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Pair of state titles caps big year for Fitzgerald, Melvindale track PHOTOS

  • Melvindale's Anthony Fitzgerald captured a long jump and high jump state championship this year, but also helped guide the squad to strong relay finishes all season. Photo by Ricky Lindsay
  • Anthony Fitzgerald captured Division 2 state titles in the long jump and high jump in his junior season with the Melvindale Cardinals.
  • Melvindale finished third at The News-Herald Track & Field Championships and later went on to win a Division 2 regional title and qualified nine athletes for the state finals. Photo by Ricky Lindsay

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After tasting success with a runner-up finish at the 2013 Division 2 state finals, Anthony Fitzgerald knew that he wanted more.

This year, the Melvindale junior headed back to the west side of the state, determined to improve upon his second-place jump of 22 feet, 9 inches and to claim the top stop on the podium.

Before the day was over, the standout was not only the high jump (6-09) champ, but he also headed home with a gold medal in the long jump (23-1), hitting personal-best distances in both events.

“It was a great feeling to know all of the hard work and preparation that I put in throughout the season finally paid off,” Fitzgerald said.

“As an athlete I always want to win. Knowing that I fell short last year of my goal motivated me to train harder to compete against other great athletes in the state.”

2014 got out to a quick start for Fitzgerald, as he broke the Melvindale school record in the high jump (6-6) in just the second week of April.

And as for competing against the state’s best, he didn’t have to look far or wait long.

Lincoln Park’s Robert Atwater, who was the 2013 state high jump champ, and Joe Decoster were among the state’s top Division 1 athletes in the jumping events and fellow Cardinal Malik Boynton joined Fitzgerald as a standout in Division 2.

At this year’s News-Herald Track & Field Championships, Fitzgerald finished second behind Atwater in the long jump (22-05.0), with Decoster in third. In the high jump he was second to Atwater (6-06.1), with Boynton in third. All four of the athletes later qualified for the state finals in jumping events and between them posted seven top-12 finishes, five of which were in the top eight and earned all-state honors.

In addition to jumping, however, Fitzgerald’s day at a meet also consisted of hitting the track and showing off his speed.

“Anthony has a combination of pure talent, competitiveness and work ethic that has allowed him to reach elite status in the jumping events,” said Melvindale Coach Dave Valkevich. “He is also one of the fastest runners that I have ever coached. He is an integral part of our relay teams and is a respected team leader.”

Last year he qualified for the state finals in the 4x100 relay as part of a team that finished seventh and earned all-state honors.

In 2014, Fitzgerald teamed up with Boynton, KleSean Clark and Quincy Gibbs at The News-Herald Meet to take second in the 4x100 relay (44.33) and at the league meet the same group finished third in the 4x100 (45.16).

Overall, he helped lead what was a very strong Cardinals’ team in 2014, one that tied for third at The News-Herald Meet, won a Division 2 regional title and sent nine athletes to the state finals.

Fitzgerald said the he and his teammates relished the opportunity to represent their city and school on the big stage at the state finals.

“Melvindale is the little city with the big heart,” he said. “We may not have as many athletes as the other schools, but we all give 100 percent and love each other like family.”

Knowing that Fitzgerald is coming back next year, along with several other key athletes, Valkevich said he sees a potentially big year on the horizon for his Melvindale squad.

“With Anthony Fitzgerald returning for his senior season and Terrance London returning for his junior season, next year’s team looks promising,” Valkevich said. “Throwers Sam Guerriero and Kelton Williams, distance runners Alan Nava, Khaled Mousa, and Reynaldo Quintero, sprinter Treshon Alexander and vaulter Jeff Miles all should help make the 2015 Cardinals one of our more balanced teams in recent memory.”

As for Fitzgerald’s personal goals, he’s aiming for even bigger and better things next spring, as wants to repeat as a dual champion and also leave his mark as one of the state’s best track athletes ever.

“I would like to defend my titles and go after the Michigan long jump record of 24-1,” he said. “I feel with more strength and training this is a reachable goal that I would love to achieve.”

Last Updated: 7/19/2014 7:31:31 PM EST