Just now starting to get improved health, the Stow girls track team was ready to run straight on with many possibilities into the league championships and the post season.
Bulldogs coach Aaron Morris will be looking to pace his athletes returning from injuries.
The Suburban League Championships were set to conclude Friday at Nordonia’s Boliantz Stadium.
"We are starting to get healthy again as a whole," said Morris. "We hope to have nearly everyone back this week and maybe everyone back for districts."
Stow will compete at Nordonia for the Division I district championships May 16 and May 18 for rights to qualify for the Austintown Fitch Division I Regional Championships May 23 and May 25.
"The girls that had been hurt have not done a lot of physical activity while they were healing and rehabbing, so we have a lot of question marks as to where they are physically when they return," said Morris.
"However, we are better having them in any capacity than we were without them," added Morris.
Rachel Pitcovich (high jump, relays, long jump) has been out for the Lady Bulldogs among other tested athletes.
Senior Sophi Perez (shin) is back to bolster the distance and middle-distance events as is freshman sprint prospect Paige Neely (hamstring).
Stow fared well at the 38th annual Optimist Meet May 5 at the Austintown Fitch Greenwood Falcon Stadium, which is also the site of the regionals.
The Bulldogs were six points out of third place.
Twinsburg, a possible challenger to win the league title, won team honors at the Optimist 98-67 over Fitch, Bedford (57) and Stow (51.5).
"We had a great meet on Saturday — we had a lot of PR’s (personal records) and good personal performances," exclaimed Morris.
Tessa Pitcovich is having a strong senior campaign and ran second in the 3,200-meter race at Fitch with a superb time of 11 minutes, 39.16 seconds.
Only Beachwood standout Leah Roter (11:32.59) had a better time as Pitcovich placed ahead of Twinsburg veteran Makenzie Hartman.
"I thought Tessa ran a very nice 3,200 meters — her time continues to improve," said Morris. "Her time moved her into third (overall) in the district."
Sophomore hurdler Aimee Grimm also shone at the Optimist Meet as she showed her potential in those races.
Grimm crossed second in the 300-meter hurdles in 46.75 seconds and ran a personal best in the preliminary heat of the 100 hurdles, where she was seventh overall in 16.07 seconds.
"Aimee Grimm had a phenomenal day," said Morris. "She qualified to finals in the 100 with a 15.95, her first time under 16 seconds. She also qualified in the 300, finishing for the first time under 48 seconds."
"In finals (of the 300 hurdles), she ran a 46-second race, which has her ranked second in the district and fifth in the region," added the mentor.
Morris enjoyed the effort of the 3,200-meter relay team that was third in 10:22.58 with sophomore Izzy Samels, sophomore Abby Kuhns, senior Shelby Gluth and junior Mackenzie Cassiday.
"The 3,200-meter was fun to watch," he said. "Mackenzie Cassiday and Shelby Gluth have been holding that relay down all season long."
"Mackenzie is consistently under 2:30 now and Shelby has been getting faster every time she runs the 800 meters."
Gluth and Cassiday have the experience.
"Shelby and Mackenzie have allowed the younger girls like Abby Kuhns and Izzy Samels to still be in the race when they took the baton," added Morris. "Those two girls ran nice races, too. Abby had a big PR and Izzy was very close to hers."
Junior Peyton Balawender placed fourth in the pole vault at 7-feet, 6.0 inches while freshman Carly Feckly was fifth in the high jump at 4-10 feet.
Perez ran sixth overall in the 3,200-meter open race with a time of 12:22.14.
"It is nice to have Sophi back," said Morris. "She came back and made an immediate impact winning the 3,200 against North Royalton also ran a nice time Saturday (at Fitch)."
Morris knows Perez and her recovery isn’t 100 percent and she isn’t quite where she wants to be yet, but she is helping in several areas.
"It is nice having Sophi back putting quality races together for us because it frees up other athletes like Mackenzie (Cassiday) and allows us to get her in some shorter races where she can help the team more," said Morris.
The 1,600-relay team ran sixth at Fitch in 4:28.88 with Grimm, sophomore Veronica Anohkin, Kuhns, and freshman Jenna Sawyer.
In the discus throw, senior Kate Dunn placed seventh overall while junior teammate Katie Hall was eighth in the shot put and ninth in the discus.
"Katie Dunn improved her discus throw and that throw moves her into sixth in the district," said the coach. "Katie Hall placed in the shot put as well. She is now consistently out over 33 feet, which will help us moving into postseason."
Dunn had a discus toss of 117-4 feet and Hall’s throw went 110 feet. Hall hurled the shot put 33-10.5 feet.
Senior Maddie Merlene and Balawender placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the long jump. Merlene reached 14-10.5 feet and Balawender had a leap of 14-9.5 feet.
Cassiday finished eighth in the 800-meter race in 2:29.73.
Freshman Armoni Prewitt placed seventh in the high jump as she reached 4-8 feet.
Rachel Sommer, another standout senior who was plagued with injuries last year, helped the 800-meter and 400-meter relays to a seventh-place finish at Fitch.
Making up the 800 relay (1:52.59) was Anohkin, Sommer, Merlene and sophomore Rebecca Zeitman. The 400 relay (53.24) had Zeitman, Balawender, Grimm and Sommer.
Stow finished 3-4 in the league dual meet season.
"Last week and this week were pretty rough with all of the make-up meets from earlier in the season — we had all those meets, hosted a middle school invitational on Friday, had a JV meet at Woodridge, plus the conference," said the coach, just prior to the league meet.
"Our team and staff will have been involved in eight meets in 10 days," said Morris, who didn’t use many varsity athletes in several duals recently. "It is too much racing all at once and at the worst time of the year for it."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC