After graduation plucked away five college-bound athletes, no one knew if the young Woodridge girls track team could withstand the losses and score high again in the district meet and beyond.
The Lady Bulldogs have answered. After winning another recent league title, Woodridge placed fifth out of 15 schools with 70 points at the Bedford Division II district meet.
In fact, Woodridge was just 12.5 points out of second place in a loaded district field at Bearcat Stadium last Thursday and Saturday.
Head coach Jeff Howard liked his club's diverse scoring, but knows regional action is loaded with talent.
The top four district finishers advanced to the Austintown regional meet Thursday and Saturday at Greenwood Falcon Stadium. Top four finishers at regionals advance to the Division II state meet June 1 and 2 at The Ohio State University in Columbus.
"The girls track and field program rode a wave of strong field event performances to a fifth-place finish in the Bedford district championships," said Howard. "The team qualified a variety of events to the Austintown Regional meet."
Woodridge had a huge district in the throwing events at the Bedford throwing pit — primarily in the discus throw.
"Kiara King and Eleanor Sterling buoyed the Bulldogs' highest scoring event by finishing first and third in the discus," said Howard.
"Camryn Miller also advanced by grabbing a second place in the pole vault and Belle Norris also grabbed a second-place finish in the long jump," added the pleased coach.
King, a senior, captured the Bulldogs' lone district title in the discus.
With a fantastic throw of 111 feet, 3 inches, King won over Parma Holy Name veteran Nicole Sabol, who reached 109-4.
In third place in the same event was Sterling, a rising sophomore.Sterling placed third at districts to qualify for her first-ever regional meet with a discus throw of 106-10.
Standout Bulldog senior Molly Howard reached regionals in three events.
In the 1,600-meter race, Howard was involved in a featured race as Chagrin Falls senior star Annie Zimmer set a new district record and a new stadium record of 4 minutes, 58.40 seconds.
Battling for second-place, Howard gained runner-up honors with a time of 5:14.38, just edging Kristin Groppe of Lutheran West, who was at 5:14.96.
"On the track, Jenna Kaiser, Libby Howard, Anastasia Bakuhn and Molly advanced in the 3,200-meter relay, and Molly also finished second in the 1,600 and 800-meter runs," offered Howard.
Molly Howard's second-place time in the 800 meters was 2:21.57.
Miller earned her second regional berth in the pole vault as the junior was the district runner-up. Her best effort at Bedford was 9-0.
Norris was also a runner-up in the long jump in her first-ever district meet. She reached 15-10.
The third-place 3,200-meter relay was timed at 9:44.65 with Libby Howard (a sophomore), Bakuhn (freshman), Kaiser (junior), and Molly Howard.
A disappointing fifth-place finish in the 3,200-meter race by Libby Howard negated another regional berth in the event. Libby Howard had a time of 12:08.42.
"Our sprint relay teams ran season bests and scored valuable points," said coach Howard. "Adelle Tannous, Elise Carey, Norris, Kaiser and Erin Eby made up these teams."
It was the final meet for seniors like Tannous, Rachel Frierson, and Julianne Dryer.
"Other scorers included Rachel (Frierson) in the shot put throw, Sarah Abood in the pole vault, and Julianne (Dryer) in the 3,200-meter run," stressed Howard.
Frierson took seventh in the shot put with a lob of 29-0 .
Dryer grabbed eighth overall in the open 3,200 race in 13:07.37 and competing in her first-ever post season meet, Abood scored in the pole vault. Abood was eighth overall as the freshman had a distance of 7-0.
Woodridge was clocked at 51.70 seconds for the sixth-place 400 relay. The sixth-place 1,600 relay had a time of 4:16.60 and the 800 relay was seventh in 1:48.99.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC