AUSTINTOWN — They call themselves “Partners in Crime.”
Howland seniors Courtney Clark and Lexus Solarz are no strangers to competing at a high level come late May. Both booked trips to Columbus for the state meet last spring, with Clark ending the season as the Division I runner up for shot put.
They’re also both Division I signees, but the path back to state is never an easy one. The duo advanced to regionals in both events from the district meet on Friday, with Solarz winning the discus with a mark of 137-8, and Clark winning the shot put at 43-9 on Wednesday.
Clark is coming off an indoor shot put state title in March at 41-08.50, but feels she’s starting to come back around at the right time following a tough spring when the marks weren’t falling quite where she wanted them to.
It all started with optimistic thinking.
“(At the) beginning of the year, I said this isn’t fun anymore, but after I did that mental change, it is fun now. I try to go into every practice and every meet with a good positive mental attitude,” Clark said. “That’s really helped me the best, just trying to think positively — and if something bad happens, I just try to roll it off my back and come back and do better next time.
“(After winning indoor state), I always had this expectation, that I should be throwing this amount, and it really got to me. It tore me down mentally, just having the feeling of having a target on my back, knowing people are coming for me now was something I really struggled with and something I had to wrap my mind around.”
Of course, it’s always good to have another skilled thrower to help out, especially with Solarz having a trip to state under her belt as well. Throwing is such a sport of detail, one minor difference can make a world of difference.
“There are so many things you can critique and point to on seven seconds of a throw, just focusing on two things each throw definitely helps you advance,” Solarz said. “Having the best in the state with you every day 100 percent pushes me, but I love it. I don’t take it in a wrong way. We love each other, we push each other and I think that’s what helps us advance each and every day.
“Just helping (Clark) realize we both already signed. If stuff happens, it happens and no matter what, you’re always going to keep advancing even if it is at the college level. We both have to keep pushing each other and that’s what we do.”
In the individualized world of track and field, especially in the realm of throwing, having that teammate to lean on is huge, especially when they’ve been competing together for three years.
“It’s super important because each day at practice you’re together, each day at a meet you’re together, so just having that competitiveness but also that friendship is especially important in this sport,” Solarz said.
Clark signed with the University of Cincinnati, while Solarz signed with Youngstown State. This is the final go around for the Howland duo, but they feel like the potential for a big final few meets is there.
“We joke all the time — we’re partners in crime in throwing, it’s so nice that we get to go through it, hopefully again,” Clark said. “I always say we’re going to take it one day at a time, but I have a lot of confidence in us that we can both make it back. We’ll both push each other again to make it back and see success.”
Solarz added, “definitely don’t take anything for granted. You never know what’s going to happen the year after, so you have to keep pushing and working hard. Later on in the season is the time to peak, and I think we are doing that and we’re super excited.”
Division I regional action begins this weekend in Austintown, and both Tigers throwers will participate in events on Wednesday and Friday.