Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Fritz, Olaniyi earn SEC Championships

By ALLAN MANDELL, Ledger sports editor | May 05, 2017
From left, Malory Jones, Aluna Olaniyi, Sam Fritz and Kara Jeffrey celebrate their conference championship in the 4x400 on Thursday night.

The Fairfield Trojans captured three gold medals at the Southeast Conference Track and Field Meet on Thursday in Mt. Pleasant.

Trojan senior Michael Fritz made it quite clear who the best discus thrower in the SEC is.

After each of nine competitors made their first throw, Fritz was in first place by almost 10 feet, having registered a toss of 138 feet, 5 inches.

Pat Canby, of Mt. Pleasant, had posted a 128-10, and stood in second place.

“Sometimes this is a sport of technique,” Fritz said. “And then sometimes it’s a sport of emotion.”

On his final toss, Fritz relied on that emotion. He heaved the discus 143 feet.

“On that throw, everything felt right as soon as it left my hand,” Fritz said.

His awed opponents offered their congratulations to Fritz even before the event concluded.

“There is a camaraderie amongst throwers in the conference,” Fritz said. “We’ve gotten to know each other through the years.”

Said Trojan boys’ head coach Brian Dunlap, “It is very fitting that Michael Fritz finishes his conference career as its champion. He deserves it.”

Less than 90 minutes later, Trojan junior Aluna Olaniyi began in the girls’ 400-meter hurdles.

Early in the race, she was in the middle of the pack.

“I did get out slow,” she said. “But I remembered what (Assistant) Coach (Brian) Witzenburg had told me. He said ‘Attack the hurdles with aggressiveness.’ And so that’s what I did.”

In the final 100 meters, Olaniyi had climbed into second place behind Mt. Pleasant’s Brett Schneider.

“Right then and there, I had no worries,” Witzenburg said. “I could see Aluna’s eyes and she was determined, confident and attacking those hurdles. I knew she’d win it.”

Which she did.

Olaniyi cleared the final hurdle with ferocity and dashed to the finish line with a time of 1:07.77, eclipsing Schneider’s 1:07.79.

“It does mean a lot to me to be the conference champion,” Olaniyi said. “I also want to thank (Head) Coach (Jerrod) Belzer. He told us all before the meet to really push things, give everything you have, and that’s what I tried to do.”

And she kept doing it.

About 30 minutes later, Olaniyi anchored the Trojan 4x400 relay team, which destroyed all competitors en route to capturing the gold in a time of 4:15.60, more than 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Washington and 17 seconds ahead of bronze-medalist Mt. Pleasant.

Sam Fritz led off the 4x400 — and she was flying, giving Fairfield a ridiculously huge lead. After her leg was complete, had Fritz turned around and tried to find an opponent, she’d have needed binoculars.

“Sam’s start was unbelievable,” Olaniyi said.

Kara Jeffrey then took the baton from Fritz, Malory Jones took it from Jeffrey and Olaniyi finished.

Jeffrey, Jones and Olaniyi, all very talented runners, never let any foe come close to Fairfield.

“I have to admit, we didn’t think anyone would beat us in the 4x4,” Olaniyi said. “We weren’t surprised we won.

“But it was very nice to win by so much.”



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