Deep Woodridge girls track squad eager to run

Steve Batko
Woodridge Bulldogs

Even though the track and field season is under way there is still plenty of work to be done by area coaching staffs.

Woodridge girls is no different despite having great talent coming from the cross-country program.

“We have 64 girls practicing right now,” said 23-year head coach Jeff Howard, who enters his 27th season overall.

“The loss of the 2020 season will require that we figure out what two classes of kids can do and we are optimistic."

With some returning athletes who did generate points in 2019, coupled with some bright newcomers, Woodridge looks to be poised for another strong spring season.

Woodridge top girls include junior Izzy Best, senior Anastasia Bakuhn, senior Evelyn Willett, junior Emma Stekelenburg, junior Chloe Rado, senior Sarah Abood, senior Delaney Duve, senior Belle Norris, senior Sophia Davis, senior Catie Meehan, senior Leah Ziegler, junior Leighton Kline and senior Ellie Kleinhenz.

“Best made All-Ohio as a freshman in the 800-meter race (school record) and an All-Ohioan in cross country last fall,” said Howard, of the school’s 800 school record holder. “Izzy runs the sprints all the way through the two-mile."

Bakuhn, who just missed All-Ohio status in cross country in the fall, will run at John Carroll University next year and has loads of experience in distance running.

Howard is also high on Willett, who is a middle-distance standout who can help in relays and open events.

“Evelyn is a strong middle-distance runner that will compete primarily in the 400/800 range of events,” he said.

Stekelenburg saw some action in 2019, but has showed plenty of promise in the high jump and long jump.

“Emma is newer to track, but she competed well in the jumps for us in 2019,” said Howard.

The Bulldog head coach also believes that Rado and Abood are sound leaders in the hurdles and sprints, respectively. Abood is a versatile veteran in the program.

“Chloe Rado is a strong leader that will compete in the hurdle events,” Howard said. “Sarah is a leader among our sprint crew.”

According to Howard, Duve and Norris are veterans who will help in the long jump as well as other events.

“Duve among our top hurdlers and long jumpers from 2019 and Norris is among our top sprinters and long jumpers,” he said.

Norris has post season experience and can also help in the relays.

“Sophia Davis is a top scorer among our pole vaulters (from 2019) and Catie Meehan should lead our high jump group along with Stekelenburg.”

Other returnees that will contribute, according to Howard are distance runners Ziegler, Kline (ran at state meet in the last two cross country state championships), and Kleinhenz.

The season opener is set for April 3 as Woodridge will compete at the April Fool’s Triangular at home against league rival Lodi Cloverleaf and Orrville.

Woodridge has loads of top newcomers that will also make an impact.

Sophomore Corinne Betts will score in the throwing events.

“Corrine broke our middle school record in the shot put and she is tall, strong, and athletic,” said Howard.

Making large contributions in the hurdles could be junior Miya Fellows.

Sprint relays and open races will get a boost with speedy Briajah Garr-Jackson.

Junior Thalia Johnston is a distance runner who will help as Howard said she is among the best runners in cross country.

Senior Maddie Karlo will help in an array of events.

“Maddie should be on our varsity relays and among our best jumpers,” said Howard. “She is playing soccer at Walsh University next year.”

Versatility will also benefit sophomore Kathryn Kiley.

“Kathryn is a great athlete and she broke the middle school record in the pole vault and will jump and run as well,” said the coach.

Howard pointed out that sophomore Joy McFarland has scored at two state cross country meets and that freshmen Reese Reaman and Eloise Willett both scored in last year’s state meet in cross country!

“Reese made All-Ohio in cross country and is a great athlete,” he said. “Eloise scored at the state meet this fall. She is a great kid and a great runner.”

Another superb athlete who will make immediate contributions will be sophomore Anna Rorrer. She may help in several events, but especially in the hurdle races.

“Anna broke the middle school hurdle record,” said Howard. “She is tall, strong, and fast.”

Freshman Rachael Serafimov has a lot of promise in the distance races as Howard indicated she was among the top runners in cross country prior to an injury.

Another newcomer to Woodridge is junior Livi Strausser, a move in who will help in open sprints and possibly in relays.

“Livi moved in last year after contributing on a local Division I sprint crew,” noted Howard.

Freshman Alex Treat is an athletic rookie that could contribute in the throws and shorter running events, according to Howard.

Aneya Schwartz is a versatile junior and senior Megan Woods who will also help.

Howard likes his depth in the running events, paced by distance and middle-distance runners.

“We have two All-Ohioans (Best and Reaman) from our cross-country team that finished fourth in Ohio, plus Anastasia (Bakuhn), Eloise Willett and Leighton should add great depth in the distance races.”

Howard likes the club’s hurdle crew that will likely be led by Rorrer, Duve and Rado.

This spring will also mark the track debut in the Metro Athletic Conference.

“The Metro Athletic Conference will be very competitive,” Howard said. “Field returns a ton of talent in the jumps and hurdles. We should be in the mix with Cloverleaf (distance/field events) and Streetsboro (sprints) as well.”

Woodridge will open the MAC April 6 at home in a tri-meet against Field and Springfield. The MAC Championships will be May 13 and will be hosted by Ravenna.

The coaching staff includes co-head coaches Scott Mercer (boys head coach) and Howard, who heads the distance runners, plus assistant coaches Mike Duve (sprints/hurdles/long jump), Aaron Mayer (throws), Brian Davis (pole vault), and Jacob Mally (sprints/jumps).