Mentor's Tai Malone has day for the ages at Division I Riverside District track and field

·6 min read

May 20—Toward the conclusion of Day 2 of the Division I Riverside District on May 20, Tai Malone was spotted wearing a T-shirt adorned with the phrase, "Dawgs Gotta Eat."

Given the body of work the Mentor senior accumulated on this humid occasion, not only is Malone a "Dawg," and not only did he eat — he hit repeat less than an hour later.

Malone swept district crowns in what — immediacy factor or not — has to be the best day by a boys jumper in News-Herald coverage area track and field history.

To start the day in long jump, with which the finals were postponed to Day 2 due to poor weather and runway conditions, Malone had one last attempt — and was it ever good. Malone popped a jump of 24 feet, breaking former Mayfield standout Bobby Casey's all-time News-Herald coverage area record of 23-11 set in 2018.

#NHtrack Tai Malone with an all time NH area record 24-0 to win LJ@MentorAthletics @2ndSoleMentor

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 20, 2022

And if that wasn't enough, high jump commenced at roughly the same time. Malone by his own admission struggled early, but amid a battle of titans with Shaker Heights staple Ethan Bryant, he nailed down a 6-7 to edge out his second district crown.

#NHtrack Tai Malone continues to put on an absolute SHOW in jumps, taking HJ with a PR of 6-7

Immediacy reflex or not, 24-0/6-7 has to be the best jumping day ever by an NH area boys student-athlete

Being the historian around here, I don't think there's an argument

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 20, 2022

For someone who had logged a meet for the ages, Malone's demeanor on the Riverside infield discussing the feat was measured.

After all, there is still work to do the next two weeks at the D-I Austintown-Fitch Regional and, hopefully, at state, too.

PHOTOS: Division I Riverside District track and field (Day 2), May 20, 2022

"I mean, I knew coming into the meet, it was going to be warm weather, and I thrive in the heat," Malone said. "I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I actually had a rough start. My first few jumps were not very good. I failed at 6-0 and 6-2 a couple times. So I was a little bit down at first, a little bit pessimistic. But then, I knew I was better than that. I was better than 21-6. I kind of just locked in and did as best as I could."

The best that anyone locally has ever done on the long jump side of the equation, and pretty darn good in high jump as well.

#NHtrack Here are my usual NH area video meet highlights, from Day 2 of the D1 Riverside District

Due to volume, had to split it into 2 parts for Twitter

This is boys 400 & boys PV through to 4x4s

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 21, 2022

"Man, honestly, the pop up in the air didn't even feel anything extraordinary," Malone said of the 24-0. "I knew when I was in the air, I really reached and got my legs out. Because I knew I could win this, and I wasn't going to go out in third place. So I really just exaggerated with everything I knew, and it took me to 24.

"I came into (high jump), and I wasn't expecting first at all. I was kind of just trying to win at least three of my events. (Bryant) is a really good athlete, so I'm a little intimidated by him of course. But like I said, I just locked in. Honestly, I wouldn't have gotten 6-7 without him there pushing me. So I am definitely appreciative of him and his competition today."

Running finals did not disappoint, either.

Mayfield's Nick Biega recorded a sprint double that probably would have been the highlight of the meet with room to spare if not for Malone's transcendent work. Biega hit for a 10.61 to capture 100 and came back for a brilliant 21.27 in 200, .17 off Robert Smith's all-time area standard in the event.

#NHtrack Nick Biega dials in for a 10.61

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 20, 2022

"So my blocks, apparently in the prelim, I got super close to the lane," Biega said. "So I moved my blocks over to the very right side of the lane, and my start felt much smoother in the middle of the lane, and I made up the stagger super quick. It was definitely my start in that race.

"I did a couple (100) runthroughs before the race, and they kind of felt slow. I was starting to worry a little bit. But my mind just set aside, and I just did what I do."

#NHtrack Nick Biega with a ... get ready ... 21.27 in open 2

.17 off Robert Smith's all time NH area record &, I'm told, ties Andy's school record

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 20, 2022

Euclid's Alexis Cain, rightfully with D-I state title aspirations in her signature 400, made a massive statement heading into Fitch with a smooth, confident and highly efficient 54.55. She also came back to pace the Panthers to a 4x4 win off a second to teammate Eve Clark in 200, as that quartet notched an encouraging 3:55.15.

"It felt really good, but I also feel like it took a lot out of me," Cain said. "I didn't expect to run that today, so I was actually really proud of myself."

#NHtrack Alexis Cain gracing us with a 54.55 in open 4

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 20, 2022

Brush's Asia Nicholson had a nice double in her own right, capturing 300 hurdles with a 45.12 and anchored the Arcs' victorious 4x1, which went 49.45.

"I started figuring out, for me to make it further, I needed to work on more of my technique and my trail leg," Nicholson said. "That's been an issue since the beginning of the season, although I've been doing good with it. I started getting my trail leg, and I realized, as I keep getting my trail leg together, my time will start dropping. And I'll be up in the state.

"During the season (in 4x1), we couldn't get anything less than a 52. And we realized, it was from our exchanges. We weren't all the way in shape. We had to get our team together, because there were a lot of things going on with the legs being changed and everything. Once we start getting that together and we work on those exchanges more and figuring out our steps, what we need to do and fix it, our times will start to drop."

#NHtrack US' Danny Napoli discusses team runner-up finish, his PV win at 13-9 & 4x1 win with a solid 42.70 at the D1 Riverside District

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 21, 2022

#NHtrack Chardon's Caden Dawson discusses the Hilltoppers' encouraging 4x4 win with a 3:20.24 & his win in 3s with a 39.02 at the D1 Riverside District

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) May 21, 2022