Riverside boys reflect on, savor impactful Austintown-Fitch Regional track and field performance

May 27—It's not that the Riverside boys track and field program hasn't had impactful regional performances over the years, of course.

Coming into this spring, the Beavers had 54 state qualifiers and 11 top-four placements at state amid their program history, including three state event championships.

As far as volume and impact in a tight window, though, few trips to the Division I Austintown-Fitch Regional at minimum have been as impactful as this one.

It's an impact Riverside hopes will serve as a slingshot into this edition of the state track and field meet this weekend in Dayton, as well as into the long-term future.

The Beavers emerged from Fitch after Day 2 on May 24 with three individual-event and two relay state berths. Senior Nathan Gaspersic followed up his second straight pole vault state berth on Day 1 with a 400 advancement on Day 2, fellow senior John Young got out in a hot 800 final and Riverside's boys 4×200 and 4×100 netted automatic berths.

It all amassed into 31 points, good for a respectful sixth at Fitch in the boys team title race.

Perhaps just as vital if not more, however, is that those five state berths out of one regional meet ties for the most for the program in one year all-time with 1980. That spring, Alonzo Lyons advanced in high jump and long jump, Kirt Finlayson also got out in high jump and Brian Carlton qualified in the mile and two-mile.

Because Lyons was state runner-up in long jump that year, and Carlton was fourth in both distance races, that season is among the most successful the program has ever enjoyed between volume and top fours.

But having this much Riverside representation at state again nonetheless equates to a big deal.

"Honestly, this is like the most amazing emotions I've had in a long, long, long, long time," Gaspersic said. "I think just coming from last year, not even making it to finals and everything, to this year making it in three events including pole vault, it is absolutely incredible."

In a span of six events, the hits just kept on coming for the Beavers.

First, it was their 4×200 quartet of freshman Jake Lagerstedt, sophomore Kyndall McCaleb, Gaspersic and sophomore Colin Borris getting fourth with a time of 1 minute, 28.25 seconds.

With Gaspersic in open 4, senior Connor Hackle was the fourth 4×1 leg with McCaleb, Lagerstedt and Borris as Riverside again took fourth for an automatic berth in 42.30.

?? Riverside's boys 4×1 (Connor Hackle, Kyndall McCaleb, Jake Lagerstedt & Colin Borris) discuss their 4th with a 42.30 during D1 Fitch Regional Day 2

As noted earlier, that & 4×2 1st Beavers boys relay state berths since 1995

(for clarity sake BTW, I talked to Nathan separately)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 25, 2024

That marks the first time since 1995 that the Beavers have advanced any boys relay to the state meet. They did so by dropping massive time from their regular-season PRs, 2.96 in 4×2 and 1.13 in 4×1.

"I just have to give a lot of the props to our coach," Gaspersic said. "Our coach is absolutely amazing. We have amazing upcoming freshmen and sophomores. So from last year, having Colin Borris as a freshman to this year, his fourth leg has been incredible. Kyndall, his second leg has been amazing. It's all together, like that fresh blood has flourished with good coaching."

Gaspersic was busy getting in his open 4 final warmup. But suffice it to say, he had a vested interest in that 4×1 final and was elated with what he saw.

"So exciting," Gaspersic said. "Exhilarating. I was standing over by the check-in area. I'm hyping up Colin, and I just see Jake come in. And that fourth place was kicking in, and Colin absolutely took it home. It was absolutely exciting and gave me a lot of confidence going into that open (4)."

In open 4, Gaspersic has really come in the last month or so in the event. He finished the regular season with the second-fastest time in The News-Herald coverage area in the event with a 49.29.

Seeding sixth out of Fitch Day 1 prelims, Gaspersic worked his way up to fourth with a 48.23, good for a 1.43 drop over his prelim heat.

?? Here are my usual NH area video meet highlights, this time from D1 Fitch Regional Day 2

(meet story will be shared with everything embedded in a moment)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 25, 2024

It was part of an outstanding open 4 final, as Chardon's Karl Dietz went for a 46.62, .21 off Robert Smith's all-time coverage area record, and the top five went 48.33 or better.

"Coming back to the last 50 meters, I look to my left and right and see I'm in fourth," Gaspersic said. "And I am just absolutely hauling. Then I saw the kid who came in fifth try to start picking it up right behind me. But crossing that finish line just felt amazing."

Young punctuated the evening with a last-40 rally to take the fourth and final automatic state berth in a hot open 8 final with a 1:53.08.

?? Riverside's John Young discusses his gutsy 4th in open 8 with a 1:53.08 during D1 Fitch Regional Day 2

As noted earlier, 1st Beavers boys open 8 state berth since 1985

Needed 1 heck of a last-40 kick to grab 4th & got it (cheap plug: got that for NH area video meet highlights)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 25, 2024

A constant in all seasons for the Beavers, as a defender in soccer, sprint freestyler and diver in the winter in addition to his indoor track and field duties, then outdoor track and field in the spring and a returning state qualifier there, few can provide the enlightened perspective Gaspersic can as far as what a Day 2 at Fitch like this can mean in the immediate and long term.

It's not that the Riverside boys track and field program hasn't had impactful regional performances over the years, of course.

It's just that the timing of this one could buoy the program not just in 2024, but beyond as well.

"It'll definitely need a little bit of talking — I don't think (the first-timers) know how much of a big stage, how many people are there, how many people are cheering," Gaspersic said. "So it'll be a lot to get used to.

"But this year, we have been to a lot of big meets, like GlenOak, Amherst. So I think they'll have a lot under their belt going into it to get these good times."

Riverside multi-sport constant Nathan Gaspersic unexpectedly adds fourth sport, emerges WRC diving champion