After big indoor season, Stow girls track is ready to roll
It didn’t take long for the Stow girls track and field program to respond after the 2020 season was lost.
Making up for lost time, the Bulldogs responded with a huge off-season by making a splash in the indoor state championships.
Aaron Morris, who enters his 19th year coaching track and his 18th as head coach, is pleased with where Stow landed, so to speak.
Blessed with a great cast of young talent in a variety of events, Stow is an intriguing club this spring.
Off to a fast start in the season’s first weeks, the Bulldogs also have a versatile mix of tested athletes as well.
“The season looks like we will be stronger than we were two years ago,” stressed Morris. “We are very strong in the distance events when everyone is healthy. Our sprinters are very solid and we have a lot of depth.”
“We are strong in the jumps with our upperclassman leading the way and our top throwers are pretty young, but are getting better with more competition and experience,” he added.
Remaining flexible is a key for Stow when faced with any adversity – whether it is injuries or COVID-19.
“Training has been pretty much the same as years past and the biggest difference for us is the lack of time in the weight room,” explained Morris. “We are already seeing more injuries due to the inability to get our large team into the weight room under COVID restrictions.”
“The kids do a great job with masks and social distancing – they just want a season and have been so resilient when it comes to constantly changing COVID guidelines,” added the coach.
According to Morris, among the top returnees are seniors Paige Neely and Carly Feckley, along with junior Kendra Cassiday.
“Paige will focus on the 400-meters and run some 200’s this year,” projected the coach. “With our depth at the short sprints, she should be able to focus on the longer sprints this year and not have to worry about 100-meter races very often.
Neely was an indoor state qualifier in Stow’s 800-meter and 1,600-meter relays.
“Carly (Feckley) is our top long jumper and high jumper,” Morris said. “She went 5-feet in indoor and qualified for the indoor state meet in both jumps.”
Cassiday placed ninth in Ohio in the indoor state championships in the 800-meter race, ran in the 3,200-meter relay in the indoor meet, and can be used in a variety of relays.
“Kendra is a junior Captain and she qualified for the indoor state meet in the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter relays,” said Morris. “She will focus on the 800 meters and 1,600 meters this season and also round out our 1,600-meter relay.”
Stow’s 3,200-meter relay was sixth in Ohio at the indoor competition.
Some of the top newcomers, according to Morris, include sophomore Paige Klinginsmith, sophomore Lily Baker, and freshman Jayla Atkinson.
“Paige Klinginsmith is new to our team this year because last year’s season didn't happen,” noted the coach. “She is our top hurdler in both the 100 and 300 races this season. She will also find herself filling in for our top sprint relays when needed.”
Baker, 17th in Ohio in the indoor state meet in the pole vault at 8-feet 6.0 inches, is already reaching new heights.
“Lily is also new to our team due to COVID and she is our top pole vaulter this year,” declared Morris. “She is already clearing 9-feet and is trending higher very soon. She will be fun to watch in the next two years as she develops.”
Atkinson is also an exciting prospect in a myriad of races for Stow. She sped to third in Ohio in the indoor meet in the 800!
“Jayla qualified to the state meet in cross country this fall and also to the indoor state track meet in the 3,200 and 1,600-meter relays, and the 800-meter race,” said Morris. “She is our top distance runner this year and will find herself focusing on events around 800-meters, where she has already run at 2:14 this winter.”
“If she (Atkinson) continues on the pace she is now, she will have a very extended post season,” added Morris, who is assisted by Dave Manthey and Mackenzie Bowers.
Stow, Hudson and Wadsworth appear to be the heavy hitters in the Suburban League National Conference this year. Twinsburg has been hit hard by graduation since 2019. Stow is already 2-0, including an 80-57 win against North Royalton April 7.
“We should be very competitive this year in the league,” said Morris. “Top teams in the league would be Hudson and Wadsworth and they will be our biggest challenges by far.”
