the state in the pole vault, while freshman Libby Howard finished 12th in the open 3,200-meter run.

Nicole Fleming, in addition to her sterling leg of the 4x800 relay, placed sixth in the 800-meter run with a time of 5:05.79, a 3.20-second jump from her regional time.

"It's been one of the best experiences of my life, for sure," Fleming said. "Cross-country and track, being on such great teams, has been an unforgettable experience."

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