Wright would jump at chance at repeat
WELLSVILLE — The Wellsville boys track team had several workouts on the new all-weather track at Nicholson Stadium before Gov. Mike DeWine closed the schools in mid-March.
“We practiced for a couple of weeks,” Wellsville track coach Randy Thrasher said. “They loved it.”
It wasn’t enough for senior Justin Wright, a two-time state champion.
“Justin told me one time, ‘I could climb the fence,'” Thrasher said. “I said, “No.”
That didn’t stop him from getting a couple more workouts on the new track.
“Truthfully, I jumped the fence a few times,” Wright said. “I got in trouble for it. I figured who would see me? They saw me.”
The OHSAA eventually canceled the spring sports season on April 20 after the governor closed all Ohio schools for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic
“It’s a bummer I can’t run on it,” Wright said. “I was hoping to set the state record. That’s what I was going for. It was my biggest disappointment. Now it’s my biggest motivation.”
Wright is the defending Division III state champion in the 100-meter dash and long jump and the state runner-up in the 200-meter dash.
He became only the second Columbiana County athlete and first since 1922 to capture at least two golds and one silver as an individual at the state track meet.
Last season he had the area’s top marks in the 100-meter dash (10.57 seconds), 200-meter dash (21.64 seconds) and long jump (23-feet-3 1/4) — all some of the best in Columbiana County history.
That helped him get an athletic scholarship from the University of Iowa.
“It’s tough, I’m looking at it more as motivation,” Wright said. “There were a lot of things I wanted to do and times I wanted to pass (especially the Division III state record of 10.55 seconds).
“Now I’m just looking forward to college and the college experience.”
With the start of the spring sports season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wright went off course a little.
“He was not training as much as he should,” Thrasher said. “He said Iowa is more important than this. I said we don’t know what’s going to happen, you have to be ready. He texted me later and said I was right.”
“I wouldn’t say I wasn’t motivated to work out,” Wright said. “It was heartbreaking and I had to sit back a couple of days. My time is definitely going to come.”
Now he’s back on track.
Wright said he has some free weights at home and pulls a sled up a nearby hill as part of his training.
“Now I’m looking forward to getting ready for college,” Wright said. “I feel bad for those guys (his fellow seniors). It was their last chance. It’s a mess for everybody.”
He got bored because of no track meets and has been working as a cashier at a local gas station.
“I personally feel worse for the juniors,” Wright said. “For me, my junior year was big. By your junior year, you usually know the way you’re going.”
He was looking forward to trying to top his junior track season.
“It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t repeat,” Thrasher said. “It’s the way things are going in the world.
“He has bigger things to get ready for, that’s Iowa.”
“I’m looking forward to breaking that 10.55,” Wright said.
• “I definitely was looking forward to the county meet and the Shadyside Relays,” Wright said.
There would have been a much-anticipated rematch with Weir’s Sebastian Spencer at the Shadyside Relays. Spencer, who went on to become the West Virginia state champion, won the 100-meter dash at last year’s event in 10.51 seconds, while Wright was second in 10.77 seconds.
• Wright has been finishing up his schoolwork for Wellsville online, like every other student.
“It can be hard sometimes,” Wright said. “Nobody was ready for it. You can’t blame anybody, especially not the teachers. The teachers are doing the best they can. I’m more of a face-to-face learner, but we’re still learning.”
• Wright will be rooming with two other freshmen track athletes at Iowa. He said they had a group chat online with more than 40 members of the track team.
“I’m definitely building a lot of friends already,” Wright said.
• Thrasher said he figured the season would be canceled about a week before the announcement came.
“To me it’s the safest thing to do,” he said. “You can’t play with people’s lives. You have to be smart. I’ve got a mother in a nursing home I haven’t seen for more than a month.”
• This was the year the Tigers felt they could make some noise.
“We had a few more come out this year,” Thrasher said. “I don’t know whether that was because of the track or because of Justin.”
There were nearly 30 boys on the Wellsville track team.
“They’re talented, not just a bunch of kids out socializing,” Thrasher said. “It’s tough. I feel for them.”
• The underclassmen are now turning their attention to football season.
“They’re disappointed, now they’re worried about football,” Thrasher said. “I said there’s nothing you can do, you’ve got to be ready. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”