The Bulldogs won the team title at the Nordonia Knight Relays April 10 by a score of 99-72 over North Royalton, league rival Nordonia (70), North Ridgeville (68) and another league rival, Brecksville (63).
Feckley led the Bulldog high jump relay to a crown by sharing the individual title at Nordonia with a lift of 4-10 feet. She was joined by sophomore Sydney Pitcovich (fourth at 4-8 feet) and senior Leah Bennington (4-3).
Sophomore Sidney Sheppert ran second in the 100-meter dash in 13.70 seconds and also led Stow’s long jump crew with a title as she was second at 16-0 feet. At the indoor meet, Sheppert placed 22nd in Ohio.
Sheppert was joined in the long jump by Feckley (fifth at 15-7.5 feet) and junior Olivia Casalinova, who had a superb jump of 15-4 feet (sixth).
Klinginsmith won the 100-meter hurdle crown with a time of 16.82 seconds. She is undefeated as she also had a blazing time of 15.83 against North Royalton.
“Paige ran under 16 seconds in her first two high school performances and (against North Royalton) had a 7-second PR (51.8) in the 300 hurdles,” said Morris, who praised Klinginsmith filling in last-minute in the 1,600-meter relay and ran well in her first ever 400-meters in the winning 1,600 relay.
Stow’s 6,400-meter relay won (23:00.31) with Cassiday, junior Sam Fobean, Pitcovich and Atkinson.
Crossing second in the deep 800-meter relay, Stow was timed at 1:50.76 beating strong crews from Beachwood, Nordonia, and Brecksville. This group included junior Lydia Payne, sophomore Nicole Kotsatos, sophomore Sophia Yoder, and Neely.
The Bulldogs’ distance medley was second in 13:20.75 with Atkinson, Bennington, junior Hannah Hartenburg, and Cassiday.
Grabbing second in the 800 sprint medley (1:57.73) was Sheppert, Kotsatos, Yoder, and Neely.
Stow’s 1,600-meter was fourth (4:29.30) with Klinginsmith, Payne, Fobean and Atkinson.
Placing third in the shot put relay, the Bulldog team included senior Rosa Tate, junior Emily Blasko and sophomore Brooklyn Fitzgerald. Tate had a toss of 31-2 feet, Blasko 29-4 feet, and Fitzgerald, 28-2.5 feet.
The discus crew was also third, led by Fitzgerald’s throw of 89-8 feet, Blasko at 87-6, and junior Emma Hedderly (73 feet).
“Rosa (Tate) is a newcomer to our team in the throws and she is currently our top shot putter and continues to PR (31-9.5 feet against North Royalton),” noted Morris.
“Emma (Hedderly) competed in her first meet of the year in the discus (against North Royalton) and won the event with her 93-7-foot throw,” said the coach. “She will be out over 100-feet very soon.”
Blasko placed 14th in Ohio in the shot put (32-3 feet) in the indoor meet.
Morris was impressed by Cassiday’s 1,600-meter race, where she won in 5:35. Atkinson also had three wins in the 800, 3,2000-meter relay, and in the 1,600-meter relay.
The Bulldog mentor also liked his club’s poise when dealing with a bussing delay that resulted in being late for the meet by two hours.
“I was impressed with the poise that the girls showed after having some serious pre-meet distractions,” he said. “Being very late to a competition can be very stressful for the athletes as they were asked to do shortened warm ups and were unable to complete their normal competition routine.”
Fobean also shined as she extended her distance by excelling in the 3,200-meter race.
“Sam ran the 3,200 race for us, which is a little bit longer of a race than we typically have her run,” said Morris. “She seized the opportunity and won the event easily (12:04).”
Other seniors on the roster include Kiley Brooks, Isabella Hickin, Ashley Hutchinson, Jennifer Jewett, Kaylee Lott, Rachel Rhodes, Jenna Sawyer, Jamyrah Tomlin, and Olivia Waickman.